HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 12, 2018 –I have watched the video of Derby-148 eight times now. The winner was overwhelming best on the day.
Rich Strike, who got into the field on the final morning minutes before entries closed, proved athletic enough to get through more than half the field from far back.
He was agile enough to tip out between rivals, then cut back inside. There were a dozen horses in front of him as he straightened away. And he sprinted passed every one of them.
The two legitimate favorites, Epicenter and Zandon, had the race decided between them now, only a question of which one with a sixteenth of a mile left to run.
The favorites had five lengths on Rich Strike, but he sprinted home in a manner uncommonly seen. His late run was nothing less than gob smacking.
Rich Strike sprinted home beneath the legendary spires to win the 148th Kentucky Derby. Sprinted!
And meet Sonny Leon, Jockey of the Week! He made the most of his chance of a lifetime in this equine lifetime of chance.
Rich Strike hit the finish post in full stride, drawing away from the fancied favorites with authority.
Need to find a head-on now. The little we saw of the gallop-out was stunning. There was no stop in him.
The trainer talked about the Belmont Stakes on the Kentucky Derby podium and I can understand why; his colt was daylight in front by the time he reached mid-clubhouse turn.
I know how Jack Buck must have felt. It’s hours later, and I still can’t believe what I just saw! Cocktails are in order now.
Where’s the Woodford Reserve?
Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart May 8
After Rich Strike’s devastating run, on Sunday we decided to go back and review the video of his races we skipped pre-Derby since, after all, there was no way, right? And learn more about the trainer, too. We’ve never met Eric Reed.
At the barn Sunday morning, Reid, who on the day before he won the second graded stakes of his career and first Grade 1, talked about the horse he watched train last summer at Ellis Park before he ever ran.
“I liked him, Joe Sharp knows what he’s doing. The horse was four- or five-to-one, so the barn must have thought he could run, too,” said Reid on Jennie Rees’ video feed Sunday morning.
“I guess he didn’t like the grass… I thought they may be giving up on him too soon, so we claimed him. There were no shakes, we were the only ones in,” Reed added on the horse who finished last in his turf maiden-allowances debut.
After climbing early, Ricardo Santana brought him outside horses 3-4 wide down the backside before dropping back to last as the field entered the stretch. Santana merely rode him out through the lane when obviously beaten.
Next came the $30K maiden breaker on dirt, and he was awesome. With blinkers added and breaking a tad tardily from the pole position, he made an Arazi move along the fence into contention on the back side and waited at the turn until Adam Beschizza asked him in earnest.
Rich Strike took aim at the leader, passed him in a matter of strides, and suddenly was gone. He won in full flight by 17-1/4 lengths, finishing like he did when he ran through the wire Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Twenty-two days later, Reed entered him back in an optional-allowances at Keeneland and he finished third, beaten 3-1/2 lengths, giving Reed confidence that he had made a good claim.
Reed freshened the colt 78 days then entered him in four consecutive stakes, the first being the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds. Beneath Sonny Leon for the first time, he got dusted at 46-1 by a colt named Epicenter.
But the learning process had begun. Reed shipped him to Turfway Park, getting him fit with three straight races on the Tapeta surface.
In his next start Rich Strike improved sharply to finish third, then faced Tiz the Bomb twice, finishing third in his Derby prep, the Jack Ruby, a finish that put him in hailing distance of Churchill Downs.
The rest is now Derby lore.
“I asked Sonny if he would work with me, show some patience, because I thought we had something here. Sonny said ‘anything you want’. Sonny taught him everything, he was so patient, he trusted the horse and the horse trusted him.”
Of course, late running Rich Strike had help from scorched-earth fractions. How fast was the pace? Fast enough that after three-quarters of a mile, the first six Derby finishers came from 18th, 5th, 9th, 15th, 17th, and 19th.
The racing axiom is if you run fast early, you don’t run fast late. The empirical evidence in overwhelming. History will mark this as a demi-dawdling Derby, 2:02.61.
With a quarter-mile left to run, Rich Strike was 15th of 20. The final quarter-mile fraction was :25.65. Rich Strike made up approximately six lengths in the straight run to home. Rule of thumb, he ran his final quarter-mile in a racehorse :24.45.
Yes, the hot pace killed the speed and helped the ralliers, But even they must run through faster fractions than they are accustomed to as well. “Richey’s” late run was dazzling.
What racing witnessed yesterday was no fluke. People, horses, and statistics sometimes lie. But make no mistake; Rich Strike is a runner.
Hot Takes On a Hot-Paced Derby May 10
First, a historical reference that you have not read anywhere else, presumably. I was speaking with Tom Durkin on Monday, who has had some experience with the Kentucky Derby.
“Of all the Derbies I called, my research indicated that only Spend a Buck was able to withstood a pace as fast as :46.60,” said Durkin.
Well, how do you like them :45.36 apples?
According to Durkin standard time, the first seven runners at the half-mile marker; Summer Is Tomorrow, Crown Pride, Zozos, Messier, Taiba, Cyberknife and Charge It, had to be as good as Spend a Buck was on May 4, 1985.
This has to make his Horse Star card, currently selling for $1.34 on e-bay, quite the bargain.
Does all this mean that Epicenter, Mo Donegal, Simplification and Mo Donegal had no excuses? Of course not, each ran varying degrees of very good while flying well outside the danger zone. The pace aided Rich Strike, nevertheless he had to run down those four more fancied runners from 18th at the half.
Hot Takes on Derby Performances
Epicenter did everything right but win; Joel worked out a brilliant trip.
Zandon did everything well, too. He was pinballed a bit early on, then had a good trip as Prat was hot on Rosario’s tail. Bottom line: Zandon was a few strides short of staying 10 furlongs, no disgrace that.
Simplification at various points raced 3-wide, 5-wide and 7-wide–maybe wider than that. He acquitted himself very well. Gets Johnny for the Preakness as Jose Ortiz had prior commitment on Early Voting.
Mo Donegal: The rail position wasn’t an issue until the outside rushed inside. Irad was forced to snatch and grab to get him out into the clear. Say this, the long winded colt never fails to fire.
Tawny Port did hang late but ran better than generally expected. There may be something important in his future, and maybe not, but follow along until more is known.
Smile Happy’s love for Churchill Downs could not overcome his lack of bottom side pedigree. When are people going to begin identifying CD’s Jockey Club Stakes as a negative key race?
Tiz The Bomb ran sneaky good following a slow start, finishing with laudable interest. Best game is still something other than dirt.
Taiba was too much, too soon–and that’s not red-boarding. This was egotistically vengeful placement. Wait another two weeks beat them in the Preakness, then say it happened because you did the right thing by the horse. You get to successfully play the overrule card only once.
Crown Pride got a lot of social heat for racing on top of the suicidal place. Yes, we know the Japanese train differently and I like their stamina-mindful approach. But blowout in a 46 and change three days out? What was supposed to happen?
Charge It had it tough out there. Coupled with inexperience, it was too much, too soon for him as well. Only the true greats can pull that off.
Cyberknife was cooked by the pace and the wide trip. Lack of focus probably his biggest issue still. Talented, but needs time.
Pioneer of Medina also was compromised in this big, talented field. But this too was ambitious placement. Maintains his upside profile, however.
Rich Strike: Added Durkin: “I called a lot of races, Thoroughbreds and Standardbred, and I have not seen any horse, in any race, at any level, have as much post-race energy as this horse had. Really remarkable.”
Finally, a Bets ‘n Pieces Wrap of Derby Weekend
Last year, I believed that Juju’s Map had more potential as an Oaks-worthy three year old and would be her division’s; Secret Oath was not yet even a blip on the screen.
Adding first-Lasix, Juju’s Map was as impressive as any other comprehensive winner over the weekend. The connections were asked about any regrets for “skipping” the Oaks.
“We wanted to have a filly for summer racing” was the reply. Clearly, they have what they wanted.
The only thing that Bleecker Street has done wrong is a resume that lacks a Grade 1 win. As she improved her career slate to 6-for-6, it appears that issue will be remedied before the calendar strikes 2023.
It’s impossible to ask Letruska to step aside, but Pauline’s Pearl stock is on the rise in taking the Grade 1 Latroienne. An improving four-year-old with continuing upside, the next stop is nine furlongs and, eventually, a meeting with the champ.
Olympiad proved once and for all that he high on a list of America’s best older horses. Four-year-old has won four straight, his second Grade 2 of the year, taking the Alysheba most impressively. The waters will get deeper and he just might be ready for that now.
Matareya announced herself as one of the leading contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and a championship title bid. She is undefeated at 3—she’ll get some weight in the championships—and wins by margins. She has yet to be seriously challenged this year.
Loved that Secret Oath turned out to be a “Coach Family” story. Todd Pletcher had just finished running second with Oaks favorite Nest, but waited to meet and greet his old boss post-Oaks interviews.
And, of course, Kairan McLaughlin, another Lukas disciple, is Luis Saez’ agent, adding another image to the Coach Family’s Oaks album. (Lukas has told Pimlico officials that his filly is “a little more than probable” for the Preakness).
If Ken McPeek decides to send him, dominant allowance winner Creative Minister will be an interesting addition to the Preakness lineup. If not, there’s always the Sir Barton…
Of Rich Strike we wrote that we cannot remember ever seeing any horse sprint home at the end of a two-turn race at the distance, ever.
Similarly, wasn’t Speak of the Devil’s turn of turf foot electric and powerful? It harkened us back to BC Mile memories of two great French fillies, Miesque and Goldikova. It appears the $2.2 million purchase price was worth it. Can’t wait to see her again. No comparisons, but anxious to see more. She was fun.
We’ve got one word for Jack Christopher: Haskell. That’s the summer goal, said Chad Brown. He beat a talented G2 Pat Day Mile lineup with authority, not easy after a 7-month layup following surgery. Healthy, undefeated colt rates to be in Eclipse championship conversation if present form holds at longer trips.
Obviously, the table was perfectly set for Obligatory for her first Grade 1 and, if it weren’t, she probably would have taken it, anyway. She showed a powerful kick to win the 7F Derby City Distaff. Juju’s Map just might need that weight concession after all.
Champion Jackie’s Warrior is remarkably fast and extremely consistent. He makes everything he does look easy. We’re sure Joel Rosario agrees; he rode with complete confidence throughout. As for historical sprinter references, he’s one of the ones.
The 14th race that ended the 10-hour race day was for three-year-old maiden allowances and was won by many in a certain-to-be key race by Strobe in 1:08.71, his last quarter-mile in :23.37. Has anyone seen my Horses to Watch list? I have a name to add.
All-sources handle on Derby Day was nearly $274 million, with $179 million bet on America’s Race. Both are records. The race total was aided by $8.3 million wagered from Japan, whose rules state they can bet on foreign races only if a Japanese horse participates. Thanks Crown Pride.
Friday was also a Kentucky Oaks record day in an amazing racing weekend. And isn’t good news a welcome change?