Will Rich Strike Run In The 2022 Travers Stakes?

Author: Lindsay Griffin

Rich Strike became the most talked about horse- if not the most talked about athlete, period- when he landed the Kentucky Derby at odds of 81-1.

The story of his last-minute entry into the race combined with the flawless ride of heretofore-unknown jockey Sonny Leon and Rich Strike’s post-race misadventures with outrider and lead pony showed all of the drama that the Sport of Kings has to offer.

People began to wonder just how sneakily talented Rich Strike was, and eagerly anticipated follow-up performances in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Alas, it was not to be. Trainer Eric Reed elected to bypass the Preakness in order to focus on the Belmont Stakes, which he felt his colt would be better suited for. However, Rich Strike did not fire in the Belmont. Reed later said that attempting to have the colt race on the outside of his field was to his undoing, and Rich Strike spent much of his energy fighting Leon.

With the Triple Crown now in the past, Reed picked the Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes as the colt’s next target. According to the Saratoga best bets by TwinSpires.com, Rich Strike will be part of the race.

The Travers, prestigious enough to be nicknamed the “Midsummer Derby,” is usually a race that three-year-olds work up to with one or more prep races, but Reed chose instead to train Rich Strike up to the Travers.

At this point, there is no question that Rich Strike will be entered in the Travers Stakes. However, what is not known is whether Rich Strike will “really run” in the Travers- that is, will he be able to replicate his Kentucky Derby performance and prove that his win was not a fluke?

The Derby-Travers Double

Surprisingly, it is not all that common for a Kentucky Derby winner to add Travers accolades to their resume. In spite of both races existing for approximately a century and a half, only a handful of Kentucky Derby winners have won the Travers as well: Street Sense (2007), Thunder Gulch (1995), Sea Hero (1993), Shut Out (1942), Whirlaway (1941), Twenty Grand (1931), Omar Khayyam (1917), Azra (1892), and Hindoo (1881). 

There are multiple reasons for a paucity of Derby-Travers winners. In any given year, the Kentucky Derby winner might be taking time off due to an injury, or perhaps targeting another race. Saratoga, the host track of the Travers Stakes, is also known for its upset race results.

Family Matters

Probably the most famous horse racing upset of the 21st century occurred in the 2015 Travers, when Keen Ice ran down Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Keen Ice went on to the breeding shed, where he played a part in another famous upset by siring none other than Rich Strike. Rich Strike has, of course, already proven his ability to get 1 ¼ miles – the distance of both the Kentucky Derby and the Travers – but the familial connection is reassuring nonetheless.

Rich Strike’s damsire is Smart Strike, was never tested at 1 ¼ miles, and faded to fourth at his only attempt at 1 ⅛ miles. However, through sons such as Breeder’s Cup Classic winner Curlin (who, as the sire of Keen Ice, gives Rich Strike a double dose of Smart Strike in his pedigree) and Breeder’s Cup Turf winner English Channel, he has demonstrated that he is, at the very least, not a hindrance to stamina. 

Wonderous Workouts

The most promising news for those hoping to cheer Rich Strike into the winner’s circle is coming from the horse himself. Reed noted that Rich Strike has been very eager to run in the mornings at Churchill Downs, where he posted his two most recent published workouts, and that he appears to have gained weight and physically matured since running in the Belmont Stakes.

Most recently, he worked alongside stablemate Common Bond, covering five furlongs in :59 ⅘; Reed hopes to ship Rich Strike to Saratoga on or around August 13th in order to get him acclimated to the track.

Huynh Nguyen

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