Rich Strike Heads to the Belmont Stakes Looking to Earn More Respect

Eric Reed says he feels the pressure. Not for himself, but the trainer feels it for his Kentucky Derby champion, Rich Strike.

Rich Strike
Rich Strike
Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike runs on the backstretch of Churchill Downs Monday in one of his final workouts before the June 11 Belmont Stakes. Trainer Eric Reed said the colt will leave Louisville for New York Tuesday morning. (Image:

Three weeks after their monumental upset to win the Run for the Roses, they’re getting ready now for the June 11 Belmont Stakes in New York. Reed and Rick Dawson, Rich Strike’s owner, decided to bypass the Preakness Stakes and forego a chance at a Triple Crown in order to keep their colt on his normal training schedule.

Odds are, Rich Strike won’t go off in the Belmont anywhere near the 80-1 odds he had on the parimutuel tote board as a last-minute insertion into the Derby. But Reed candidly admits there will still be plenty of doubters coming forward over the next couple of weeks.

After all, this is a horse that finished fourth and third in his two Kentucky Derby prep races. And while Reed is a longtime trainer, his horses race at smaller tracks. The Derby win was also just his second graded stakes victory.

My whole thing is, I want him to continue to get respect, and you have to earn respect,” Reed said Monday after Rich Strike worked out between races at Churchill Downs in Louisville. “So, I don’t expect these guys to just after one race… bow down to him. He’s going to have to keep running well, and like I said, his running style is one where he might not win every race. But as long as he makes his presence felt in each race that’s all we can ask. From there, whatever happens, happens.”

Reed and Rich Strike will depart from Louisville for Belmont Park in New York Tuesday for the June 11 race.

Belmont Poses Other Problems

The post position draw for the Belmont is still a week away. The field for the final leg of the Triple Crown won’t be set until then.

Epicenter, who finished second in both the Derby and Preakness, is not expected to run. Neither is Preakness winner Early Voting. But several others are expected to enter. That includes Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Creative Minister, who ran a very respectable third in the May 21 Preakness for his graded stakes debut, is another probable starter.

With a smaller field than the 20-horse Derby, Rich Strike won’t have to chase down as many horses as he did coming from well off the pace – he was 18th and 17 lengths back at the half-mile pole – to win.

But the Belmont provides its own unique set of challenges. At 1-1/2 miles, it’s the longest of the Triple Crown races and a full quarter-mile longer than the Derby. Yet, despite that, history shows that closers don’t fare all that well.

Still, Reed said he hasn’t altered anything in prepping Rich Strike for the Belmont. He added the horse had plenty of energy left as he finished the Derby three weeks ago.

“The main thing is just getting his mind right so that he uses himself properly the first mile and a quarter in the Belmont, and then when he turns for home, hopefully, he’s in a position where he can take it from there,” the trainer said.

Rich Strike Leaves Churchill on Strong Note

As Rich Strike returned to the Louisville track on Monday afternoon, he drew applause from the crowd during his mid-afternoon workout between races. The atmosphere at Churchill Downs on Memorial Day wasn’t quite the same as it was three weeks ago. Still, Reed said he was more nervous about Monday’s workout than he was for the Derby.

He breezed five furlongs in :59. That shaved six-tenths off the workout at the same distance he had 10 days before the Derby.

“People won’t believe it (was more nerve-racking). It was,” he said. “A big relief when he pulled up, came home and everything was good. It was the last step to get us to the Belmont.”

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