Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will return to the track for the first time since his stunning upset in the Run for Roses when he takes on seven 3-year-old rivals Saturday afternoon in the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y.
Rich Strike will be looking to capture the third jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown after his connections decided against running him in the Preakness Stakes on May 21, two weeks after his come-from-behind, 80-1 longshot win in the Derby.
If Rich Strike finds his way to the wire first in Saturday’s ultra-demanding 1 1/2-mile “test of a champion,” he will be the first horse ever to win the Kentucky Derby, skip the Preakness and then win the Belmont.
Neither Early Voting, the Preakness winner, nor Epicenter, the favorite and eventual second-place finisher in both of the first two Triple Crown races, is in the field for the Belmont Stakes.
In fact, no horses will run in all three of the Triple Crown races. This is the first time since 1954 that the Derby winner missed the Preakness the same year that the Preakness winner opted out of the Belmont.
The grueling Belmont Stakes has a purse of $1.5 million, with $800,000 going to the winner.
Rich Strike, under journeyman jockey Sonny Leon, drew the No. 4 post position in the eight-horse field and is 7-2 — the third choice — in the morning odds for the race.
Eric Reed, Rich Strike’s trainer, said his colt is coming up to the race in good order.
“I’ve never seen him so relaxed,” Reed said. “He stops and looks, but when he gets on the track, he’s all business, and that’s all I care about.”
The race’s morning-line favorite is We the People, the runaway winner of the Peter Pan Stakes (Grade 3) on May 14 on a wet, but sealed, track at Belmont Park. Victorious in three of his four lifetime starts, We the People will be ridden by Flavien Prat and is listed at odds of 2-1, perhaps buoyed by his post position on the rail and the likelihood of rain in New York on Saturday.
“I think he can run on anything,” We the People’s trainer Rodolphe Brisset said. “We were hoping for him to really show himself a little bit (in the Peter Pan), and he did — maybe more than a little bit. Now we have to see what happens Saturday, but I wouldn’t give my position to anybody else.”
The second choice in the morning line at 5-2 is Mo Donegal, the Wood Memorial winner, where he beat Early Voting from off the pace. He finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby, 3 3/4 lengths behind Rich Strike.
Mo Donegal is ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Todd Pletcher, who has conditioned three previous Belmont Stakes winners.
Pletcher will also send Nest, a filly with morning-line odds of 8-1, to the post for the Belmont. Only three fillies have won the Belmont, and one of them, Rags to Riches in 2007, was trained by Pletcher.
Barber Road (10-1) joins Rich Strike and Mo Donegal as the only horses competing in the Belmont Stakes after running in the Kentucky Derby. Barber Road finished sixth at Churchill Downs.
–Field Level Media