Kentucky Derby champ Rich Strike faces tough test in Belmont

Kentucky Derby champ Rich Strike faces tough test in Belmont

After so many issues went proper for Wealthy Strike in profitable the Kentucky Derby, he’ll possible want much more luck on the Belmont Stakes, with a lot stacked in opposition to him.

Wealthy Strike gained’t go off at odds of greater than 80-1 this time, however even after bypassing the Preakness Stakes to run within the closing leg of the Triple Crown, he’s not anticipated to be the horse to beat within the discipline of eight. That distinction belongs to morning-line favourite We the Folks, a newcomer to the Triple Crown path who may set the tempo within the 1 ¹/₂-mile race and thrive if it rains in New York on Saturday.

If it’s a moist observe much like the one throughout We the Folks’s romp to victory within the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park final month, coach Mark Casse doesn’t like anybody else’s possibilities.

“We’re all going to be working for second, even the Derby winner,” stated Casse, who’s set to saddle Golden Glider within the Belmont. Golden Glider completed a distant second to We the Folks within the Peter Pan on Could 14.

Wealthy Strike ran previous 19 different horses in surprising vogue on Could 7 to develop into the second largest lengthy shot to win the Derby. Even that took myriad elements to occur: sharp coaching at Churchill Downs the week earlier than, the withdrawal of Ethereal Highway to get into the sphere, a sizzling tempo, the proper journey and the type of acceleration he had by no means proven earlier than in a race.

Kentucky Derby winner Wealthy Strike will face an enormous take a look at within the Belmont Stakes.Jason Szenes

“Is that his lifetime greatest? I don’t know,” retired jockey Jerry Bailey stated. “Historical past will solely inform us that. However I feel he’s going to should run higher than that, truly, to win.”

That’s partially as a result of horses don’t usually run as quick early within the longer Belmont, which is named the “take a look at of the champion.” The 154th version of the race is shaping up for a plodding tempo, with We the Folks trying like the one pace horse going up in opposition to Wealthy Strike and 6 different closers on an enormous, sandy observe that doesn’t are inclined to favor late expenses.

“The mile and a half is simply a completely completely different race,” stated Casse, who gained the Belmont three years in the past with Sir Winston. “You don’t need to be too far-off.”

The onus for that’s on the jockeys, most notably Wealthy Strike’s Sonny Leon, whose navigation by means of site visitors on the Derby will go down as one of many prime rides within the historical past of the game.

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“We by no means anticipated to get the journey we acquired as a result of to cross 19 horses is asking an terrible lot,” coach Eric Reed stated this week. “Hats off to him. That’s probably the greatest rides ever.”

However Leon has by no means ridden at Belmont Park earlier than and isn’t scheduled for a mount on the principle, grime observe earlier than getting aboard Wealthy Strike within the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

Having seen Calvin Borel, on the prime of his recreation in 2009, misjudge when to make his transfer with Derby winner Mine That Hen and different jockeys make pricey errors on this race, Bailey believes it’s an enormous job for Leon to undertake.

“He’s acquired lots to consider,” stated Bailey, who’s now an NBC Sports activities analyst. “The Belmont’s completely different as a result of you’ll be able to truly have an effect on the journey you get. Within the Derby, they only outran him, so he simply performed the hand that was dealt to him. He can just about be in charge of his personal hand if he chooses to be as a result of he’s not going to be practically as far again, so he’s going to should determine the place he desires his horse early within the race after which when it comes time to maneuver, when he truly strikes, primarily based upon how briskly — or on this case perhaps how gradual they’ve been going.”

It appears to be like to be a gradual go. Among the many others within the race, together with Derby horses Mo Donegal and Barber Highway, Artistic Minister and Skippylongstocking from the Preakness, and filly Nest, there’s an absence of early pace.

That seems to arrange completely for We the Folks to go wire-to-wire if jockey Flavien Prat can management the race.

“Flavien Prat, does he gradual the tempo down as a lot as he can after which try to have a lot left on the finish they’ll by no means catch him?” Bailey stated. “Does he try to unfold the race out someplace within the center and get a cushion? A variety of it will depend upon how Flavien decides to run the race.”

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