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Rich Strike Bypasses The Preakness Stakes, But Is That The Right Call?

History was made at Churchill Downs at the start of May, as Rich Strike became the second-biggest long shot to win the Kentucky Derby. There was an immediate feeling that the Eric Reed-trained horse would be pointed towards the Preakness Stakes and then potentially the Belmont Stakes. 

The three-year-old was a short price in the Preakness Stakes odds shortly after his run at Churchill Downs, but connections have officially announced that the shock winner of the Kentucky Derby would be bypassing the Preakness Stakes, and would instead be pointed towards the Belmont Stakes. But, have connections made the right decision, or is it a move they may regret?

Connections Doing Right By Their Horse

Horse racing is a sport where everybody will have an opinion, and the growing significance of social media only heightens that. However, nobody will know more about the condition of Rich Strike than the connections.

Anyone who would have felt that their decision to pull the three-year-old out of the Preakness Stakes was an easy decision will need to understand that it’s extremely unlikely they will ever have the same opportunity to get a Triple Crown winner. 

Therefore, the decision wouldn’t have been taken lightly, and instead should be applauded, as they have put the welfare or Rich Strike above their personal financial gain. 

It would have been easy to run the Kentucky Derby winner once again in the Preakness, but if he isn’t in peak condition, then it could have been detrimental to his health. 

Unless he is at the top of his game, then the connections stand to lose more than they would gain from running the three-year-old. 

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In a year where the welfare of the equine stars of this great sport has been dragged through the mud after Bob Baffert’s disqualification with Medina Spirit, the decision of the Rich Strike connections should be applauded rather than jeered.

A run in the Preakness could have been damaging to Rich Strike’s long-term health if he wasn’t at 100%, as he could pick up an injury that could curtail his career for good. 

Fortunately, connections opposed that, and instead will give the three-year-old time to recover, before a challenge will be made on the Belmont Stakes in June. 

Derby Winners That Have Bypassed The Preakness

Since 1982, only six horses have bypassed the Preakness after winning the Kentucky Derby. However, 1985 winner Spend a Buck was the only contender that came out of the Churchill Downs race fresh and chose to miss the Pimlico Triple Crown race. 

Their reason for doing so was down to a $2 million bonus offered by Golden State Park. Other previous winners have had different reasons for missing.

Last year’s winner was Mandaloun, which is one of the most complex. He was only made the official winner of the Derby this year after Medina Spirit was disqualified following a drug test. 

Therefore, we would never have known whether the connections would have targeted the race at Pimlico should he have been crowned the winner on the day. 

Meanwhile, other winners that opted to miss the Preakness include Country House (2019), Grindstone (1996), and Gato Del Sol (1982). Of course, there is no obligation for Kentucky Derby winners to run in the Preakness, but it does hurt the race at Pimlico, and the reputation of the Triple Crown should horses not attempt the feat. 

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But, as should always be the case, the welfare of the animals comes before anything else in horse racing.

Which Horses Remain In Contention?

This year, the Preakness Stakes still looks to be a very competitive race in its own right. Runner-up in the Derby, Epicenter, is confirmed to run at Pimlico, and will likely be the hot favorite for the race this year. 

The Steven Asmussen-trained horse ran a storming race at Churchill Downs, and almost certainly looked to be the winner heading into the final couple of furlongs before Rich Strike made his move.

Early Voting is one of the contenders that bypassed the Kentucky Derby with the Preakness being the main goal this season following his second in the G2 Wood Memorial. His freshness could be a decisive factor in giving Chad Brown a second win in the race. 

Simplification is another that will be lining up after running a big race in the Derby, while Secret Oath for D. Wayne Lukas could be the most intriguing. 

Secret Oath will be looking to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness after a stunning display in the G1 Kentucky Oaks. She has all the credentials to run a big race at Pimlico, and many may see her as the value in the betting at this early stage. 

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