Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike has arrived at Belmont Park for the final jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
The track announced Wednesday the long shot winner of the Derby arrived around 1 a.m. to start preparations for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 11. The colt was shipped by van from Kentucky.
With exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes riding, Rich Strike visited Belmont’s training track at 9:30 a.m. accompanied by a pony. They went two laps the wrong way around on the dirt surface.
“He settled down a lot the second time round,” trainer Eric Reed said. “A lot of that was trying to get him used to the pony. You could see the farther he went the better he accepted the pony. I think by the end of the week they’ll be good buddies and on race day he needs a buddy.”
Reed said the colt, who is owned by Rick Dawson’s RED TR-Racing, is tired and will sleep the rest of the day.
Reed said Rich Strike will be schooled in the paddock in the morning before training on the main track.
“He’s so routine oriented,” Reed said. “We’re in a new place, so we can set his routine here and in two days, he’ll be fine,” Reed said.
Rich Strike breezed five-eighths in 59 seconds Monday on the main track at Churchill Downs. Reed said he won’t breeze again ahead of the Belmont.
“We might let him run down the lane Thursday or Friday,” Reed said of next week.
Rich Strike, who made the Kentucky Derby field following the late scratch of Ethereal Road, broke from the outside No. 20 post under Sonny Leon in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby and rallied from far back to win. The Belmont Stakes is a 1 1/2-mile race.
Reed said the owners decided to skip the Preakness, won by Early Voting on May 21 at Pimlico, to give Rich Strike more time between starts.
It marked the first time a Derby winner skipped the Preakness since 1985, when Spend a Buck collected a $2 million bonus for traveling to Garden State to capture the Jersey Derby.
Reed said if Rich Strike continues to move forward their long-term target would be the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on Aug. 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
Etherial Road, who won the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico last time out, is among 11 other potential challengers to Rich Strike in the Belmont Stakes, according to the Daily Racing Form.
Other probable contenders include Barber Road, 6th in the Kentucky Derby; Creative Minister, 3rd in the Preakness Stakes; We the People and Golden Glider, who finished one-two in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park; Howling Time and Kuchar, both of whom won optional claiming and allowance races, respectively, at Churchill Downs on May 22; Mo Donegal, 5th in the Kentucky Derby; Nest, 2nd in the Kentucky Oaks; and Skippylongstocking, 5th in the Preakness Stakes.
With reporting by Robert Pozarycki