Rich Strike, the Kentucky Derby winner, will not race in the Preakness.
Owner Rick Dawson made the surprising announcement Thursday, 10 days before the race in Maryland. The decision means there will be no Triple Crown winner for the fourth year in a row.
Dawson detailed that he and trainer Eric Reed agreed to stick with the initial plan for Rich Strike, to rest him for five weeks. Rich Strike, at 80-1 in the betting, represented the slimmest chance of winning the Derby in more than a century. Only Donerail in 1913 paid more on win bets.
Now, the plan will be to have Rich Strike ready to race in the Belmont Stakes on June 11. Dawson explained that it’s in the colt’s best interest to get extra rest and not race for two weeks at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course.
“It is quite tempting to alter our course and take part in the Preakness at Pimlico, which would be a great honor for our entire team,” Dawson said in a press release. “However, after much discussion and consideration … we will stick to our plan as to what is best for Ritchie.”
Reed did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Rich Strike was not expected to be the favorite for the Preakness, with Derby runner-up Epicenter and Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath set to be among the contenders. He could have been the first Derby winner not to go into the Preakness as an underdog since 2012, when I’ll Have Another won the first two Triple Crown races.
With the surprise retirement of Rich Strike, the Preakness will be run without an official Derby champion for the second time in four years.
Rich Strike’s incredible drive to overtake the leaders down the stretch at Churchill Downs, after not being among the Derby favourites, became one of sport’s biggest upsets. Owners Reed and Venezuelan jockey Sonny León had never won the race at Churchill Downs.