The 2022 horse racing season is coming to a close.
There is certainly much to look back on, but for the sake of brevity and attention span, we’ll limit our trip down memory lane to a four race sprint.
THE KENTUCKY DERBY: A horse acquired for a claiming tag is not supposed to go on to Win the Kentucky Derby. In fact, no one had done that through the first 147 editions of the Run for the Roses.
RICH STRIKE proved the seemingly impossible is possible when he became the second-longest shot to Win the Derby, receiving a masterful ride from journeyman Sonny Leon. The few backers RICHIE did have were largely rewarded as his Post Time odds were 80-1.
The son of KEEN ICE drew into the field late when ETHERAL ROAD was scratched Friday afternoon.
Trainer Eric Reed had no grandiose aspirations when he claimed RICH STRIKE for $30,000 in his second career start. “I never dreamed I would be here. I never went to a sale to try to buy a Derby horse,” Reed said. “This was never in my plans.”
THE PREAKNESS STAKES: Few owners would be willing to skip the Kentucky Derby to take their best possible shot at the Preakness.
Baltimore native Seth Klarman and trainer Chad Brown did just that, using that uncommon strategy in 2022.
The owner and trainer were willing to roll the dice and they believe it made all the difference as lightly-raced EARLY VOTING captured the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
“We wanted to do right by the horse and we’re so glad we waited,” said Klarman after EARLY VOTING held off EPICENTER by 1 ¼ lengths.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, EARLY VOTING was making only his fourth career start in the Preakness. Ortiz agreed with the decision to bypass the Derby, saying of his mount, “I don’t think he was seasoned enough to run in a 20-horse field.”
THE BELMONT STAKES: Prominent owner Mike Repole, also known as Mike from Queens realized a life-long dream when MO DONEGAL and the filly NEST provided him with a one-two finish in the Belmont Stakes, a race he fantasized Winning since he was a teenager.
“It’s a 40-year dream,” said Repole, 53. “Coming to this track (Belmont) and Aqueduct, being a kid from New York, this is New York’s race.”
Repole partnered with Donegal Racing in taking a minority interest in MO DONEGAL prior to the Kentucky Derby.
The 1 ½-mile Belmont also carried great significance for Winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who took top honors in the Test of the Champion for the fourth time.
THE TRAVERS STAKES: After placing 2nd as the beaten favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, star-crossed EPICENTER rebounded in a big way, dominating the $1.25 million dollar Travers Stakes at Saratoga by 5 ¼ lengths over CYBERKNIFE.
The Mid-Summer Derby provided some sweet redemption for trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Joel Rosario. “We walked over (from the paddock) with a tremendous amount of confidence but definitely remembering we felt the exact same way walking over for this year’s Derby,” said Asmussen.
The trainer is still looking to break his Derby maiden, but the overpowering EPICENTER did provide him with his first Travers Win in seven attempts.
The Daily Racing Blog would like to wish all its readers a Safe, Happy and Prosperous New Year.