December 3, 2023

Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike bids for history in Clark

Rich Strike with Sonny Leon wins the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs (Photo by

Already enshrined in the annals of Churchill Downs as an 80-1 upsetter of the Kentucky Derby (G1), Rich Strike can add to his historic legacy in Friday’s $750,000 Clark (G1) at the Louisville track. Not only would Rich Strike join the exclusive club of Derby winners who captured the 1 1/8-mile Clark, but he would become the first in 121 years to turn the double in the same season.

Clark (G1) – Race 11 (5:56 p.m. ET)

The Derby-Clark tandem was a regular accomplishment for three-year-olds in the late 19th century and the dawn of the 20th. Hindoo (1881), Buchanan (1884), Spokane (1889), Riley (1890), Azra (1892), Chant (1894), Halma (1895), Plaudit (1898), Lieut. Gibson (1900), and His Eminence (1901) won both races, but then the trend became obsolete. Only four more Derby winners would add the Clark over the ensuing 97 years, all as older horses – Hall of Famers Old Rosebud (1917), Exterminator (1922), Whirlaway (1942), and Silver Charm (1998).

Rich Strike has performed up to a high level elsewhere, finishing fourth in the Travers (G1) at Saratoga and again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in his latest at Keeneland. Yet the Eric Reed trainee is a true horse-for-the-course at Churchill, where he was just denied by Hot Rod Charlie in the Oct. 1 Lukas Classic (G3) two starts ago at this same trip. None of his older rivals in the Clark has Hot Rod Charlie’s resume, and Rich Strike figures to get pace to support his late kick. Regular pilot Sonny Leon will guide the son of Keen Ice from post 4.

West Will Power enters in the form of his life for Brad Cox. A front-running allowance winner at this course and distance Sept. 28, the Gary and Mary West homebred crushed the Oct. 29 Fayette (G2) at Keeneland in similar fashion. His multiple Grade 3-winning stablemate, Fulsome, was a distant second in the Fayette, and back in third was Last Samurai, the reigning Oaklawn H. (G2) victor. They’ll hope that another pace presence, Injunction, can change the equation for West Will Power and help them to turn the tables. Injunction edged a ring-rusty West Will Power in the Aug. 6 R.A. “Cowboy” Jones Overnight S. at Ellis Park before placing second in the Ack Ack (G3) here.

A robust pace would also help the cause of Godolphin’s Proxy, who has not raced since his third to Olympiad in the course-and-distance Stephen Foster (G2) on July 2. The stoutly-bred son of Tapit is still looking for his first stakes win after a series of placings, from the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) on the 2021 Derby trail to this spring’s New Orleans Classic (G2), Ben Ali (G3), and Blame S.

The older horses all carry 125 pounds, conceding three to Rich Strike and fellow sophomore Trademark. Yet to earn a stakes credit, Trademark came nearest when fourth in the Indiana Derby (G3), but he wasn’t disgraced in fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Blue Grass (G1). The Upstart gelding’s good-looking allowance tally at Keeneland suggests he could be turning the corner.

Mrs. Revere (G2) – Race 9 (4:57 p.m. ET)

Earlier on the program, the $300,000 Mrs. Revere (G2) features California Angel among a competitive group of 11 sophomore turf fillies. Although winless since last fall’s Jessamine (G2), the George Leonard III trainee has been competing well. In her last pair at Keeneland, she was fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) and a rattling second in the Valley View (G3).

Renewing rivalry from the Valley View are Grade 3 vixen Bubble Rock, the pacesetter who faded to fourth, and sixth Lady Puchi, one of a trio for Ken McPeek along with stakes debutantes Lovely Princess and Sweet Lady Ivanka. Brian Hernandez Jr. has ridden all three, and sticks with recent Keeneland allowance scorer Lovely Princess. Vicki Oliver is double-handed with She’s Gone, exiting a fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, and Take a Stand, runner-up in the Audubon Oaks three back on the Ellis main.

French Group 3 scorer Have a Good Day is intriguing on the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles for Gustavo Delgado. Beaten just a neck by the talented Malavath last fall, the import was a slow-starting fifth in the Franklin (G3) to next-out Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) stunner Caravel.

Completing the cast are Quality Star, who missed narrowly to Lovely Princess before graduating herself at Keeneland; Fancy Martini, a 54-1 upsetter of a Keeneland allowance; and Churchill allowance runner-up Joyful Applause.