Missing Neverland — Rich Strike’s Derby Win Counts Him Out For Peter Pan Stakes This Week

Written By Dave Bontempo on May 14, 2022
Rich Strike Peter Pan

It was only supposed to be a Belmont Stakes prep.

But the Peter Pan Stakes Saturday at Belmont Park begs a hot new trivia question: What race was Rich Strike training for when he suddenly changed course and won the Kentucky Derby last Saturday?

It was this one.

Rich Strike won’t be running in the $200,000 Peter Pan as once planned because he became a late entry to the Derby — then shocked the racing world by winning the race as an 80-1 longshot.

His Cinderella Saga may become a flash-in-the-pan, as his connections announced Thursday that Rich Strike wouldn’t run in the Preakness next Saturday. His shocking triumph and Preakness bypass means no racing Triple Crown this year. However, the public may see him again if Rich Strike runs as anticipated in the June 11 Belmont Stakes.

While Preakness racing officials are disappointed by Thursday’s news, the impact of Rich Strike’s Derby victory and its connection to our weekly “Bombs Away, Salute to Longshots” segment won’t be diminished.

Magic is magic.

Rich Strike triggered a Derby payout that delivered in telephone number-length winnings and the international country code that precedes it.

He won’t be at Belmont for the Peter Pan, but the track will present a dynamite card.

Belmont park loads up

Belmont corners the horse racing spotlight Saturday. They have five stakes events featuring the industry’s race of the day with the $700,000 Man o’War.

The Belmont card and several other tracks throughout the country are accessible to nationwide bettors via TVG.

Here’s the Belmont lineup (all times Eastern):

  • $150,000 Vagrancy unfolds at 2:05 p.m.
  • $150,000 Runhappy goes off at 3:06 p.m.
  • $700,000 Man o’Warthe race of the week — is at 4:46 p.m.
  • $200,000 Peter Pan follows at 5:19 p.m.
  • $150,000 Beaugay post is 5:50 p.m.

The Man o’ War is an excellent turf race with some big-name horses.

Yibir not only won the Breeders Cup last November but preceded that with a victory at the $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont last September. He returns where he is comfortable for this 1 3 -8-mile event.

Yibir’s impressive 2021 earned him Eclipse Award honors as champion turf male. It included wins in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy in July at Newmarket and the Great Voltigeur (Grade 2) in August at York before shipping to North America and winning the Breeders Cup.

However, he has come up just short in two races since. The last was a shocker. In late April, he was beaten at 2-9 betting odds in the Jockey Club Stakes back in England.

The chief rivals for Yibir figure to be Gufo and Abaan, who ran first and second in the 1 1–2-mile Pan American Stakes (G2 April 2 at Gulfstream Park). Gufo was a distant 10th to Yibir in the Breeders Cup. Bettors may recognize that and make Yibir a short price.

Other competitors include Easter, who was third in allowance company at Aqueduct on April 15, and So High, who beat him by a head. Highland Chief, pinched at the start of an allowance race and finished ninth, tries to rebound.

Belmont corners the horse racing spotlight this week with five stakes. Another race of note: Monmouth Park has the $100,000 Long Branch Stakes at 2:04 p.m. EDT.

What was the Kentucky Derby-Peter Pan link?

Last Friday, Rich Strike’s handlers were at Churchill Downs, dejected that their horse had just missed entering the Kentucky Derby. He had finished 24th in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings and needed four horses to withdraw to become one of the 20 Derby runners. He had only three.

Miraculously, Ethereal Road scratched. Literally less than a minute before the deadline. In came Rich Strike, with seemingly no credentials.

Race favorite Epicenter had beaten him by half of the homestretch last fall. Tiz the Bomb, already a Derby longshot bomb, had beaten him in the minor Jeff Ruby Steaks. So had Tawny Port. If there was ever a definition of a horse rounding out the field, this was it.

Then, somehow, he circled the field in the Derby. His rally from 15th in the homestretch to victory captured the imagination of casual fans, not only bettors.

How had this 80-1 shot secured the biggest Derby upset since Donerail at 91-1 in 2013?

Pace makes race

The pace was blistering and set up for a closer. Most people simply did not believe it would be this closer. The move by Rich Strike obscured some subtleties, which reflected excellent handling, even by the losing jockeys.

The genius that was rewarded

Sonny Leon was able to weave Rich Strike through traffic around the final turn, dart to the inside past a weary Summer of Tomorrow and take aim on the leaders. He caught a few strikes from the wire. Based on this ride, he could drive a cab in New York City, weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic jams, and get a passenger to the airport on time.

The genius that wasn’t rewarded

Joel Rosario took a huge and successful gamble on Epicenter. He let a horse that usually wants the lead settle back into 8th along the rail. Rosario gambled on the wicked speed duel that did unfold.
That enabled Epicenter to stride past the tiring frontrunners and outgun a closing Zandon to the wire. Zandon, with Flavien Prat, ran the smart stalking race he was expected to.

Unfortunately for backers of these two horses, they finished second and third, not first and second.

Nonetheless, the tactics by Rosario and Plat were masterful in that they gave a top performance on the high-profile stage and made successful bets regarding the pace of the race.

As Rich Strike’s handlers enjoy the afterglow, nationwide bettors scratch their heads over how they could have cashed in that remarkable ticket.

This leads us to this week’s

Bombs Away, Salute to Longshots

“Did You Have It?”

That’s the question that resounded in a nationwide “NOOOO….” after Rich Strike broke up the handicapping tote board the way a first-round March Madness upset destroys brackets.

Some people said “YESSSS” to a $2 exacta payout of $4,101, a $1 trifecta payout of $14,870 and a $1 superfecta of $321,500. That’s $32,500 for the 10-center.

We joked here at Playfecta about the winner using an acronym we described as the “EMMO Index.” That’s “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo!” How else would they get Rich Strike?

Some winning bettors didn’t select the horse. Instead, they backed into it with an “all” ticket.

One bettor reported taking a 50-cent trifecta with “All” in the first position and five others — including Zandon and Epicenter — in the next two slots.

It was gutsy and costly, with the gambler willing to wager $180 to get 360 different betting combinations. It paid $7,435.

The logic was that the bettor had horses who figured to run well in the second and third spots. So the magic was beating them and producing the big ticket in the heavenly longshot.

Another betting tactic involved taking Zandon and Epicenter in separate $1 trifecta boxes that cost $6 apiece. One would not normally throw in Rich Strike, but some bettors will simply toss in two favorites with the longest shot on the board.

Either way, a tip of the hat to those who prevailed. That took thinking outside of the box.

Good luck thinking outside the box this weekend.

Photo by AP | Jeff Roberson
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