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Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike won't race at Preakness Stakes

Sonny Leon and Rich Strike won the 148th Kentucky Derby last weekend. Instead of racing at the Preakness Stakes, the second stop of the Triple Crown series, the horse will get some much needed rest before the third race at the Belmont Stakes in New York.
Carmen Mandato
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Sonny Leon and Rich Strike won the 148th Kentucky Derby last weekend. Instead of racing at the Preakness Stakes, the second stop of the Triple Crown series, the horse will get some much needed rest before the third race at the Belmont Stakes in New York.

Rich Strike, the underdog entry who finished first at this year's Kentucky Derby, won't race at the Preakness Stakes in Maryland next weekend, forfeiting his chances of winning the Triple Crown, one of the most coveted titles in horseracing.

After speaking with his team, Rich Strike's owner Rick Dawson said his champion race horse will not run in the Preakness Stakes next Saturday, the second stop of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Instead, the RED TR-Racing team will focus on the series' third stop, the Belmont Stakes in New York, scheduled to take place in June.

The team will follow through with a plan that was set in place before Rich Strike, also known as Ritchie, delivered one of the greatest upsets in Kentucky Derby history last weekend.

"Obviously, with our tremendous effort & win in the Derby it's very, very tempting to alter our course & run in the Preakness at Pimlico, which would be a great honor for all our group," Dawson said in a statement Thursday. "However, after much discussion & consideration with my trainer, Eric Reed & a few others, we are going to stay with our plan of what's best for Ritchie is what's best for our group."

With Ritchie dropping out of Pimlico, there will be no Triple Crown winner this year. Only 13 horses have been won all three stops of the series, an achievement known to many if not all to be the greatest title in competitive horseracing.

Dawson said the plan has always been that if Ritchie ran in Kentucky — depending on the outcome and the horse's condition — he would skip the Preakness Stakes and instead push for Belmont or another race with five or six weeks of rest under his belt.

Ritchie secured his place in the race just one day before the Derby. Another horse, Ethereal Road, dropped out, which gave Rich Strike the chance he needed to pull off his upset. Rich Strike and his jockey, Sonny Leon, waited until the very end of the race to make their move, while the favorites, Epicenter and Zandon, took an early lead, according to a Kentucky Derby news release.

Nobody saw it coming when Rich Strike made his break for the win, overtaking Epicenter and Zandon in the last stretch.

"I didn't know if he could win but I had a good feeling with him," Leon said in a news release. "I had to wait until the stretch and that's what I did. I waited and then the rail opened up. I wasn't nervous, I was excited. Nobody knows my horse like I know my horse."

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