Two weeks after Rich Strike’s shocking 80-1 upset victory in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), his trainer is scheduled to saddle his first starter at historic Pimlico Race Course during his 37-year career.
Eric Reed, who lived every trainer’s dream when Rich Strike won the Run for the Roses following a 15th-to-first stretch surge, will be on unfamiliar ground when he saddles Richard Dawson’s colt for a start in the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21. However, the 58-year-old trainer does have a family connection to Pimlico and the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Although W. E. ‘Smiley’ Adams saddled Master Derby for a victory in the 1975 Preakness, it was Reed’s father, Herbert, who was involved in the early training and development of the son of Dust Commander.
“My dad was orphaned, and he was raised by Mack Miller, the Hall of Fame trainer. My dad, when he got married, had me at 16. He was an exercise rider and became a trainer. He was a very good horseman. He was working for Golden Chance Farm – Mrs. (Verna) Lehmann. He developed all kinds of big horses. He would not travel to the races. She would beg him every year, ‘Take them to Florida. You’ve done all the work,’” Reed said Monday morning from his Mercury Equine Center near Lexington, KY.
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“My dad would not leave the family behind,” he added. “He turned down the opportunity most trainers live for – fame, fortune, etcetera – to take care of his family. This Derby that happened to me, having my dad there, was better than winning the race, in all honesty.”
Meanwhile, Rich Strike has returned to Mercury Equine Center for a few days of R & R before resuming training for the Preakness.
“He’s just had a couple days off, walking, grazing, getting bathed, just getting over the race, getting his mind right. He’s seemed to come out of the race really good. We’ll have him on the track in the morning,” Reed said. “If things go well this week in the next couple days, I’ll go back to Churchill, gallop him a few days and maybe give him a little workout Monday or Tuesday to stretch his legs. Then, if all goes well, we’ll head to Pimlico.”
2022 Kentucky Derby Replay
Simplification Due to Arrive at Pimlico Early Tuesday
Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification, who finished a late-closing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to run back in Preakness 147. The Fountain of Youth (G2) winner is expected to arrive at Pimlico Race Course between 4-5 a.m. Tuesday following a van ride from Churchill Downs.
Simplification will be the second Preakness starter for trainer Antonio Sano, who saddled Gunnevera for a fifth-place finish in 2017.
Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking is scheduled to breeze at Gulfstream Park Friday or Saturday before shipping to Pimlico the next day for a start in the Preakness, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. reported Monday. The son of 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator most recently finished third in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.
Un Ojo Set to Put Best Foot Forward in Preakness
Forced to bypass the Kentucky Derby because of a minor but untimely foot bruise, Un Ojo’s team believes the gelding will be ready to put his best hoof forward in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
Un Ojo jogged twice around Churchill Downs’ mile track Monday morning under Clay Courville, assistant to his dad, Louisiana-based trainer Ricky Courville, while also serving as exercise rider, groom and hotwalker when their stable star is on the road.
“He’s doing good. He’s been training good, been back to the track three times now,” Clay Courville said. “He’s on the right track, moving forward. He wanted to gallop. I decided to give him another day of jogging and I’ll gallop him (Tuesday) morning. The foot seems good. He’s hitting the ground well, traveling well. We’ll gallop tomorrow and see how he is.”
The one-eyed Un Ojo was withdrawn from the Derby the morning that entries were taken, five days before the Churchill Downs classic.
“It was tough,” Clay Courville said. “It was hard to do, but it was the right thing for the horse. If everything goes well, we’ll be on to the Preakness. He’s scheduled to work on Saturday morning. We’ll see how he is after that and decide what to do.”
Courville said his dad has never raced a horse at Pimlico but that he came to Old Hilltop when trainer Eric Guillot asked him to help out with Laoban, who finished sixth in the 2016 Preakness.
“I was working for my dad when Mr. Eric called me and gave me the opportunity to travel and come up with him and get on the horse for the Preakness,” he said. “I took advantage of it and went. It was just cool to be up there and experience new things as a young kid.”
Clay Courville, now 25, can appreciate Rich Strike’s Kentucky Derby victory at 80-1 odds after drawing into the field at literally the last minute to carry the banner for the “little guy.” Rich Strike is only the second graded-stakes winner for trainer Eric Reed, in a career that began in 1985 and includes 1,445 victories through Sunday. Un Ojo won Oaklawn Park’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at 75-1 to give Ricky Courville his first graded-stakes score.
“I was extremely happy for their connections,” Clay Courville said of the Rich Strike team. “I feel people like that deserve it, people who work hard and don’t have a lot of horses like that, like most people don’t. They take pride in their work, and I like seeing people like that win.”
Still, Clay Courville acknowledged of the Derby, “It kind of sucked watching it, because I was like, ‘Man, it set up perfect for our type of horse: the hot pace and all the closers came running.’ You never know.”
Epicenter’s Preakness Status Still Pending
Trainer Steve Asmussen said that Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Derby runner-up Epicenter came out of race in good order, with the Preakness decision coming after the colt resumes training.
“All systems look great right now,” North America’s all-time winningest trainer said. “He’ll catch another walk day and go back to the track Wednesday morning, and we’ll see where we’re at there.”
Epicenter, with Joel Rosario aboard, appeared headed to the Derby winner’s circle until literally the last few strides when passed on the inside by Rich Strike.
Asmussen won the 2007 Preakness Stakes with 2007-2008 Horse of the Year Curlin and in 2009 with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said no Preakness decision has been made yet on Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath or Rebel Stakes (G2) runner-up Ethereal Road, whose Friday morning scratch made it possible for Rich Strike to run in the Kentucky Derby.
“We’re just going to give it a little time,” said Lukas, a six-time Preakness winner, most recently with Oxbow in 2013.
McPeek Weighing Trio of Preakness Options
Trainer Kenny McPeek said Creative Minister, Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll are under consideration for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, a stakes the trainer won in 2020 with the filly Swiss Skydiver. He added that Smile Happy, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, and Rattle N Roll, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, will not compete against each other, with both owned by Lucky 7 Stable. Rattle N Roll was entered in the Derby but did not get in off the also-eligible list.
Creative Minister, who would have to be supplemented into the Preakness for $150,000, closed to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the Derby undercard by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:42.37, his last sixteenth-mile in under six seconds.
“We were impressed, and we’re talking about taking him,” McPeek said at Churchill Downs. “I’ve got several that I can consider that we’ll watch all this week.”
Tiz the Bomb will go back to the turf after finishing ninth in the Derby, the trainer said. Tiz the Bomb easily handled the Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike twice at Turfway Park while winning the John Battaglia Memorial and the $600,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3).
“I think the Derby winner just loved Churchill,” McPeek said of Rich Strike, whose only prior victory came by 17 lengths in the Churchill Downs $30,000 maiden-claiming race from which trainer Eric Reed claimed him for owner Rick Dawson. “He’s run two huge races here. There are horses like that.”
In Due Time a No-Go for Preakness Stakes
Trainer Kelly Breen said Monday that his graded stakes-placed colt In Due Time is not a candidate for the 147th Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 21. The son of Not This Time was second to Simplification in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 5 at Gulfstream Park. In is most recent start, he was third as the 8-5 favorite in the Lexington (G3) on April 16 at Keeneland.
Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Taiba, 12th as the Derby second choice, is out of Preakness consideration. Trainer Tim Yakteen said via text that Taiba and stablemate Messier (15th in the Derby) would head back to California. “They came back in good shape. We will regroup and come up with a campaign,” he said.
Joe and Blackadder, colts who earned automatic entry berths with victories earlier this year, will not run in the Preakness.
Trainer Michael Trombetta said Monday that Joe, the Elkstone Group’s homebred, will be nominated for the James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness Day program. Joe, a Maryland-bred son of Declaration of War, won the Federico Tesio on April 16 at Laurel for his fourth victory in six career starts.
Blackadder, winner of the ‘Win and In’ El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 12 at Golden Gate Fields, was sold after his ninth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on April 9. His new trainer, Christophe Clement, said the Quality Road colt is not being considered for the Preakness.