Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Rich Strike

August 26th, 2022

Once in a while, a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender comes along with a pedigree seemingly perfect for racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Such is the case with Rich Strike, the third-place finisher from the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3).

Rich Strike is a pure deep closer with little in the way of tactical speed, emulating the style of his sire, Keen Ice. A son of two-time Horse of the Year and Preakness S. (G1) winner Curlin, Keen Ice was at his best when settling off the pace and making one late run, as he famously did when upsetting Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 1 1/4-mile Travers S. (G1).

A graded stakes-caliber campaigner at ages two, three, four, and five, Keen Ice ran respectably behind American Pharoah when seventh in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Belmont S. (G1), but arguably peaked as an older horse when placing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Whitney S. (G1), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Keen Ice is just getting started at stud and has yet to set the world ablaze, but his own race record hints his progeny will improve with maturity, and Rich Strike has emulated that path with improving performances against increasingly tough competition this winter and spring.

The dam side of Rich Strike’s pedigree is even more promising. Rich Strike was produced by Canadian champion Gold Strike, a Smart Strike mare, who won the 1 1/16-mile Selene S. (G3) and 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks back when Woodbine had a dirt track installed. 

As a broodmare, Gold Strike has struck gold. In addition to Rich Strike, she’s the dam of Llanarmon, a grass star who counted the one-mile Natalma S. (G2) and 1 1/8-mile Carotene S. among her victories. This productivity isn’t surprising since Smart Strike boasts a phenomenal record as a broodmare sire, with his daughters foaling such accomplished runners as 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, 2010 Preakness S. (G1) runner-up First Dude, and 2012 Kentucky Derby third-place finish Dullahan.

Rich Strike actually has two close doses of Smart Strike in his pedigree, since Smart Strike is the sire of Curlin and the grandsire of Keen Ice. Smart Strike’s own stud record reads like a “who’s who” of accomplished racehorses from the first two decades of the 2000s, including Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Battle of Midway, who placed third in the Kentucky Derby.

In short, it’s hard to pick holes in the pedigree of Rich Strike. While there’s a chance he could follow Keen Ice’s example and reach his peak sometime after the spring classics, racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt should generally be right up Rich Strike’s alley.

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