Journal De Bruxelles - Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike aims to strike again in Belmont

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Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike aims to strike again in Belmont
Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike aims to strike again in Belmont / Photo: AL BELLO - GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike aims to strike again in Belmont

Rich Strike will try to back up his stunning upset victory in the Kentucky Derby when he returns to the track in the 154th Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

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We the People, saddled by French-born trainer Rodolphe Brisset, was installed as the early favorite for the 1 1/2-mile race at Belmont Park in New York.

One of two colts in the eight-horse field that didn't start either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, We the People was priced at 2-1 after drawing the No. 1 post.

Brisset said the inside post is no concern on the sweeping Belmont track known as "Big Sandy," where US-based French jockey Flavien Prat will have plenty of room to find position.

"He doesn't have to (go to the front)," Brisset said. "You've got to play the break from there. Flavien knows what to do."

Brisset acknowledged it was "always a question mark" as to whether a horse will get the 1 1/2-mile distance, but Rich Strike's connections were confident their longshot Kentucky Derby winner would have no problem there.

Rich Strike stunned at Churchill Downs last month powering from the back of the 20-horse field to win at odds of 80-1.

While Rich Strike, with a masterful ride from jockey Sonny Leon, benefitted from the fast early pace in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Eric Reed acknowledged he will likely not be able to sit so far off the pace on Saturday.

However, he said the way the colt had been training he didn't expect that to be a problem.

"I'm unsure of how he'll want to run because he's so much more aggressive than he's been before," Reed said. "I'm just going to tell Sonny to stay out of his way.

"I just don't know that he's going to be that far back just by the way he's training, let alone the pace of the race.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see him real close to the pace if the horse chooses to do it. If the horse comes out of there running, we're not going to get in his way."

After drawing the fourth post, Rich Strike was made the third early choice at 7-2.

Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal, fifth in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher, was installed as the second choice at 5-2.

Pletcher has saddled three Belmont winners: Tapwrit in 2017, Palace Malice in 2013 and Rags to Riches in 2007.

Pletcher also has a filly in the race -- Nest, runner-up to Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks.

"Both have trained super," Pletcher said, adding that the mile and a half distance might suit Mo Donegal.

"He’s a horse definitely from the very beginning showed us he wanted to go longer," Pletcher said.