By Bill Finley
Owner Rick Dawson has changed his mind a few times regarding the career of his GI Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (Keen Ice). One day he's coming back to the races, another day he's to be sold as a stallion prospect, the next day it's back to trying to get him back to the races.
It's not that Dawson is indecisive, it's more a matter of him reacting to what is a constantly changing situation.
“A few weeks before the sale we had made plans to ship him to Gulfstream Park to Bill Mott to prepare for racing,” Dawson said. “We decided to have him examined one more time at Rood and Riddle and have an ultrasound to play it safe. The previous ultrasound had been really good so we were confident. This ultrasound showed he had regressed in his healing of the suspensory ligament. We had almost replaced all the scar tissue and it seemed to be repaired. We canceled transportation the next morning to Florida.”
So they entered him in the Keeneland November Horses of Racing Age sale as a stallion prospect. But Dawson was able to read the room. With Rich Strike coming off dismal performances in the GI Clark S. and in the GII Alysheba, his value as a sire prospect had never been lower.
“Throughout the process and up until a couple days before the sale, the gut feeling I had so far as Rich Strike becoming a stallion at this point in his career was that I was not going to get what I was hoping for,” Dawson said.
So it was on to Plan C., try to get him back to the races after all.
Under the advice of Dr. Larry Bramlage, Rich Strike has been, since exiting the sale, undergoing stem cell treatments aimed at healing the problems he's been having all along with the suspensory ligaments in his two front legs.
“After the sale I was thinking 'what am I going to do now?'” Dawson said. “I started checking options. I started further researching other options. We visited with Dr. Bramlage at Rood and Riddle and we talked about stem cell treatment. We were so close to getting him back before. If stem cells could bring anything to the party it could really make a difference. He's not terribly injured. He just has this on-going nagging-type issue and so we thought if we could get him healed he could race again and do so at a high level and win. That would make his stallion value a lot better. It's not a matter of dollars to me. I just want to get him into a situation where he has access to really good mares and therefore get him to a level playing field to produce great offspring. If you're covering mediocre or less-than-mediocre mares your stallion career is going to be pretty short.”
So the hope is that they can get Rich Strike over his problems and then turn him over to one of the best in the business in Bill Mott.
“Bill Mott believes that if we can get him back to 100%, he can return to a similar level as his Derby race, his Travers, the Lukas Classic, races where he did really well,” Dawson said. “Bill doesn't think there's anything that can prevent him from doing that and I tend to agree.
“With the stem cell treatments, I talked to one trainer and owner and they'll tell you they had little or no success with stem cell treatments. Then others tell you they had a lot of success. If I can't get him healed and back to a point where he can withstand training and racing and being safe doing so then I will retire him. As long as I feel like we're improving his health, taking our time and giving him every opportunity to heal I'm all in favor for it. We have no time clock.”
Rich Strike remains at Margaux Farm, where all he is doing is walking and is not yet back under tack. Dawson is aiming for him to join Mott in April and begin serious training. Of course, that plan could go up in smoke if the vets don't like what they see from future ultrasounds. Dawson understands this plan is no sure thing, but believes it's the best possible route to take.
“All this means is that we're going to have a year off and haven't gotten beaten up,” the owner said. “In his age group, every time I look I see that someone else has been retired. The older class just gets smaller and smaller. My hope is that when he turns five, he'll be back in great condition and he'll be in great position. He can be older, bigger and better. I feel like if we get him back well and he could win a race or two will that will not only further his resume as a race horse, but it's also going to increase his value as a stallion. The risk is worth taking.”