RICH STRIKE made it three wins from his last five starts when staying on gamely in Sunday’s Listed Michael Roberts Handicap over 1800m at Scottsville.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s charge was gelded after a few disappointing runs in the latter part of the 2009/10 racing season. When he returned to the track it was decided to race him equipped with blinkers.
“The combination of gelding and blinkers did the trick, Rich Strike has turned the corner,” said assistant trainer Nathan Kotzen before accepting the Trainers’ Tropy on behalf of Mike de Kock.
Rich Strike’s three most recent wins have all been by narrow margins. He’s had to dig down every time but has also improved with every run.
Jockey Anthony Delpech noted three weeks ago, when they won the Xmas Handicap, that it took courage to get up in that close finish.
Ian Sturgeon, who picked up the ride on Rich Strike this time, echoed Delpech, saying, “This was a gutsy performance”.
Mike watched the race in Dubai and complimented Sturgeon for a good start-to-finish ride in a competitive field. Rich Strike had his rivals off the bit as they came to the 300m-pole, but started hanging out. Sturgeon changed his whip hand a few times to straighten his mount, but kept him close to the grandstand rail. Rich Strike, fighting on, held on to win by a nose from a swooping pack, best-finishing Dance At Daylight at the helm.
“When Rich Strike hung out I allowed him to drift towards the rail, because the going was best there last week, it was quicker,” Sturgeon said.
On hand to present the Jockeys’ Trophy to his former stable rider was the legend Michael Roberts himself and Sturgeon said: “I’ve won this race three times. Michael and I were a great team and this means a lot to me.”
Photo: Rich Strike (nearest camera), prevails in a driving finish to the 2011 Michael Roberts Handicap.