NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- He forever will be appreciated for his sturdiness and his tenacity, for being an iron horse. But even Strike the Gold finally just wore down.
The 1991 Kentucky Derby winner has been retired, trainer Nick Zito announced yesterday, a day after the 5-year-old son of Alydar finished third in Belmont's Nassau County Handicap. There were no serious injuries, just signs that Strike the Gold was starting to feel the effects of four hard seasons and 31 races.
"Over the years, he accumulated a lot of wear and tear," Zito said. "When he came back after the Nassau County, he came back good, but a little stiff. A suspensory problem is starting to appear on one leg and his left front ankle has had little problems over the years. It was time to pack it in."
While disappointed that Strike the Gold no longer will be competing, Zito was relieved that he "went out the right way," particularly in light of the tragic breakdown of Prairie Bayou in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
"You just reach the end of the line," he said. "In two or three days, he'll be jumping out of his skin and we might start thinking we can win the Suburban. But you can't do it. I'm going to miss him, but at the same time I'm grateful for everything he's given me."
Strike the Gold's crowning achievement was the 1991 Kentucky Derby, in which he defeated Best Pal. He also won the 1991 Blue Grass, the 1992 Pimlico Special and the 1992 Nassau. His lone victory in three starts this year was an allowance win on April 21 at Aqueduct. He won six times and earned $3,457,026.
Zito said that Strike the Gold will stay with him at his barn for the next 30 days before being sent to begin his next career as a sire. It has not been determined where he will stand at stud.