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Keen On Winning

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Unbelievable.

That’s how Dr. Rick Wright describes last Saturday’s events.

No, he’s not talking about another successful surgery on an injured athlete…for him, that’s routine (in fact, he just completed surgery on Patrik Berglund’s shoulder last week).

Instead, Wright uses “unbelievable” to describe Keen Ice’s victory over American Pharoah at Travers Stakes.

As an ownership partner in Donegal Racing, Wright can claim his horse narrowly defeated the first Triple Crown winner in more than 37 years.

“People are saying that maybe American Pharoah wasn’t on his game on Saturday, but if you look at his time and speed ratings, he actually ran the same distance a second-and-a-half faster Saturday than he did in the Kentucky Derby,” Wright said. “American Pharoah ran a great race and Keen Ice beat him by three-quarters of a length. We’re obviously excited and thrilled.

“We’ve had some big wins, but because of the historical significance, this is the biggest win for the group so far.”

Wright, who stays busy serving as an orthopedic surgeon for both the Blues and St. Louis Rams, couldn’t attend Saturday’s race but did manage to watch in Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher’s office before Saturday’s preseason game vs. Indianapolis.

“I thought our jockey, who had won four previous Travers Stakes races, I thought he positioned the horse in a great spot,” Wright said. “With probably 150 yards to go, he really made a kick that when you watch the race, you can tell he’s running so much faster than the other horses. At that point, I knew he was going to catch up and win this.

“The emotions…you just go crazy.”

Wright has spent much of his life around sports. He’s worked with the Rams since 1995 and the Blues since 1997, but even before that, he was watching his grandfather race horses at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, IL. Nearly five years ago, Wright was approached with an opportunity to purchase an ownership stake in Donegal Racing. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Each year, the group purchases 8-10 horses, each of which is thoroughly evaluated based on pedigree and genetic testing by Jerry Crawford, the managing partner of Donegal Racing. This year, it was Keen Ice that separated himself from the pack.

“Back in December, our trainer told my son that Keen Ice was something special, that he thought he had a chance to win the (Kentucky) Derby,” Wright said. “He ended up finishing seventh in the Derby. We skipped the Preakness but then came back and he finished third in the Belmont. He’s just continued to improve and get better and train better every single race.”

Wright will have another opportunity to see Keen Ice race at the Breeder’s Cup Classic in October. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work with Donegal Racing to pursue that ultimate goal: to win the Kentucky Derby.

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