Updated on 09/15/2011 1:18PM

Juvenile: French Assault a worthy keeper


ELMONT, N.Y. - When Adam Richey and Jim Strode purchased seven yearlings from the 2000 Keeneland September sale, they knew they wouldn't be keeping them all.

"That was too many for us," said Richey, who along with Strode spent a modest $167,000 for their seven yearlings.

Picking out which ones to keep and which to sell was not easy. The fact they kept French Assault, a $20,000 purchase, helped ease the pain of selling two horses who either placed or won stakes. One of those horses turned out to be Arlington-Washington Futurity runner-up It'sallinthechase - on which Richey and Strode took an $18,000 loss - who will be in the starting gate along with French Assault in Saturday's $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"Our goal was to pinhook, but the market went south," said Richey, who said he and Strode did not set a reserve on It'sallinthechase. "I wished I'd kept him now."

Richey and Strode also sold The News Is West, who became stakes-placed with Art Sherman in California.

Richey, 40, and Strode, 49, live in Dallas where they are partners in Camrich Holdings, a commercial real estate firm. Richey began claiming horses five years ago and then brought in Strode as a partner. They have dealt primarily with claiming and allowance-type horses. The best horse they had was a Texas-bred stakes winner named Chief Three Sox.

That they bought two of the 13 horses pre-entered for the Juvenile is a source of pride for Richey, Strode, and trainer Keith Desormeaux. While French Assault will be dismissed by many in the Juvenile, keep in mind that in seven of the last 11 years, a horse at 30-1 or greater has finished in the money in the Juvenile.

"I guarantee you he runs better than the 50-1 the guy has him on the line," said Richey, referring to odds assigned French Assault by Daily Racing Form handicapper Mike Watchmaker.

Racing primarily in the Southwest, French Assault, a son of French Deputy, has two wins and two seconds from six starts. After two poor efforts sprinting on dirt, French Assault was moved to the turf, where he won his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths before finishing second in an allowance race.

He was pointed to the El Joven Stakes on turf, but constant rain that week forced the race to a fast main track. After dropping 12 lengths off the pace, French Assault rallied to win by 11 3/4 lengths.

"We did not beat a group of turf horses," Desormeaux said. "We were just the better horse that night. It's obvious our horse doesn't get the press the horses in the East and West get. For him to beat them by such a wide margin shows the class of the animal. Plus, it solidified our desire to come to the Breeders' Cup."

Following the El Joven, French Assault was pointed to the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park. Although he battled a sinus problem the week of the race and then stumbled at the start of the race, French Assault finished second after contesting the pace.

"The fact he stumbled scared him a little and took him away from his style," Desormeaux said.

Desormeaux shipped French Assault to New York on Oct. 1, and he has trained very well over Belmont's main track. After two bullet workouts, French Assault blew out an easy half-mile on Tuesday. Although track clockers did not credit him with a time, private clockers caught him in 49.63 seconds.

Watching French Assault the last several weeks has instilled an unwavering confidence in Desormeaux, who will give a leg up to his brother Kent on Saturday.

"Our horse is flourishing," Keith Desormeaux said. "He's a picture of health, strength, and confidence. We've been here since Oct. 1, he's been well-schooled in the paddock, at the gate and on the track. He's done so well we can be nothing but confident."

Striking Song out with ankle chip

The Juvenile field was reduced to 12 on Tuesday when it was revealed that Striking Song was declared because of a chip in his left hind ankle. It was the second time in four days that a Bob Hess Jr.-trained horse was forced out of the Breeders' Cup with an injury. On Saturday, Hess had to withdraw Blueprint from the Turf because of a strained suspensory.

Hess said he discovered Striking Song's chip Monday afternoon after the horse took a funny step following his morning bath. X-rays revealed a chip and Hess said that the colt would probably undergo arthroscopic surgery to have it removed in the next few weeks.

"I hope we can make the Derby," Hess said.

* Officer and Came Home were due to arrive in New York on the same plane Tuesday afternoon. Johannesburg, the undefeated son of Hennessy, was due in from Ireland on Tuesday as well.