There have not been too many massive upsets in the 148-years of the running of the Kentucky Derby, but in recent times there have been a couple.
And on Saturday at Churchill Downs, we got another when the 80/1 outsider Rich Strike, who wasn’t even in the race until Friday morning, claimed a stunning victory.
With the 4/1 favorite Epicenter challenging for the lead with Zandon, it appeared that the winner would come from these two.
However, the Eric Reed-trained Rich Strike produced a stunning finish as he came racing up the inside rail to win the race by three-quarters of a length from Epicenter, with Zandon a further three-quarters of a length behind in third.
Simplification finished fourth with Mo Donegal fifth.
And Rich Strike certainly did strike it rich, claiming a prize of $1.86 million for winning the famous first leg of the Triple Crown.
Recent Long Odds Winners
After the debacle over Medina Spirit’s disqualification last year, and trainer Bob
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – MAY 07: Trainer Eric Reed (L), Jockey Sonny Leon (C), and Owner Rick Dawson (R) celebrate with the trophy after Rich Strike won the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Baffert’s two-year suspension from the race, fans badly needed a race to restore a little lustre to the event.
And they certainly got that with the second highest-price winner in the race’s long history claiming the win.
Only Donerail at odds of around 90/1 in 1913, has won the race at a higher price.
However, since 2005, there has been a number of longer odds winners priced at 50/1 or greater.
Giacomo in 2005, won at around 50/1, as did Mine That Bird in 2009.
Then in 2019, Country House won at odds of around 65/1.
Rich Strike’s victory gave the small Eric Reed stable their first Kentucky Derby victory, and it was also the first time that Venezuelan jockey Sonny Leon had won the famous race.
Owner Rick Dawson revealed that until late Friday morning, Rich Strike was still a reserve for the race, but wen D. Wayne Lukas withdrew Ethereal Road, Rich Strike was given a last-minute spot.
“We found out about 30 seconds before the deadline on Friday,” explained Dawson.
“It put us in the race, and really, we always felt if we just got in, we’ve got a shot.”
And as the horse took the victory, trainer Eric Reed revealed:
“I about fell down in the paddock when he hit the wire, I about passed out!”
Success From Tragedy
It was Reed’s first entry into the Kentucky Derby and that was an achievement in itself after a horrific fire at his training center in Lexington, Kentucky which saw him lose 23 horses back in 2016.
Just 13 horses stabled in the barn survived.
Rick Dawson spent just $30,000 on Rich Strike after he was entered in a claiming race last fall.
And after friends and trainers from within the sport had helped Reed come back from the devastating fire, believed to have been caused by a lightning strike, the trainer decided to continue and a few years later, began working with Rich Strike.
With jockey Leon also in his first ever Kentucky Derby, the success story from tragedy certainly has a Hollywood feel to it.
And after last year’s debacle, it is precisely the story racing needed in Triple Crown season.
FEATURED IMAGE – LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – MAY 07: Rich Strike with Sonny Leon up (R) crosses the finish line to win ahead of Epicenter (C) and Zandon (L) during the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)