Rich Strike wasn’t in the Kentucky Derby field when head trainer Eric Reid woke up Friday morning. After a late scratch to Ethereal Road, a spot opened up for a 21st horse in the 20-thoroughbred field. And one of the longest shots in the field at 80-1 at post time just won the 148th Kentucky Derby.
The jockey Sonny Leon had six assignments at Cincinnati’s Belterra Park on Friday and wasn’t expecting a detour through Louisville’s Churchill Downs to be part of his weekend. And now, he’s won horse racing’s signature event. Rich Strike had the second lowest odds of a Kentucky Derby winner ever.
To start the race, Rich Strike was the farthest horse from the rail. To start the final stretch, Rich Strike was a dozen lengths behind the leader, betting favorite Epicenter. As a duel between fellow frontrunner Zandon started to transpire at the top of the pack, a lane on the inside for Rich Strike opened up.
In part due to an incredibly fast-paced Derby, both Zandon and Epicenter tired as the finish line neared. Rich Strike was caught in a pack of horses for most of the race but had plenty left in the tank to overtake the favorites and win the “Run For the Roses.”
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“There’s nothing from this horse’s past performances that suggest this was even a possibility,” NBC’s Jerry Bailey proclaimed seconds after the finish.
Rich Strike will now wait two weeks to race in the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, The Preakness Stakes, on May 21 from Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. A $2 bet on Rich Strike to win the Kentucky Derby would’ve yielded the bettor more than $160 dollars. A Superfecta, with Simplification finishing fourth behind Epicenter and Zandon, paid around $310,000.
“We always felt if we could get in, we would have a shot,” said Rick Dawson, Rich Strike’s owner in the winner’s circle.