How 81-1 shot Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby

This doesn’t occur. Horses at odds of almost 81-1 don’t win the Kentucky Derby. Jockeys who’ve by no means gained any large stakes race of any sort don’t win the Kentucky Derby. Owners with fewer than 10 profession wins don’t win the Kentucky Derby.

Rich Strike and his connections disagree with these sentiments.

One of the most important upsets in racing historical past occurred Saturday within the Kentucky Derby, when Rich Strike shocked the institution by operating previous everybody and successful the primary leg of this yr’s Triple Crown collection.

Those who guess $2 to win on Rich Strike obtained $163.60 in return. Not unhealthy for about two minutes of labor. For jockey Sonny Leon, coach Eric Reed and proprietor Rick Dawson, the end result was life-changing. Leon was racing Friday at a little-known monitor in Cincinnati known as Balterra Park. Reed’s largest win earlier than Saturday was with a filly known as Satans Quick Chick in a Grade 2 race almost 12 years in the past. Dawson, a half-hour or so after the Derby, rhetorically requested a query to anybody inside earshot.

“What planet is this?” Dawson stated.

Indeed, it’s a complete new world that he’s a part of now. And a 3-year-old colt that was a lot nearer to final place than first for a lot of the race Saturday made all of it occur.


Good luck for him, unhealthy luck for an additional. The Kentucky Derby can’t have greater than 20 horses within the discipline. Rich Strike was twenty first on the listing. If one of many 20 horses that certified didn’t scratch (the racing phrase for withdraw) from the race earlier than 9 a.m. Friday, Rich Strike’s Derby plan would have ended.

At 8:45 a.m. Friday, the decision got here: No scratches. Reed texted his father: “Didn’t happen.” The safety guard working the barn and defending Rich Strike was despatched residence. Plans have been being made to run Rich Strike in a race this week in New York as an alternative.

Around that point, the connections for Ethereal Road — educated by D. Wayne Lukas — advised Derby officers that they have been pulling out of the race. Reed obtained one other name at 8:55 telling him to not transfer the horse, then one other name a minute or two later with the official phrase.

They have been in.

“What just happened?” Reed requested.

Turns out, historical past was beginning to occur.


Think of the horses like race automobiles. There’s a finite quantity of gasoline within the tank. The sooner you burn the gasoline, the faster the tank empties. And that’s precisely what occurred within the Kentucky Derby.

Summer Is Tomorrow was the chief after a quarter-mile, or two furlongs. He coated that distance in 21.78 seconds — the quickest time in Kentucky Derby historical past. No horse can maintain that tempo for 1 1/4 miles. And Summer Is Tomorrow wound up ending final within the 20-horse discipline, 64 1/2 lengths behind Rich Strike.

It wasn’t simply Summer Is Tomorrow. Many horses went out on a blistering tempo, as a result of so many trainers and jockeys had determined their finest transfer was to get near the lead for the opening parts of the race.

The largest indicator that this was going to be a wild end most likely got here when monitor announcer Larry Collmus briefly stopped his rundown of which horse was the place within the discipline on the half-mile mark. “The opening half-mile was — WHOA! — blazing fast, 45.36 seconds,” Collmus stated.

Those gasoline tanks have been emptying far sooner than anticipated.

At that half-mile mark, Rich Strike was forward of solely two horses. He was sitting in 18th place.


Two solutions: He ran by some, and a few, as they are saying in racing, stopped operating.

Technically, that final half isn’t true. All 20 horses have been “running” after they crossed the end line. Nobody “stopped.” But some merely ran out of gasoline, which means their all-out sprints had turn into little greater than a gallop or a jog.

Rich Strike had tons of gasoline left. He additionally had one different main benefit: He was close to the rail.

It’s basic math: The nearer one is to the rail, the shorter of a distance one has to run. Most of the contending horses because the leaders became the stretch and headed residence have been fanned out broad throughout the monitor, strikes that made their journeys a bit longer.

This is the place Leon had an enormous determination to make. He needed to get round Messier, one of many early leaders who was fading quick. Leon determined to veer barely to his proper and get round Messier, then dove again down towards the rail to complete Rich Strike’s run. It was nearly as if no person noticed him coming.

They noticed him on the finish. That’s all that mattered.


If we knew that, everybody would have cashed their Derby tickets. Rich Strike had only one win coming into the race (although, in equity, it was by 17 1/4 lengths, which is spectacular whatever the stage of competitors).

He’s a better. He hadn’t gained any of his final 5 races however made late strikes in all of them, going from sixth to 3rd, seventh to fifth, eighth to 3rd, eleventh to fourth and eleventh to 3rd. Passing horses down the stretch is outwardly his favourite pastime. Handicappers positively missed that.

But reputations additionally matter. Frankly, not many horseplayers knew who Leon was, or who Reed was, earlier than Saturday.

They do now.

“It’s a horse race, and anybody can win,” Reed stated. “And the toteboard doesn’t mean a thing.”


The Preakness is May 21 at Pimlico, and it might look like Rich Strike will head there to see if he can transfer one win away from grabbing essentially the most unbelievable Triple Crown ever.

“That’s probably the plan,” Reed stated Sunday. “I’m not going to do a whole lot with him and I don’t like to run back quick. You get one like this in a lifetime and you have to protect him.”

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