Rich Strike Pulls Off Improbable Upset Victory in Derby

Edward Nieman, Writer

Eric Reed and Sonny Leon are not exactly household names when it comes to the sport of horse racing, but after Saturday’s Kentucky Derby victory, their names will be forever immortalized in the sport’s history.

It wasn’t until Friday morning that trainer Eric Reed knew his horse would be running in one of the biggest races of the year. Prior to Friday, Reed was in the midst of making plans to traveling to New York in preparation for races taking place there later this year, but all that quickly changed when he received a call with the news that his horse Rich Strike would be the last entry in the Derby after horse Ethereal Road scratched from the race at the eleventh hour.

Entering the race at 80-1 odds, Rich Strike wasn’t a horse that many believed would be even in contention after the first ¼ mile of the race. Rich Strike had lots working against him as he only had won one out of the seven races he had run in during his career, as well as having a rather inexperienced jockey aboard in Sonny Leon.

Rich Strike broke at the outermost post position and ran a modest race for the first ¾ mile. Summer is Tomorrow led the pack setting a historically fast pace clocking the fastest ¼ in decades at 21.78 seconds.

It wasn’t until the final turn that Sonny Leon started to maneuver Rich Strike through the traffic as he sat in the 17th position as they turned for home. Rich Strike accelerated through the pack cutting between horses before finding a gap on the inside rail racing past horses getting towards the front of the pack.

The two favorites Epicenter and Zandon were going stride for stride down the stretch when Rich Strike surged past them in the last 100 yards of the race sending the raucous crowd of nearly 150,000 into shock as the longest shot on the board had just won the race.

Trainer Eric Reed shared that same feeling of shock after the race saying, “We came here on a prayer. Anybody that’s in this business, lightning can strike. This is the reason everybody does this. Cause we’re not supposed to be here, but I knew this horse loved the track and he’s been training so good all year.”

Rich Strike’s owner Rick Dawson was confident all the way leading up to the race telling the media, “We always felt if we could get in, we’d have a shot. We proved it today.” Dawson continued saying “I’ve never, ever felt that life puts a cap on what you can do and there’s nothing you can do to change it. I’ve never believed that. I always thought. ‘I’m as smart as the next guy. Maybe I can figure it out, maybe I can’t’, but I always kept trying. And here we are.”

The win by Rich Strike marks the second longest shot to win the Derby behind the 1913 upset win by 91-1 longshot Donerail.

Following the Derby win the attention now shifts to the second leg of the Triple Crown, with the Preakness Stakes taking place in less two weeks at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore as Rich Strike continues its improbable Triple Crown run.