Rich Strike, sent off at odds of 80-1, pulled off the second-biggest upset in the history of the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a rallying win over favored Epicenter in the 148th edition of the “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 7.
Owned by Richard Dawson’s RED TR-Racing, Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leon covered the 1 ¼ miles in 2:02.61 over a fast track. The upset was second only to Donerail’s triumph at 91-1 in 1913. Trained by Eric Reed, Rich Strike drew into the race on Friday with the scratch of Ethereal Road.
Breaking from the far outside in post position No. 20, Rich Strike was guided to the rail by Leon immediately after the start. The pair raced along the inside in the run down the backstretch and around the far turn before Leon shifted his mount off the rail and split the tiring Messier and Crown Pride (JPN) in the lane. With clear sailing in the late stages, Rich Strike ran down Epicenter and Zandon close to home to secure the upset victory. The $1,860,000 winner’s share of the purse increased Rich Strike’s bankroll to $1,971,289 and improved his record to 8-2-0-3. In his previous start, Rich Strike finished third behind Tiz the Bomb in the Jeff Ruby Steaks S. (G3) at Turfway Park.
“You know we had a difficult post,” said Sonny Leon, “but I know the horse. I didn’t know if he could win but I had a good feeling with him. I had to wait until the stretch and that’s what I did. I waited and then the rail opened up. I wasn’t nervous, I was excited. Nobody knows my horse like I know my horse.”
While Rich Strike’s win was unexpected for many, don’t count Eric Reed among those in that camp. The veteran trainer expected a top effort from his charge against the best 3-year-olds in the world despite having never won a stakes race.
“He passed them all. I’m elated,” said Eric Reed, following the emotional score. “I’m happy because this horse trained good enough to win. This rider (Sonny Leon) has been on him all along as he learned the process. He taught him to go between horses. I’m surrounded by the best. I didn’t think I could win necessarily but I knew if he got it, they’d know who he was when the race was over.”
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Rich Strike is a son of Keen Ice and is produced from the Smart Strike mare Gold Strike. He was claimed from Calumet Farm for $30,000 when he broke his maiden by 17 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs last September while in the barn of trainer Joe Sharp.