80-1 shot Rich Strike races to shocking upset victory in Kentucky Derby | CBC Sports


Anyone anticipating a return to normalcy in the Kentucky Derby got a dose of madness Saturday when an 80-1 shot went over the rail to win at Churchill Downs.

With favorites Epicenter and Zandon dueling up front, Rich Strike stole the show with the second-biggest upset in the Derby’s 148-year history.

The chestnut colt beat favorite Epicenter 4-1 by three-quarters of a length. Zandon finished another three-quarters of a length in third place.

“I almost fell in the paddock when it hit the wire,” winning trainer Eric Reed said. “I almost passed out.”

WATCH l Rich Strike wins the Kentucky Derby with a shocking upset:

Rich Strike, 80-1 long shot, shocks the horse racing world by winning the Kentucky Derby

Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leon captured the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville. 1:32

The Canadian horse Messier finished 15th.

Rich Strike paid US$163.60. Only Donerail in 1913 had a higher payout of $184.90.

“What a crazy Derby,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, whose horses finished eighth and ninth.

Rich Strike wasn’t even in the Derby until Friday, when Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas scratched Ethereal Road, making room for the bay colt who had only won twice in his career.

“We found out about 30 seconds before the Friday deadline,” owner Rick Dawson said. “He put us in the race and we really always feel like if we just got in we have a chance.”

Rich Strike ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.61. After taking a bite out of his much more expensive competition, he playfully nipped at the pony leading it to the winner’s circle.

“I can’t believe it after the Epicenter effort,” said losing trainer Steve Asmussen, who fell to 0-for-24 in the Derby. “I was beaten by the horse that just entered.”

Jockey Sonny Leon and Rich Strike had only two beaten horses at the start. Leon finally guided his mount between the horses and toward the inner rail. Rich Strike made a deft move around Messier down the stretch and headed straight for the rail, intent on taking out Epicenter and Zandon.

“When I was on the last 70 yards, I was like, ‘I think I’ve got this run,'” Leon said.

Sonny Leon celebrates after riding Rich Strike past the finish line on Saturday. (AP)

Both Leon, from Venezuela, and Reed were in their first Derby. Reed endured tragedy five years ago when he lost nearly two dozen horses in a barn fire at his Lexington training center.

He briefly considered that the fire could be a signal to leave the sport.

“People I hadn’t seen, people I hadn’t talked to in years, my best friends were there in the morning to pick me up,” Reed recalled. “He let me know there’s so much good stuff out there, and then I decided I wasn’t going to let him get me out.”

Leรณn regularly rides on some of the smaller circuits in the country, where horse meat is cheap and purse strings are modest. But he matched his ingenuity with such veteran pilots as Joel Rosario aboard Epicenter and Mike Smith aboard Messier.

Leon’s train ride was reminiscent of jockey Calvin Borel’s stealth move aboard Mine That Bird in 2009. Mine That Bird caused what was then the Derby’s third-biggest upset, paying $103.20 to win.

‘Lightning may strike’

Reed had no argument with bettors who ignored his colt, whose victory surely inspired little ones everywhere.

“Little trainer, little jockey, little stable, he should have been 80-1,” Reed said. “And for anyone who is in this business, lightning can strike.”

Rich Strike was purchased by Dawson, who races as RED TR-Racing LLC, for $30,000 last fall when his former owner entered the colt in a low-level claim race.

Calumet Farm boss Brad Kelley might be regretting that decision now. Calumet Farm has won a record eight Kentucky Derbies, but none since 1968, when Forward Pass placed first by disqualification.

Rich Strike earned $1.86 million for his first stakes win. The colt lost to Zandon in the Blue Grass Stakes last month and was beaten by Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby in March.

Simplification finished fourth and Mo Donegal was fifth.

Churchill Downs returned to full capacity, including former President Donald Trump, on the first Saturday in May for the first time in three years.

But the end result was even more turbulent for America’s biggest horse race.

In 2019, the winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interference after 22 minutes and the runner-up Country House wore the red rose wreath.

In 2020, an eerie silence enveloped the track as no fans were allowed in due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the race was postponed until September.

Last year’s winner, Medina Spirit, was disqualified after nine months, having failed a post-race drug test that led to six-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert being banned from Churchill Downs for two years. . The 2021 Derby returned to its usual spot on the calendar with attendance limited to around 52,000 people.

The bourbon was flowing again on Saturday, cigar smoke curled in the air on an unusually cool, overcast day, and fans strutted about in their oversized hats, floral-print dresses and seersucker suits.

Then came Rich Strike thundering along the railing and everything went wild.

A few days ago, Reed sent Dawson a photo of the colt lying in his straw-covered stall with his handlers lying on top of him, all napping. Reed wrote, “I think our horse is fresh and ready to race.”

Dawson replied, “If we can wake him up.”

Ever?

“I feel like the luckiest man in the world,” Dawson said, smiling.




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