Long shot Rich Strike won the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on a cool and cloudy Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The victory is one of the most stunning in the history of the Kentucky Derby as little was expected of a horse that went off at 80-1 odds. According to NBC, Rich Strike is the second-biggest long shot to ever win the Kentucky Derby.
Only Donerail in 1913 won the Kentucky Derby with longer odds at 91-1.
Crossing the wire behind Rich Strike was Epicenter, who was the favorite by post time, followed by Zandon, Simplification and Mo Donegal.
Jockey Sonny Leon guided Rich Strike from well back in the 20-horse field to run by favorite Epicenter and Zandon. Rich Strike charged down the stretch to pass the leaders and run the 1¼ mile in 2:02.61.
Rich Strike wasn’t even in the Derby field until Friday when Ethereal Road was scratched, making room for the colt trained by Eric Reed. Both Leon and Reed were in their first Derby.
“I don’t know how (to put the win into words). I fell down in the paddock when he hit the wire. I about passed out. I’m so happy,” Reed said. “This is something, you know, is the reason everybody does this, because we’re not supposed to be here, but I knew this horse loved the track, and we’ve been training so good all year.”
Rich Strike earned $1.86 million for just his second career victory.
Rich Strike paid $163.60, $74.20 and $29.40 as the winner on a fast track by 3/4 lengths over favorite Epicenter, who returned $7.40 and $5.20 for second. Early favorite Zandon paid $5.60 for show.
Outside of the stunning winner, this was a return to normal for the Kentucky Derby after the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the race was delayed to September while it was held in 2021 in front of a limited crowd.
There were no such restrictions this year as fans returned to Churchill Downs in droves despite overcast 58 degree weather.
But it wasn’t a completely normal Derby Day. Bob Baffert, the trainer who has won this race six times, was not allowed to participate after Medina Spirit — who would’ve been his record seventh winner — tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone eight days after last year’s race.
A long, protracted legal battle over several months has, for now, upheld the two-year suspension Churchill levied against Baffert in addition to the disqualification of Medina Spirit. Two horses who began their careers with Baffert, Taiba and Messier, were transferred to the barn of former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen, who never started a horse in the Derby before Saturday.
But both Taiba and Messier, who finished 1-2 in the Santa Anita Derby, were supported by bettors and made the second and third choices in the race at odds of 5-1 and 6-1, respectively.
Taiba is owned by Amr Zedan, who also campaigned Medina Spirit.
Contributing: Associated Press