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Who is Rich Strike? What to know about the champion of this year’s Kentucky Derby

UPDATED: Sat., May 7, 2022

Sonny Leon rides Rich Strike to the winner’s circle after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.  (Associated Press)
Sonny Leon rides Rich Strike to the winner’s circle after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday in Louisville, Ky. (Associated Press)
By Josh Moore Tribune News Service

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Rich Strike, the winner of the 148th Kentucky Derby, wasn’t even in the field until Friday. Here are some other facts to know about the underdog champion of this year’s race.

What were Rich Strike’s odds?

The 3-year-old went off at 80-1 odds at post time, making him the horse with the second-longest odds to win the Kentucky Derby. Rich Strike was not in the field until Friday, when Ethereal Road scratched and he qualified as an “also-eligible” entrant.

“Today shows you that anything is possible in horse racing and anything is possible in Kentucky,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during the trophy presentation. Donerail, the 1913 winner, went off at 99-1 odds.

Who is his trainer?

His trainer is Eric Reed, a longtime horseman who’d never trained a Derby winner. Before Rich Strike, he’d never had a horse in the race.

In 2016, Reed’s farm, Mercury Equine Center, lost 23 horses in a barn fire.

“They were heroes, the people who work for me,” Reed told the Herald-Leader that year. “They went above and beyond what I could even imagine anybody trying to do. We ran into the barn, the smoke was so black we couldn’t even see. The only thing you could see was the flames.”

Who was his jockey?

Sonny Leon rode Rich Strike. Like the Thoroughbred’s trainer, it was his first Derby.

Leon began his racing career in 2015. According to America’s Best Racing, he has been the leading rider at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Youngstown, Ohio, for the past three years. He finished 2021 ranked 11th in total victories nationally.

How many races had he won?

Coming into the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike had career earnings of $111,289. He’d made seven starts, with one win and three shows.

The lone win also came at Churchill Downs, in a maiden claiming race on Sept. 17, 2021. It was his second career start.

Rich Strike finished third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes on April 2, his last start before the Kentucky Derby. He posted his best career Equibase Speed Figure in that race, a 96.

What was the payout?

Huge, especially if you ventured into the exotic stuff.

A $2 win bet paid $163.60. A $2 exacta with Rich Strike and Epicenter, which went off as the betting favorite, paid $4,101.20. A $0.50 trifecta with those two and Zandon, the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes winner and another betting favorite, paid $7,435.35 (So, if you bet a $3 trifecta box with two of the betting favorites and one of the longest of long shots, it worked out nicely for you.)

A $1 superfecta (the top four finishers) paid $321,500.09.

What is his pedigree?

Rich Strike was sired by Keen Ice out of Gold Strike (by Smart Strike).

Keen Ice is a son of Curlin, who at one time was the highest-earning North American Thoroughbred. Curlin was sired by Smart Strike (the same sire of Gold Strike). Keen Ice finished his racing career with career earnings of $3.4 million. Rich Strike became his highest-earning progeny by virtue of the Derby win but was already No. 2 on the list; he passed Majestic Frontier, who has career earnings of $83,840.

Gold Strike was out of Brassy Gold. She was given the 2005 Sovereign Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly and finished with career earnings of $564,500.

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