Rich Strike Defies Odds at Kentucky Derby

On May 7, 20 Thoroughbred horses crossed the line at Churchill Downs for the 148th annual running of the Kentucky Derby, horse racing’s most prestigious event.

This year’s winner, Rich Strike, won in the biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history since 1913. The horse beat 80-1 odds, crossing the finish line first after starting at the back of the pack.

Previously, Rich Strike had only won one race. He was the first horse to run in the Kentucky Derby for owner Rick Dawson, jockey Sonny Leon and trainer Eric Reeds. In September, Reeds claimed the horse for Dawson at a price of $30,000 per race.

In the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steak Stakes, a qualifier race for the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike placed third, putting the horse on the brink of qualification for the Derby. Rich Strike was not slated to run in the race until the day before the competition. Ultimately, he was only able to run due to a scratch from another horse, Ethereal Road.

There was no clear favorite leading up to the Derby, with horses like Epicenter, Zandon, Taiba and Messier leading the field in the morning-line odds. The morning-line favorite was Epicenter at 4-1 odds. Epicenter ended up finishing second behind Rich Strike, with Zandon coming in third.

This year’s Kentucky Derby is a refreshing reboot for horse racing amidst recent drug scandals and controversies.

One such instance occurred in the 2021 Derby, when Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first, but was later disqualified after failing a post-race drug test. Many horse-racing fans see Rich Strike’s win as what horse racing is supposed to be: a sport that is exciting, thrilling and truly unpredictable.

The 2022 Kentucky Derby also sparked the reopening of the traditional Derby celebrations postponed by the pandemic.

Churchill Downs held its maximum occupancy for the event, hosting 150,000 people, including athletes and celebrities like Michael Phelps, Jack Harlow and Drake.

This year also brought the return of traditionally-worn formal derby fashion, characterized by bright, vibrant and pastel-colored clothing with extravagant designs, frequently accessorized with hats or hat-like structures.

Part of a greater series of horse racing events for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, the Kentucky Derby is the first of three races included in the Triple Crown. All within the span of five weeks, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes are three of horse racing’s most famous events. When one horse finishes first in all three races, it wins the Triple Crown. Winning the Triple Crown is the dream of horse owners, trainers and jockeys alike, and is one of the most coveted awards in horse racing, with only 13 horses accomplishing the feat in almost 150 years of racing.

The next leg is the Preakness Stakes, held in Baltimore two weeks after the Kentucky Derby. Rich Strike’s team announced that the horse will miss the Preakness Stakes and will instead focus on the third Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes. Other contenders for the Preakness Stakes included Epicenter, who was favored to win the race, as well as Secret Oath, Early Voting and Simplification. Early Voting, with 5-1 odds, ended up edging out Epicenter for the win at the Preakness Stakes by two and a quarter lengths.

The Belmont Stakes will take place on June 11 in New York. After Early Voting’s victory at the Preakness, Rich Strike will look to come back strong in the Belmont.