From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
The greatest upset victory in generations occurred in Saturday’s 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs where 80-1 longshot Rich Strike zoomed along the rail in the stretch to post a memorable finish. Now the question is, how will Rich Strike fare at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on May 21, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown?
Rich Strike trainer Eric Reed said his horse will more than likely run the Preakness. It will be the first time the 57-year-old has raced a horse at Pimlico. The win an excellent feel-good result for Reed, who lost 23 horses in a 2016 barn fire.
Rich Strike’s win has given the sport a shot in the leg — wait that may not be the best terminology amid horse racing’s latest scandals, mishaps and bad publicity. The messes have included last year’s drug disqualification of Medina Spirit and a two-year ban of trainer Bob Baffert.
Rich Strike, ridden by rookie Derby jockey Sonny Leon who spent most of the past three years riding in lesser races in Ohio, gained entry to the 20-horse Derby field only after Ethereal Road was scratched.
As the first alternate, Rich Strike began Saturday morning with odds of 99-1, later dropping to 80-1, before ending up as the second-longest shot to win, behind only 91-1 Donerail’s victorious payout of $184.90 in 1913, two years after $2 mutuel bets had begun.
Rich Strike, which paid $163.60 to win, edged 4-1 favorite Epicenter by three-quarters of a length. It was only Rich Strike’s second win in eight starts, the last victory was also at Churchill Downs in a September maiden race. He hadn’t finished any better than third in any of his races this year, including his last start April 2.
The next three biggest longshot winners have all come in the past two decades: Country House (60-1 in 2019), Mine That Bird (50-1 in 2009) and Giacomo (50-1 in 2005).
A horse with a come-from-behind style in his previous races, Rich Strike, who is trained in Lexington, Ky., benefited from one of the hottest early paces in Kentucky Derby history to rally for the victory.
Summer Is Tomorrow raced to a quick start through the quarter- and half-mile marks, but tired badly to finish last — a whopping 64 lengths behind Rich Strike, who was 18th out of 20 at the three-quarters pole.
n Prediction: Rich Strike’s win spurs big interest in the Preakness, especially with casual racing fans, but considering the horse’s record (two wins and three shows in eight starts), it’s unlikely we will see a Triple Crown winner, and if top-caliber horses Epicenter and Zandon are in the Preakness. Epicenter and Zandon have each beaten Rich Strike in two different prep races.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org