Rich Strike, a long shot to win the Kentucky Derby, has pulled off an incredible comeback at Churchill Downs.
When Ethereal Road was scratched on Friday, the Eric Reed-trained horse narrowly made it into the race, but he roared home under Sonny Leon to stun favorite Epicenter and Zanon.
It was just the winner and a few others behind him in the final stretch, with the first half-mile running at a near-sprint pace.
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To deny Steve Asmussen’s Epicenter, Leon made his move at the home turn on the outside of Mo Donegal, pushing his way through traffic and establishing a lane on the inside rail. He then cut to the outside of Messier to lunge late. He came in third.
Australian-bred Brian Lynch’s Classic Causeway finished 11th out of 17 horses.
Reed, who lost 23 horses in a barn fire in 2016, had a miraculous comeback.
“I fell down the paddock when he hit the wire, I’m so happy. This is why everyone does this – we’re not supposed to be here, but I knew this horse loved the track and he’d been training so good all year,” he told NBC Sports.
Rich Strike wins the Derby and immediately starts trying to eat the other horses. pic.twitter.com/hFJ5jOy1z4
— Shannon The Dude (@ShannonTheDude) May 7, 2022
Owner Richard Dawson said: “We’d never put a horse in a race we didn’t think we had a chance of winning, I promise you.
“We just knew we had a shot, because every time he went longer (in distance), he got better. Today we went a mile and a quarter and he kept going.”
A jubilant Leon said: “Well I’m feeling really happy, you don’t know how excited I feel. I brought all my family with me, my daughter’s first time at the Kentucky Derby, the first time for me and we did it
“I know my horse, I know I had a horse for this race, I didn’t know if he would win the race, but when we were in the race in the final furlong in the last (part of the race) I can feel my horse was tough, he was tough
“Wow, I tried to be nice and easy and race in the back (of the field), and that’s what I did, when we were turning for home I found a bit of traffic, but I never panicked, I waited for my moment and came through in the stretch and I said to myself ‘I think I got this, the Kentucky Derby’.
“It was amazing – amazing, especially the way we did it, in the last 50 yards, it’s a dream come true.” For more such news do follow our website leedaily.com