Miracle Run for the Roses

Jockey Sonny Leon and horse Rich Strike gallop across the finish line, winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. Taken on May 17, 2022 from CNN.com.

Jockey Sonny Leon and horse Rich Strike gallop across the finish line, winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. Taken on May 17, 2022 from CNN.com.

Last-minute contestant, Rich Strike, stunned the Thoroughbred community by winning the Kentucky derby with 80-1 odds. 

Rich Strike, affectionately known as Ritchie, was not guaranteed a spot on the track until contestant Eatheral Road scratched out the day before. The three-year-old chestnut colt has a gilded family tree. His dam¹, Gold Strike, was the Canadian Champion filly of 2005, while his sire² Keen Ice holds a multitude of titles, but is best known for defeating reigning thoroughbred champion American Pharaoh in the Travers Stakes. Ritchie was purchased by Richard Dawson after his claiming race at Churchill Downs. Dawson purchased the young horse for $30,000, which is $45,000 cheaper than the average cost of a standard racehorse, noting that perhaps Rich Strike wasn’t exactly a racing prodigy. 

Rich Strike’s earlier years are not particularly notable. The horse failed to place in many of his maiden races, resulting in him staying under the radar until his second year of racing. The racing pattern many are now familiar with developed during these years. Rich Strike would hang towards the back in the early running, pushing forward towards the end of the race. 

Dawson and his team originally planned for Rich Strike to participate in the Kentucky Derby, however, due to his lack of success earlier in the season- having only won one race-he was not admitted to participate. It was only when contestant Ethereal Road bowed out at the last minute that Rich Strike was given the opportunity to draw in the race. 

The 2022 Kentucky Derby was regarded as one of the most uncertain races to date by the thoroughbred community. Because there were several highly regarded horses participating, with no clear standout contestant to win the roses. The top three contenders for first place included the champion three-year-old horses Epicenter, Zardon and Taibia. During the first 9 furlongs³ of the 10-furlong race, all eyes were on Epicenter and Zardon, fighting to inch ahead of each other during a stretch duel. 

Trainer Eric Reed (center), Jockey Sonny Leon (left) and owner Rick Dawson (right) celebrate with the trophy after Rich Strike won the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. Taken on Saturday, May 17, 2022 from NBCNews.com.

Rich Strike hung pitifully at the back of the pack, barely in the frame of broadcasting cameras during the majority of the race. In the final furlong, Epicenter and Zardon were battling for the lead when suddenly a nobody horse with a nobody jockey, a nobody trainer, and a nobody owner came knifing along the rail launching himself into history. Ritchie, at 80-1, the second to longest shot to win the 148-year-old race, left 150,000 people gasping at Churchill Downs. The horse left his trainer, Eric Reed, on the ground in the paddock, collapsing after witnessing the miracle.

“I passed out,” Reed said. “I don’t remember what happened.” 

Owner Rick Dawson, who has won an estimated 10 races in his life, was left in a giddy haze asking “Um, what planet is this?”

The big-shot trainers and jockeys were left stunned after losing to  “weekenders” that usually compete at obscure venues for small jackpots. For two outstanding minutes, The Sport of Kings was overtaken by the “little guy” who attended his first derby dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. 

1 – A foal’s mother 

2 – A foal’s father 

3 -Measurement used in horse racing. 1 furlong is equivalent to 660 feet.