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Late-addition Rich Strike wins 148th Kentucky Derby

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J. Tyler Franklin
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“The most exciting two minutes in sports” has a new champion.

Rich Strike crossed the finish line first to win the 148th Kentucky Derby, the first full-capacity one since 2019 before the pandemic.

Ridden by Sonny Leon, Rich Strike was a late addition to the list of Derby contenders, entering the race Friday after Ethereal Road scratched.

It seemed like a long-shot for the Kentucky-born colt with odds of 80 to 1 at post time, the lowest in the field. But he edged out the others to win the Run for the Roses and the cash prize of $1.86 million dollars. It was the second-biggest upset in Derby history.

“We trained against all odds,” trainer Eric R. Reed said during a press conference after the race.

Reed said the team knew they had a special horse in Rich Strike.

“I’m not telling you by any means we knew we had a Derby winner. But if we didn’t think we were going to be in the Derby, we wouldn’t have been prepping for this all year,” he said. “We knew we had a horse that was capable of running good.”

“Elated” with the win, Reed gave credit to Leon.

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J. Tyler Franklin
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Rich Strike owner Richard Dawson (far left) and trainer Eric Reed (in red) celebrate after winning big at the 148th Kentucky Derby.

“He taught him to run through horses. And he taught me how to do what I’m doing. So I’m surrounded by the best,” Reed said.

Asked about what this means for his career, Leon said he wants to enjoy this moment for now.

“And we see what happens tomorrow.”

Owner Richard Dawson said he had faith in Rich Strike despite the odds.

“We knew we had a shot because every time he went longer he got better,” he said. “It’s like winning the Super Bowl and maybe even better. You only have one player here.”

The Kentucky Derby is the “first jewel” in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. Up next is the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore at the end of the month, followed by the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York in June.

Reed said the Preakness is “obviously the spot we got to look at,” but they’ll see how Rich Strike does and make a decision on it “in a few days.”

Dawson has one word for his answer to whether Rich Strike will make a go for the Preakness: “Ditto.”