Rich Strike: Spunky, quirky, quick and rich

May 8, 2022

An hour before the race my power went out (after TVG’s website went on the fritz) and my phone went dead soon after. It had just enough of a charge to watch live streaming of the race but, alas, NBC cut that, too. As I fumbled to find my Peacock password a demure colt with a wily jockey would stun the 147,294 fans at Churchill Downs. 

My sister finally got the replay up on her phone and we watched in awe as Sonny Leon wove his colt between horses so stealthy that we had to rewatch it several times to see just where he came from. It was a masterful ride. 

I have yet to see what Beyer number Rich Strike earned for his amazing maneuver to make history, but I bet it was high. His Equibase number was 106. He had to be fast to catch and surpass the two leaders, Epicenter and Zandon, 105 and 104, respectively. 

Rich Strike, #21 from post 20 at 80-1 odds, had gas in the tank to blow past two of the best 3-year-olds in the country. And then he had enough spunk in the trunk to feistily give the pony rider a fit with repeated bites to her pony. 

Prior to his Derby victory Rich Strike had only one win breaking his maiden second time out Sept. 17 at Churchill Downs at one mile. Under Adam Beschizza, he ran in a field of 11 and won by 17 1/4 (not a typo) lengths over a horse named “Loonshot.” Prophetic? 

The then two-year-old was claimed out of that race by his current owners RED TR-Racing for $30,000 (Best $30K they ever spent). And he won $28,000 in the race. His new trainer was Eric Reed.

A Calumet Farm homebred, the chestnut colt had lost his first start August 15, 2021, by 14-1/2 lengths under trainer Joe Sharp with Ricardo Santana Jr. up. 

Rich Strike would never run under a mile in any race. He is a router. He would prove he could handle two turns.

Off the claim for Reed, Rich Strike got the show spot in a one mile AOC at Keeneland Oct. 9 under Julien Leparoux. 

Dec. 26, 2021, at 46.2 odds under Brian Hernandrz Jr., Rich Strike finished fifth in the Gun Runner at the Fair Grounds to Epicenter. Karma? The race was set at a 1 1/16 miles.

Jan. 22, 2022, Sonny Leon would get the leg up on Rich Strike for the first time in the Leonatus at Turfway on the all weather track. Again, at a mile the pair battled their way to third for Black Type. 

They finished fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway March 5 missing third by a head to Grael and three lengths behind Tiz the Bomb who beat Stolen Base by a neck, the latter who won the American Turf on the Derby undercard. The race was contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Rich Strike was starting to meet his future competition. 

The son of Keen Ice out of Smart Strike mare Gold Strike placed third rallying from way behind in the Jeff Ruby at Turfway on April 2 and collected his Derby points. Tiz the Bomb and Tawny Port would also collect their points finishing first and second, respectively. 

The Jeff Ruby was 1 1/8 miles. Reed was stretching out Rich Strike. I think Reed had a plan.

While other Derby contenders had two or three works before and/or after arriving at Churchill Downs, Rich Strike had only two total pre-Derby prep works. 

According to Equibase, he breezed 4 furlongs April 16 at Keeneland in 48.00; he breezed 5 furlongs April 27 at Churchill Downs in 59.50. 

With a career record of 8 starts: 2-0-3 he became a millionaire Saturday and his sire, Keen Ice, just got a notch on his halter. 

And now it’s in the Thoroughbred racing history books, in headlines, captured by photojournalist. Rich Strike is in the class with the likes of Citation, Secretariat and Lil ET. 

By luck of circumstances as Ethereal Road scratched Rich Strike drew in to literally strike it rich as did bettors. This bettor who put $2 on Rich Strike to win. Always bet the longshot in the Kentucky Derby. Reed had a plan. Me, too.

Contributing Authors

Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

Maribeth Kalinich grew up in a family with a love for horses, a passion for Thoroughbred horse racing and a taste for playing the ponies....

View Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

@PastTheWire take that story & others you have and write a book. I would buy it. Any good ones out there that are pure stories?

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