Getting lucky in Kentucky
A late scratching
Bookies and punters would have to rule a line in the Kentucky Derby form guide over the name Ethereal Road after the horse was scratched.
Ethereal’s Road trainer D. Wayne Lukas decided not to enter his runner in the race after he felt the horse had not trained well enough to be ready for the race.
“Then, this week, he didn’t train that well, either,” Lukas told WDRD.com.
“He got flat and he didn’t have that usual energy.”
It meant a late call-up for Rich Strike was on the cards.
Horse number 21 in the pecking order.
The saying goes; beggars cannot be choosers.
Trainer Eric Reed and jockey Sonny Leon were competing in their first-ever Kentucky Derby but were asked to jump from barrier 20.
Only one horse prior had ever won from barrier 20, and it was Big Brown back in 2008.
There would have been a thought in the minds of Reed and Leon akin to not worrying about where they drew but just being content to have a runner in the field.
History was against them.
Unless your horse is a deadset front-running marvel, most jockeys and trainers take their medicine, go back in the run with the horse and pray for luck.
Rails never fails
Leon is a far cry from the top jockeys who regularly ride around the USA thoroughbred scene.
Many know for him riding in smaller races around the Ohio scene.
On this particular day, the Kentucky Derby of 2022, Leon would produce a ride only champion jockeys could dream of.
It was the ride of someone with no pressure on his shoulders.
The shackles were free.
Leon and Rich Strike made their move after settling well and truly in the rear half of the field and some ten lengths off the leaders when the field began to make the sweeping run for home.
As the gaps opened up and Rich Strike responded to riding, the pair would syphon their way through a tiring field and angle towards the rail in the home straight.
Leon punched his three-year-old colt through a needle-eye opening as the run appeared on the rail.
The finish post
For all the death-defying moves Leon made throughout the race, he still had to chase down the favourite who had shot clear.
The roars of the crowd. The bated breath in the grandstands. The mud-laden gallopers on tired feet. The jockeys riding for dear life. The horses gasping for oxygen.
It was all or nothing at this point.
With all this willpower, Leon lifted Rich Strike up the inside of Epicenter and Zandon.
The red and white silks shot through and would go on to win by a half-length in what was the dramatic finish to a Kentucky Derby ever witnessed.
As the photo developed and flashed up on the big screens, the odds were shown to the disbelief of nearly everyone.
Rich Strike was rated a 0.39% chance of winning the race at those odds.
Try telling Leon, Reed and the owners.
“We always felt if we just got in we’ve got a shot,” owner Richard Dawson said post-race.
The horse never knew his odds, but now he goes down in folklore.
Rich Strike is undoubtedly what his connections were hit with as they collected a whopping $1.86 million for the win.