Longshot Derby Winners Like Rich Strike Have Work Cut Out For Them In Preakness

Written By Paul Bergeron on May 11, 2022
Rich Strike Kentucky Derby Preakness

Even given Saturday’s historic upset in the Kentucky Derby — when 80-1 longshot Rich Strike used an amazing rally in the final quarter-mile to catch two top selections — Epicenter and Zandon — few see the upset winner repeating the result May 21 at the Preakness Stakes.

Long-time horse racing fans don’t have to look back far for a somewhat comparable Kentucky Derby in the “Yeah, but can he do it again?” scenario.

In 2009, Mine That Bird slipped through the rail (as did Rich Strike) and rallied from last place, upsetting the field at 50-1 odds on a muddy track.

Rich Strike paid an astounding $163.60 to win, $74.20 to place and $29.40 to show. The exotic prices were even more jaw-dropping: the $2 exacta was $4,101; the 50-cent trifecta was $7,435 and the $1 superfecta (given longshot Simplification taking fourth) was a life-changing $321,500.

Typically, you only see those types of dollars in a wide-open Breeders Cup race — if at all.

You have to go back to 1913 to find a longer shot winner of the Kentucky Derby. That was when Donerail took care of business at 91–1. (More details about long-shot Derby winners later in the article).

Mine That Bird a near mirror image of Rich Strike

Mine That Bird — essentially dismissed going into the First Saturday in May — just like that had horseplayers lined up to bet against him in the second leg of the Triple Crown at the Preakness, sending him off as the fourth choice at 6-1. Filly Rachel Alexandra went off as the 9-5 favorite.

In the 2009 Preakness, Borel hopped off Mine That Bird to pick up the mount on Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra and guided the filly to a one-length win over the fast-closing Derby victor, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike E. Smith in the Preakness.

Coincidentally, expect to see the 2022 Kentucky Oaks winner (filly) Secret Oath race in the Preakness for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 86, a six-time winner in the race.

Pace doomed the Derby field, except for Rich Strike

At Churchill Downs, Rich Strike was the beneficiary of an incredibly hot pace of the Derby, which left most contenders breathless — although Epicenter seemed poised to win with a strong effort in overtaking Zandon in the final stretch.

However, Epicenter was nipped by Rich Strike, which denied the sport’s all-time winningest trainer (9,700-lifetime wins), Steve Asmussen, of his first Kentucky Derby win.

The Preakness, held at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, is a shorter race — a 1 3/16-mile course (9.5 furlongs) — than the mile-and-a-quarter Derby. However, that distance seems to favor front-runners like Epicenter.

After the race, Asmussen told the Louisville Courier-Journal, among others, “How in the world can you write what just happened? “I did not expect to lose. [And] I can’t believe it after Epicenter’s effort. You couldn’t make up. I got beat by a horse that just got in.”

Rich Strike was entered into the race 30 seconds before Friday’s deadline. Then, 24 hours later, he pulled off one of the greatest upsets in horse racing history. He took the spot of Ethereal Road, who Lukas scratched after drawing the No. 20 post position for the race. (Ethereal Road is projected to run in the Preakness).

Meanwhile, Rich Strike came in at 1-0-3 in seven career starts and most recently finished third in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park on April 2.

Eric Reed, the trainer of Rich Strike, said afterward to KentuckyDerby.com, “He passed them all. I’m elated. I’m happy because this horse trained good enough to win. This rider (Sonny Leon) has been on him all along as he learned the process. He taught him to go between horses. He taught me how to train horses (pointing to his father, Herbert). 

“I’m surrounded by the best. I didn’t think I could win necessarily but I knew if he got it, they’d know who he was when the race was over.”

Going long — longshot Kentucky Derby winners of the past

Rich Strike’s odds were 80–1 from out of the gate. Even so, he was not the longest shot to win The Run for the Roses. You’d have to go back to 1913 for that distinction — Donerail was 91–1 winner, albeit in a field of eight horses compared to the 20 that ran on Saturday, reported Joy Russo of Sports Illustrated.

“The Triple Crown” had not been established that year, and Donerail didn’t compete in the Preakness or Belmont. His lifetime record was 10-11-10 in 62 career starts.

Other supreme longshots included the 65–1 Country House in 2019. He was named the winner after Maximum Security (first to cross the wire) was called for a foul and disqualified.

Giacomo also scored at 50-1 in 2005,  then placed third at Preakness and seventh at Belmont. (Incidentally, second-place finisher Closing Argument was a massive longshot in that race, completing a $9,814.80 exacta.)

In Giacomo’s Preakness run, he was bet down as the 6-1 third choice, behind post-time favorite Afleet Alex and the Nick Zito pupil High Fly, and wound up third beneath Mike Smith. Afleet Alex courageously won going away over Scrappy T. Giacomo finished seventh in the Belmont. 

In 1940, Gallahadion won the Derby at 35-1, took third in the Preakness and finished out of the money in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

Lukas’ Charismatic won at 31-1 in 1999 and cruised to victory in the Preakness before his doomed fate in the Belmont.

Charismatic went off as the 2-1 favorite in the Belmont. However, his efforts at a Triple Crown title disappeared when he suddenly slowed down after taking the lead at the three-sixteenth pole. He finished third behind winner Lemon Drop Kid.

Will Preakness bring a rematch among favorites?

Epicenter will likely get another shot at Rich Strike. He is among the leading contenders expected to run in the Preakness. Additionally, expect to see some highly regarded “new shooters” who skipped the Kentucky Derby, such as Chad Brown’s Early Voting.

Photo by AP | Mark Humphrey
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