80-1 miracle

Rich Strike perfectly named.

Rich Strike — Perfect name for a perfect payout.

A chestnut colt that was purchased for $30,000 won a staggering $1.86 million in his first stakes victory.

The 80-1 longshot Rich Strike came charging from the rear of the pack to win the Kentucky Derby in the second-biggest upset in the Derby’s 148-year history.

Saturday’s victory was nothing short of a miracle. Rich Strike was entered in the Derby on Friday just 30 seconds before the entry deadline when Ethereal Road was scratched at the last minute, opening up a spot in the gate.

Only a horse called Donerail way back in 1913 topped Rich Strike’s odds when he won at 90-1. The third biggest longshot was Mine That Bird in 2009 at 50-1.

As the 20-horse field roared down the stretch all eyes were on the favorite Epicenter and hotshot closer Zandon who were locked in a tight duel.

Then, like a flash, Rich Strike charged out of nowhere and beat them all in the last strides.

Rich Strike perfectly named

The horse was ridden by Sonny Leon, a Venezuelan jockey in his first big stakes race who normally rides the smallest circuits where the purse is a fraction of the Derby payout.

“When I was in the last 70 yards, I said, ‘I think I got this race,’” Leon said.

Rich Strike perfectly named.
Winning jockey Sonny Leon

“I about fell down in the paddock when he hit the wire,” said the trainer Eric Reed, also in his first Derby. “I about passed out.”

Reed almost gave up his career five years ago when he lost nearly two dozen horses in a fire in his barn in Lexington, Kentucky. But he said the kindness of friends and fellow trainers kept him going.

Rich Strike perfectly named.
Trainer Eric Reed (left), Jockey Sonny Leon and owner Rick Dawson after their historic win.

Rich Strike was purchased last fall by Rick Dawson, who races under the handle RED TR-Racing, for $30,000 after the colt was entered in a low-level claiming race.

“Small trainer, small rider, small stable,” Reed said. “And so anybody that’s in this business, lightening can strike.”


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And down the stretch they come

Longshot Rombauer wins Preakness.

Longshot Rombauer romped past favorite Medina Spirit to win the $1-million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore on Saturday.

Going off at 11-1, with French jockey Flavien Prat aboard, Rombauer scored his first victory on a dirt track by 3-1/2 lengths, with second favorite Midnight Bourbon coming in second and Medina Spirit third.

The three-year-old colt’s first two career wins came on turf and synthetic surfaces.

His win Saturday ended any chance of Triple Crown laurels for controversial Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, whose trainer Bob Baffert is still under investigation for his horse failing a post-race drug test.

Rombauer’s victory was the first Triple Crown race winner for owners Diane and John Fradkin. Next on the calendar for the Fradkins and trainer Michael McCarthy is the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on a dirt track in New York on June 5.

Thank you Rombauer. Drinks are on me.

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