Gotta love the long shot

Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor


e wasn’t even supposed to get to compete.

He started with 99-1 odds and by the time betting closed, he had made it to 80-1. He was on the far outside starting gate, because he only got the nod to race on Friday morning after another horse scratched, and then by Saturday afternoon, he was the Kentucky Derby champion. 

This $30,000 horse was racing against million dollar steeds, and to all the horse racing world, had no business being in the same racing arena with these tried and tested four-legged athletes.

But apparently, no one told Rich Strike that he wasn’t supposed to win.

He started the race dead last as he cut across the track to get into a decent racing position, after busting out of his less-than-desirable gate position. 

As the pack came around the corner on the final stretch, Epicenter was in the lead, but Rich Strike was coming up on the inside. As his jockey maneuvered him around the one last horse in his way, Rich Strike looked to his right at Epicenter, and it seemed to me that he faltered for just a moment. 

He looked at Epicenter for a full second or two, but then at the urging of his rider, turned his eyes to the finish line and blew past the leader to take the win by nearly a body length.

After the race, he was jacked. It seemed like he was ready to race again, and as they headed to the winner’s circle, it was all his rider — as well as those of the pony horses — could do to keep him from biting the horses guiding him on his way.

It was as though he was doing the equivalent of putting a fist in the air and shouting, I did it!

Unless you were the guy who had just placed a $1.5 million bet on Epicenter to win (or anyone else who lost big), you couldn’t help but jump up and cheer for this horse who showed up the elite and gritted it out to cross that finish line first.

And, you couldn’t help but look at the deeper message this unexpected, decisive win sent out to the world about life.

The underdog can be the victor if they work hard. The long shot can surpass the shoo-ins with a little determination and a lot of heart. 

Just because it is said that you are not supposed to succeed, doesn’t mean you can’t if you set your mind to the task.

All the clichés suddenly become reality when you watch a race like Rich Strike’s. 

Will he go on to win the Preakness on May 21st and/or the Belmont on June 11th? Odds are probably good that he won’t. The Kentucky Derby was a fast race, which played to Rich Strike’s favor, and the next two in the Triple Crown series may not present that scenario.

But, he had 80-1 odds that he would win the first one, so I wouldn’t count him out just yet.


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