Rich Strike Hits the Mother Lode with Improbable Derby Victory

Well, the 2022 Kentucky Derby wasn’t what we expected. Most people had no clue who Rich Strike was before the race, but they sure know who he is now and the remarkable story of how this $30,000 claim found his way into the race at the 11th hour. ~ Steve Haskin

Rich Strike Hits the Mother Lode with Improbable Derby Victory

By Steve Haskin

Photo courtesy of Michael Clevenger and Christopher Granger/Courier Journal

Gabriel Lagunes’ alarm clock went off at 4 a.m. By 4:30 he was out of his house in Florence, Kentucky and on the road for the two-hour drive to Churchill Downs. For two weeks the Mexican-born jockey was a on a special assignment. Trainer Eric Reed, for whom Lagunes began riding at Mountaineer Park two years ago and exercised horses for him at Turfway Park, had asked his rider to drive to Churchill Downs every morning to get on Rich Strike, a son of Keen Ice who had run three times over Turfway’s synthetic surface, finishing third in the Leonatus Stakes and Jeff Ruby Steaks and fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial. He hardly seemed like Kentucky Derby material, but he had enough points to at least have him placed at number 24 on the earnings list. And it was obvious the colt, who came from far back in his races, was getting good at the right time, so why not train him at Churchill and see what happens, even though getting him in the race seemed like a longshot.

There was no one Reed wanted on the colt’s back other than Lagunes. Last November at Turfway Park Reed told Lagunes “I need you to work with this horse and take care of him,” so he started exercising the colt and working with him. And boy was he a handful.

“He was kind of goofy, he had his problems and needed a lot of work,” said Lagunes, who was a top jockey in Mexico and once finished second in the rich Clasico del Caribe in Puerto Rico. “He was sore in his back and ankles, he was very green and was mean in the mornings, he was scared of other horses behind him and in front of him, and he didn’t like ponies. He just didn’t want horses close to him. Every morning we would ice him and I would walk him and talk to him and jog him to try to get him to relax. I would gallop him way out in the middle of the track because he was so strong and if I got him close to the rail he would know he was working and would be hard to hold.

“We raced him in blinkers, but he seemed nervous in them so I suggested to Eric that he open up the blinkers and use cheaters because he needed to see everything and that would relax him more.”

Rich Strike had changed quite a bit since he was broken by April Mayberry in Ocala. “He was just one of the boys back then,” she said. “He was young like a teenager and his mind was never really in it. He was always messing around and playing. But he learned and became a very game and confident colt. I’m surprised to hear they had problems with him, but when I had him he was still a baby.”

Reed had claimed Rich Strike from Calumet Farm and trainer Joe Sharp for $30,000 in a race he wound up winning by 17 ¼ lengths. The colt continued to improve and would rally from far back to pick up a piece of the purse in stakes races at Turfway, but after seven races he still had only that one victory.

Reed put Venezuelan-born jockey Sonny Leon on him last December and he taught the colt how to run through horses. After he closed from 11th to finish fourth, beaten three lengths, in the Battaglia, Leon dismounted and told Reed, “We’re there. This is a Derby horse.” He then picked up valuable points finishing third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, again rallying from 11th at odds of 26-1.

The Kentucky Derby was still in the back of their minds because of his running style, his late closing punch, and how quickly he was improving. When Reed told his daughter Lindsy about their plans to try to get in the Derby she was “amazed and excited,” mostly for her father and mother to have this opportunity. She never thought he would win, but it was exciting just to be able to get there.

Lindsy, who is a top hunter jumper, had taken care of Rich Strike, grooming him, bandaging him, and giving him his medicines, until he left for Churchill Downs. “He was quite full of himself and could be a handful,” she said. “He wasn’t mean, just playful and kind of goofy like a young prankster growing up. He loved to play with his grooms.”

On April 27, Lagunes worked him five furlongs at Churchill Downs and he went in a sharp :59 3/5.

“I could feel he was getting better and better the last few weeks and he was so strong in his work and really happy,” Lagunes said.

But as the Derby got closer the chances of Rich Strike getting in grew slimmer. Reed had someone giving him information every day about the status of the field and he would text him whenever a horse withdrew. There was some hope when he jumped from 24th on the list to 22nd, but after the Lexington Stakes they were back to 24. All they could do now was enter the horse and put him on the also-eligible list, hoping somehow four horses would drop out.

We came here on a prayer,” Reed said. “I told my dad and I told Rick (owner Richard Lawson), the worst thing that could happen to us is to have a call a day or two before the Derby and say you’re going to get in and not be prepared. So we came up to Churchill and we trained against all odds. Nobody thought we could get in. We got a defection, and then we got another one.”

At 8:45 the morning before the Derby Reed was notified that there were no scratches and that they were not going to get in. The security guard was told to leave the barn and Reed texted his dad and simply said, “Didn’t happen.” He texted some of his friends and said, “We didn’t get in. Sorry guys.” He then went in to his crew to tell them in person because he knew they were going to be really let down. “I told them, ‘Guys, look, we didn’t make it, but we were Number 21.’” They were one spot away from experiencing the moment of their lives, but time was desperately running out and it seemed hopeless.

Reed told his crew, “We got to get ready for the Peter Pan next week. And if we run well, we’ll go to the Belmont and show them that we belong.”

“I was trying to keep their spirits up, Reed said. “It didn’t matter how I felt because I have to keep my crew going. And they were really sad.”

Then just before 9 o’clock, Reed’s pony girl Fifi called him and said “Don’t do anything with your horse. Don’t move him.”

Reed had no idea what she was talking about and said, “What do you mean? Calm down.” But she was still excited. “No, you’re getting in,” she said. But Reed still didn’t believe her. “No I’m not. I’ve already been told I’m not. Somebody gave you bad information,” he said.

But Fifi insisted. “I’m telling you I just got notification that Wayne (Lukas) is scratching (Ethereal Road) and you’re going to get in.”

Shortly after, Reed received a call from steward Barbara Borden who said, “This is the steward. Tomorrow in the 12th race, the Kentucky Derby, do you want to draw in off the also eligible?”

“I couldn’t even breathe to answer and say ‘yes,’ Reed said. “I was like, what just happened? I was told no I’m not in, I lost my security guard, and now we’re in.”

Were the Derby gods at work conjuring up this unlikely scenario? Reed had gone through some tough times and nearly left the business. Several years ago he lost 23 horses in a fire at his farm. He told his wife, “We’ve probably lost everything.” But as he said, by the grace of God the wind was blowing in the direction where it prevented the fire from spreading to his other two barns. Then a year ago two of his assistants died of cancer within three months of each other.

Now, just like that, here he was in the Kentucky Derby. Reed never thought he would win, but he knew if he did get in “they’d know who he was when the race was over.”

Going to the paddock Reed was happy to see the colt calm and handling everything like a pro, just as he done all week schooling. When he got to the paddock he was composed and nothing seemed to bother him. But once he got on the track he perked up, yet was still well behaved.

On the tote board he was 80-1, and most everyone had no clue who this horse was, especially getting into the race the day before. Although he had to break from post 20, Leon was able to work out a trip and get him to the rail, where he has always loved to be. On the far turn Reed lost him for a second, then saw him cut to the inside. “That’s when I almost passed out,” he said. “I didn’t remember what happened after that.”

Down the stretch following a blazing fast pace of :21 3/5 and :45 1/5, the favored Epicenter took over the lead as the pacesetters wilted badly from the fast early fractions. Then Zandon came charging at him and it looked like a two-horse battle to the wire. Epicenter dug in and refused to let Zandon get by him and appeared to have the race won. Just then another horse came flying up the rail, eased outside of a tiring Messier, and stormed up alongside the two leaders. Most people had no idea who it was. Even track announcer Travis Stone and NBC racecaller Larry Collmus missed him, not mentioning his name until he came charging by Epicenter and Zandon. He already had his head in front when Collmus shouted “Oh my goodness!”

Even April Mayberry, watching in her living room with her mother, her assistant trainer and several friends, didn’t recognize him. “I saw it was a chestnut and thought it was Taiba” she said. “But then I saw the blinkers and thought ‘You got to be kidding, it’s Rich Strike.’ When he crossed the finish line everyone went so crazy my poor dogs ran out of the house. I thought the neighbors were going to call the police.”

In the paddock, Gabriel Lagunes and his partner Lindsey Matthews watched along with the Reeds. “We were completely shocked,” Lindsey said. “This was not what we were expecting. We were all jumping up and down and there was lots of crying and hugging. It looked like Eric was having a heart attack.”

Lindsy Reed said hugging her father and grandfather was “the greatest moment I will ever remember. We wrapped our arms around each other in total astonishment. I wanted this so much for my dad and mom. It’s been a hard road and they really deserve this. I just wanted him to get in the race for them. I never thought he had a chance to win, but he proved me wrong in the biggest way possible. I was so happy he at least got to run, but he blew us out of the ballpark.”

Owner Richard Dawson said after the race, “What planet is this? I feel like I’ve been propelled somewhere.” He asked Reed, “Are you sure this isn’t a dream?”

All the work and all the anxiety of trying to get in the Derby had paid off in shocking fashion. Rich Strike no longer was that baby whose mind was more interested in “messing around and playing.” He no longer was that “goofy” colt with all the hang-ups who was afraid of other horses.

But it was obvious he still was that the same colt who disliked ponies, as witnessed by his constant attempts to savage the lead pony escorting him to the winner’s circle. Meanwhile, in the grandstand and infield most everyone was savaging their mutual tickets wondering what had just happened.

So we come to the end of another Kentucky Derby journey and a fascinating Derby trail. Somehow the Derby gods worked their miracle, as they have done a number of times in the past. The unlikeliest of heroes, Rich Strike, struck it rich and added a wild new chapter into the annals of the Kentucky Derby. It sure didn’t end like we expected, but that is what the Derby trail and the Derby itself is all about. Always expect the unexpected, because you never know whose dreams are destined to come true. In this case even the dreamers couldn’t imagine they would come true. But in the end, the Derby gods spoke and when they speak the whole world listens.


Sixty miles away from Churchill Downs at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement facility, there is a black marble headstone that stands as a reminder of how a horse, a life, a dream, and a feel-good moment can end so abruptly and alter the course of history. It also serves as a stark reminder of how quickly Thoroughbred racing can turn a bright ray of sunshine into a dark ominous cloud.

That headstone, on which is inscribed the name of Medina Spirit with the words “Noble and Cherished Champion,” is all that is left of the legacy of this courageous colt, along with the memory of his gallant victory in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

The powers that be at Churchill Downs can remove his name from their record books and can tear down his sign in the paddock as winner of the 2021 Derby, but they can never remove the image of him turning back challenge after challenge down the stretch, and they can never tear down his reputation or convince anyone that a topical skin ointment helped him in any way win the Derby.

This is not about his positive drug test for a non-performance enhancing medication or how and why it was administered. I understand that rules are rules, but those rules and the colt’s disqualification will never alter my belief that Medina Spirit’s victory was a deserving one, and in my mind he will always be the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby, with all due respect to Mandaloun, who also ran a courageous race.

Was Medina Spirit betrayed by human frailty? That is up to each person to decide. What is important one year later is what is in each person’s heart and whether they will remember the name of Medina Spirit based on what transpired in a laboratory or what they witnessed on the racetrack, not only in the Kentucky Derby, but race after race. No one can deny that he gave every ounce of his heart each time he stepped into the starting gate. That is all I will remember of Medina Spirit, whose life and career ended way too soon.

As for Gail Rice and Christy Whitman, the two small-time horsewomen who orchestrated this feel-good, rags-to-riches story and lived out the dream of every horse lover, I only hope that dream and the exultation they experienced haven’t diminished even in the slightest. Their story and the story of Medina Spirit will endure as long as the Derby roses bloom and the Twin Spires pierce the skies above Churchill Downs.

So as we salute Rich Strike as the winner of the 2022 Kentucky Derby we also must remember that black marble headstone 60 miles away and the name of Medina Spirit for what he represents and how he will always be part of Derby lore, not for his disqualification, but for the indomitable spirit that has defined the Thoroughbred for centuries and, despite the ignorance of some, will continue to do so for centuries to come.


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278 Responses to “Rich Strike Hits the Mother Lode with Improbable Derby Victory”

  1. Davids says:

    Do not forget this Sunday that the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) and the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) will be run at Longchamp.

    Going for an upset in the fillies race with the Andre Fabre trained Mqse De Sevigne to win while in the colts race, Lassaut to overcome Modern Games. Allez, profiter des courses.

    • Lynda King says:

      Davids, I saw that Stradivarius won the Yorkshire Cup, His 20th win.
      What an amazing career he has had!

      • Davids says:

        Yes, Lynda, a great racehorse of the modern era. Imagine the reception Stradivarius would receive should he win another Goodwood Cup or even better an Ascot Gold Cup with The Queen present. Or another Stayers’ Triple Crown. Magnifique !!

        • Lynda King says:

          I see that her Majesty The Queen made an unexpected appearance at the Royal Windsor Horseshow today.
          She is totally in her element around the horses. she just glows.
          What a treat it must have been for her to get to her granddaughter, Lady Louise Windsor, in the saddle of the late Prince Philip’s carriage, which led a parade through the arena.

          As to Stradivarius, would love to take his bow (year) with a win in the Royal Ascot. I do not know that he will retire at the end of this year, but some are predicting he will.
          I have been following him for a long time!

    • Lynda King says:

      PS, thanks for the heads up on the races on Sunday.

  2. Steve Haskin says:

    I have no problem with them skipping the Preakness as long as they give the real reason and not contradict themselves. The owner says in the release the plan was if they missed the Derby they would go in the Preakness, but after the race Reed said when they learned they werent getting in the Derby they were all ready to go to NY for the Peter Pan and then the Belmont. Also if they felt they didnt want to run in the Preakness because that was the plan then why wait until Thursday to announce that when Pimlico and everyone else were already plannnig on him running. Why not make that announcement on Monday at the latest? Just curious

    • Nelson Maan says:

      I suspect they will not even make it to the Belmont Stakes…

    • greg marsh says:

      Hi Steve,

      I so agree with you. I know the connections of Rich Strike are new to the experience of being followed by cameras and microphones, but you don’t change your narrative – especially when the one about the colt being pointed to the Peter Pan if he didn’t get into the Derby was so widely reported and added to the “Cinderella crashing the ball” narrative that the media picked up on and that the owners and trainer would have known (let alone originated.)

      Everyone has the right to change one’s mind and, in most cases, need not apologize for it. If the connections felt the Preakness was too close a turnaround – something the connections of many of the colts who finished behind Rich Strike were also saying – than no one will argue with that. In fact many will (as some have done) congratulate the connections for placing the best interests of the horse over the potential fame, glory and prize money.

      If I were the connections, I would have run him in the Preakness. First of all, I think the Preakness will have speed up front which would set up Rich Strike well, plus, as El Kabong noted (and as Nelson hinted) the Belmont Stakes and Belmont Park are two big challenges to face by a horse that is beginning to know how to win.

      I expect the Pimlico management feels more than a little betrayed and understandably so. Even if Rich Strike finished off the board in the Preakness – presuming he wasn’t injured – no one would fault the connections for giving the horse an opportunity for glory.

      At this point, I think I might look into a prep for the Haskell then maybe the PA Derby prior to the Breeders Cup Classic.

      Of course, the horse, like he did this past Saturday, might prove me an amateur handicapper who should get out of the horse’s way.

      I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful May.

      greg (Fan of Damascus)

  3. TommyMc says:

    Chad Brown was interviewed on FS2 today and not only did he sound like Zandon wouldn’t be running in The Preakness, he seemed to be saying that Zandon might be pointing to Saratoga(The Jim Dandy & Travers).

  4. Spaldeen says:

    This Eric Reed/Kamala Harris thing is not good…

    • greg marsh says:

      Hi Spaldeen,

      You are right about Eric Reed and his comment about the Vice President. What he said is distasteful and very disrespectful.

      In the movie Bambi, Thumper quoted wisdom given him by his mother: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

      I feel Eric Reed should have abided by the sentiment espoused by this renowned PR Guru. If Thumper said it, it must be wise.

      greg (Fan of Damascus . . . and of rabbits who thump)

      • Spaldeen says:

        Hi Greg…

        The sport has a rare feel good moment (except to most bettors) and still can’t catch a break.
        If Reed was truly dumb enough to make that comment, there are bound to be repercussions.
        What good did he possibly think could come of that even in his relative anonymity at the time?
        Was the possibility of a few “likes” that important to a grown man?

  5. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    Dear Epicenter, what happened?

    You had the best set up/trip of anyone by quite a margin.

    Did Joel move a little too early? Probably, but I think he had to at that time.

    Is it the 6 weeks off from the Loui, so maybe you weren’t 100% sharp?

    Or was it Assmussen that left you short?

    I think that camp has to be killings themselves for not winning this derby.

    • Liam says:

      E. Tee – I think the reasonings you lay out is valid but I believe it’s non of those above. I’m of the opinion Joel didn’t hear another horse coming up the inside nor did he expect it. The majority of the dirt races Saturday, the wining jock’s were out in the center of the course which makes me think there was a consensus that the rail was a dull place to be.

      • Since Lil E. Tee says:

        Hi Liam, I think you’re right in that he didn’t see him coming. But he was all out trying not to let Zandon pass him, so I don’t think he had any more gears left regardless.

    • Matthew W says:

      Epicenter was close to the pace….just inside Zozos, approaching the 1/2 mile pole, I thought he was tons best….

  6. Pebbles says:

    Steve, just an FYI that one individual on Horse Racing Nation is spreading misinformation that the reason Rich Strike is skipping the Preakness Stakes is because he is sore referencing your article here. Your article in no way suggests thar because the horse was once sore months ago, he would be sore now.

  7. EddieF says:

    More info is forthcoming, but if Rich Strike is fit to run, he should be entered. The Spend A Buck decision was awful, and this one may be also. That said, the Preakness needs to adjust to the times and be run three weeks after the Derby. What’s the point of tradition when good Derby runners aren’t entered in the Preakness? Tradition is already out the window with the way that horses are prepared for the Derby and TC.

    • Jeff says:

      AND that is why winning the triple crown is an actual amazing achievement!!

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      Lowering the bar is not the answer

      • EddieF says:

        Adding a week between races isn’t lowering the bar (whatever it is that “lowering the bar” means). And if the question is “How can the best 3yos be given the best opportunity to run in the classics?”, then a minor change in timing could be the answer.

        • Laura L Lanham says:

          The bar is the challenge of what frankly is unheard of these days, race again in 2 weeks. It takes away from the horses and the teams behind them that have done it to allow the extra week. When you look at the past history of the Triple Crown itself the races were longer and closer together. Every start of the 3 year old season for the past 20 years or so it has gotten harder and harder to decide who “gets to dance” as they, owners and trainers, limit the number of times the horses actually go out there and race. Even Steve has commented on how they “bubble wrap” these colts and fillies in past columns.

          A classic is a classic for a reason. How many other minor changes will come? In my opinion leave it alone.

          • EddieF says:

            A classic isn’t a classic because of the antiquated number of days between races. The schedule will eventually change, so be prepared! 🙂

        • Matthew W says:

          I mean….back when the Triple Crown was named as such, there had already been one or two that had won it, also—-back then 12 furlongs on dirt was the championship distance and today its practically never run…12 furlongs TURF is much more common, but to suggest that—along with more time between races would set off a firestorm of push back, so….most sit out the Preakness now, and everyone understands, but not the Derby winner!!!!!

          • Matthew W says:

            That said…despite the fact that these horses will probably never again go 12 furlongs on dirt—I love The Belmont Stakes!

    • Matthew W says:

      Spend A Buck decision “awful”?…..That year Monmouth offered $1 million dollar bonus and they took it….after that the VISA Triple Crown Challenge was created, a $5 million bonus, for winning Triple Crown…. They didn’t want to come back in just two weeks, and they took the $1million bonus, which if I remember correctly they barely won..

      • EddieF says:

        Awful for racing fans (us!), but profitable for Spend A Buck’s owner. Derby winner SAB raced three weeks later for the bonus. Big deal. He had raced with two weeks rest seven times up to the Derby. I don’t believe the Triple Crown Challenge (and bonus) was a rousing success, as Chrysler passed it off to VISA and it ended in 2005.

  8. Ms Blacktype says:

    Just read Rich Strike will skip Preakness and await the Belmont. Great decision on the part of his team. No triple crown on the line this year, tho.

  9. Marc Mink says:

    Steve, the amount of information here is astonishing…. that you put it together in such a meaningful and emotional way is just wonderful!!Thank you

  10. TommyMc says:

    Rich Strike out of The Preakness. Darn. I was looking forward to the rematch. He’ll be pointed to The Belmont. Probably best for the horse. But, a Triple Crown would be legendary.

    • TommyMc says:

      There’s nothing wrong with Rich Strike. The connections just feel that The Belmont sets up better for him than The Preakness. I can’t argue with that. Belmont is huge. Lots of room for Rich Strike to “strike” with his late run.

    • Lynda King says:

      Good decision in my opinion. I always applaud the owners and trainers looking out for what is in the best interest of their horses.
      Think it is going to tough for any horse to beat Epicenter in the Preakness at any rate.

      • Blake says:

        I’m not sure I agree with you unless he is not going to be 100% ready in their eyes or they don’t think he could win which I would find extremely odd.

        If he’s healthy and good to go why not run him? It is good for the sport IMHO. I’m still a fan of his connections but I’m curious about this decision and wonder if they are being too cautious.

      • Steve Haskin says:

        They might be feeling with all the post race hoola why come back to earth in a race that doesnt suit you when you can let the dream continue another three weeks. Otherwise why wait 5 days to announce that. They are still on cloud 9 and not ready for it to end.

      • Davids says:

        Lynda, don’t forget the races at Longchamp this Sunday. Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches are being run.

    • Since Lil E. Tee says:

      I would have done the same if I was the owner. Best chance at winning 2 triple crown races.

  11. Matthew W says:

    I’m not for trying males on dirt, like Wayne is attempting with his top filly Secret Oath…but had he TRIED the Derby…..with the pace collapse and the field bunching at the top of the homestretch—she may have come out on top..

  12. Jiffy says:

    A beautiful column. I too recognize Medina Spirit as last year’s Derby winner. (I also recognize Maximum Security.) Even Florent Geroux said he didn’t feel as if he had won.

    It also speaks very well for Larry Collmus that when he was seeing the impossible unfold in front of him, the first expletive he thought of was “Oh, my goodness!”

  13. fuzzi says:

    Good read as always, Steve.

    I like rooting for the blue collar claimer types, those whose pedigrees don’t inspire million dollar bids at yearling sales. I appreciated Chrome and Mine That Bird’s efforts. I loved the never-say-die attitude of Maximum Security, the determination of Medina Spirit, and was hoping Crown Pride would prove the worth of his great grandsire Sunday Silence. But when Rich Strike snuck through and seized the roses last Saturday I was thrilled. What a wonderful finish!

  14. Lynda King says:

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

    Steve, as I read “Rich Strike Hits the Mother Lode with Improbable Derby Victory” (twice), this quote from Dickens kept coming to mind.

    You sir are the belletrist of horse racing.

    I cannot help but think that the “spirit” of Medina Spirit was racing right along side Rich Strike, clearing the path to history.

    The racing gods knew exactly what we all needed to help heal our broken hearts.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      One of the great openings of all time. That is quite a comparison. I dont know how to respond to it other than to say thank you!! Funny that in one the reviews of my John Henry book the author said it read like Dickens with John Henry being Pip. Now you have taken that to a different level and I am humbled and grateful.

    • TommyMc says:

      I’ll have to look up “belletrist”. But, I’ll bet it’s a good thing.

      • Lynda King says:

        TommyMc, LOL. It is a good thing. A very old word, rarely used.

        • EddieF says:

          I thought you were saying that Steve appreciates beautiful women more than anyone in horse racing.

          • Lynda King says:

            EddieF, belletrist is sourced in a French word “elegant literature, literature as fine art,” 1710, French, literally “fine letters,” from belles” and “ist” word-forming element meaning “one who does or makes,” also used to indicate adherence to a certain doctrine or custom.
            It is a synonym of the word “author”.

  15. Beth Koch says:

    I choked up a little while reading the wonderful story of Rich Strike, and then my emotions went the other way while reading about Medina Spirit. I completely share your feelings on both,Steve. Beautifully and movingly written.

  16. SoloSolo says:

    You’ve already had so many accolades, Steve, so I’ll keep it simple: you are the best. Thank you for wonderful Derby ’22 columns. I was rooting for White Abarrio, but I love how it all ended. The derby gods have spoken…on to the Preakness. Oh, and I enjoyed your clever ‘head’ for this column. I don’t comment often, but I sure as heck read every word. Thank you.

  17. TommyMc says:

    Epicenter now confirmed for The Preakness. With Simplification also very likely to run, it sets up as a rematch between 3 of the first 4 horses from The Derby. Secret Oath can still join the field. Early Voting was pointed to the race. The Preakness is shaping up to be a very interesting race.

  18. Sherri Lytle says:

    Rich Strike winning the Kentucky Derby was good for horse racing! What a truly feel-good and heart warming Story! The stuff dreams and movies are made of! Even though most of us were rooting for other horses, I feel like this is the 1st time in a long time, that we all agree on something! That we are all happy for Rich Strike and his connections for his big win! His jockey, Sonny Leon, he rode amazingly well for his 1st Derby experience! I was really impressed!

  19. Anna B says:

    Beautiful article and lovely reflection on Medina Spirit. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I always enjoy your writing.

  20. Kelly says:

    Great article Steve. Couldn’t ask for a better story for racing.
    At this point I don’t agree about Medina Spirit. You may have more info than I but I haven’t seen proof that a salve caused the positive. Baffert saying it doesn’t make it so. His filly Gamine tested positive for betsmethasone in the Oaks and lidocaine before that.
    Baffert can be a great spokesman and face for racing. He gets premier horses, does a great job training and is high profile. He needs to be above reproach and not bring doubt on the magnificent animals he trains.

  21. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    I’m changing the definition of insanity to “throwing money at a 20-horse field”.

    Oh well, back on the horse in the Preakness.

  22. Lynda King says:

    For those of you who interested in the whereabouts of Rich Strike’s dam, Gold Strike, I just saw a beautiful photo of her that was taken very recently at Watershed Farms.
    She is absolutely stunning. Her coat is glowing and she has dapples. She has a great hip and shoulder and good bone.
    They are working on getting her in foal and plans are that she will visit a stallion next week. No info on the stallion.

  23. Abigail Anderson says:

    Steve: What a story and you told it with such elegance. I didn’t know a thing about Rich Strike and when he stormed the lead and hit the finish line I was stunned. Having watched the Derby for decades, I expect the press to skew the field by ignoring certain colts (for whatever reason). You always acknowledged every entry or potential entry but that’s not the norm. The focus ends up falling on a half-dozen or less, right up until the gates fly open. I immediately went to Rich Strike’s pedigree as he was making his way to the winner’s circle. What most interested me was finding Smart Strike on the top and bottom of his pedigree in the second and third generations. (Which also gave him a Canadian connection to Sam-Son Farm and the late, brilliant Ernie Samuel. The family of Smart Strike through Classy ‘N Smart is solid gold. Of course, as we all realize, even a perfect bloodline is no guarantee of greatness. But as Sam-Son has dispersed most of its bloodstock recently, and as Ernie Samuel, together with E.P. Taylor, were the two owner-breeders who most shaped thoroughbred bloodlines in Canada and beyond, it seemed so fitting to remember Mr. Samuel through Rich Strike’s victory and to see that his legacy as the consummate horseman lives on.
    Too, I so appreciated your reflections regarding Medina Spirit. He was a such a courageous and honest champion. He gave us delight. Now it’s up to us to see that his victory on Derby day shines on.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you very much, Abigail. I’m sure the connection to Ernie is very special to you. Great to see his name and bloodlines live on.

    • Dawn Miller says:

      I find myself in complete agreement Abigail, both with your comments on Steve’s eloquence and about how good it is to see both the Samson and Windfields bloodlines continue to be so influential. Both were definitely gold standard when it came to thoroghbreds. Rich Strike’s victory is both a fitting part of Ernie Samuel’s legacy as well as just what horse racing needs. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Kentucky Derby get so much favourable coverage by the mainstream press and that’s good to see.

  24. james ciampa says:

    Rich Strike flaterred both TTB and Tawny Port. TTB beat the horse three straight rarher easliy.
    TTB got squeezed at the start then kind of got stuck down on the rail midpack. Maybe if Brian took him back the result may have been different.
    Nevertheless congrats to Sonny Leon. Always said he was under rated.

  25. Jack Zaraya says:


    After watching the Derby, I wanted to know more about Rich Strike and his connections and your story certainly provided that. I didn’t bet a penny, never even saw the pps. But following the race and seeing the interviews with the trainer and owner and then watching the replays from the various angles, I came away with the best feeling I’ve had about racing in decades.

    How the jockey threaded his way was a thing of beauty. This will be one of my favorite Derbies — Unbridled notwithstanding!