Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Like Rich Strike, never give up

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| May 18, 2022 1:00 AM

I keep remembering in this wet, slow spring how last summer's drought and fire season had everyone begging for rain. The weather has been a morel booster, if you're a mushroom hunter. But hardly a morale booster.

Maybe it's the sky short on blue — or the wind that nips — or the muddy ground underfoot, but I've found a welcome pick-me-up in this year's Kentucky Derby run at Churchill Downs. I watch the replay at least once a day on an NBC sports video that gives an above the track view — and follows with an arrow the Thoroughbred at the back of the pack — Rich Strike.

Rich Strike only made it into the race when another horse scratched at the last minute. His betting odds improved from 99-1 to 80-1 just before the start. He came out of the gate in the farthest outside post position — nineteen of the best-of-the-best set to beat him.

It is indescribable to see him move up through the throng of fast paced horses running the mile and a quarter track until he gains the inside rail coming down the stretch and flies past Epicenter and Zandon to win the Derby by three fourths of a length. Just as exciting is listening to the announcer erupt at the longest shot finishing first.

Only Donerail in 1913 with 91-1 odds scored a bigger upset.

I come away smiling every time I watch. Not just for the horse-who-could, but for his team. It was their first Derby for owner, trainer, and jockey. The trainer, Eric Reed, lost 23 horses at his equine center in Lexington six years ago in a lightning strike fire in the middle of the night. A second-generation trainer, he thought he was done.

There was such an outpouring of support from friends and strangers — and other trainers who offered to help him find horses and clients — it kept him going. He said, “I just decided I wasn't going to let it take me out.” Winning the Derby practically did — he almost passed out.

I wish my dad could have watched this race. A horse enthusiast in every way he trained them, taught riding, and rode as often as he could. The Triple Crown races were penciled in his datebook. Not your average preacher's background — but it was his.

You don't have to be a horse lover to appreciate this year's Kentucky Derby. You don't even have to know a thing about them. You just have to see where not giving up can get you.

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