Longshot ‘Rich Strike’ finishes first in Kentucky Derby


A woman wears a decorative hat as she walks through the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

(NewsNation) — Longshot and final entry Rich Strike has crossed the finish line first in the 148th Kentucky Derby, outracing favorite Epicenter and Zandon.

The horse entered the field on Friday after Ethereal Road was scratched and started outside but charged down the stretch to pass the leaders and run the 1 1/4 mile in 2:02.61

Joe Bianca, a writer for Thoroughbred Daily News, called Rich Strikes win “unbelievable.”

“He could have been 800-1 and I wouldn’t have liked him, that was the kind of forum he had coming into the race,” Bianca said on NewsNation “Prime.” “He only got into the race because another horse scratched yesterday. So he wasn’t even supposed to be in the race.

Bianca said it’s one of those instances where “it reminds you that they’re horses.”

“It reminds you that they’re living breathing things and they might just pop up and surprise you one day no matter how much they cost, what their pedigree is, you never know with horses,” Bianca said. “This kind of race drove that home.”

Bettors threw their money behind Epicenter and Taiba, toppling Zandon as Kentucky Derby favorite less than 75 minutes before the start time.

Both colts were listed as 5-1 choices, with Messier at 6-1 and Zandon now at 7-1. Taiba made the biggest jump after drawing 12-1 odds on Monday, getting $3.181 million in wagers. That’s just behind Epicenter at $3.380 million, who began as the 7-2 second choice behind Zandon.

Zandon, the 3-1 morning line favorite on Monday, had $2.698 million in wagers while Messier had $2.864 million.

Johnny Avello, a director of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, said horse racing and sports betting go hand-in-hand.

“I can tell you that when you walk into the establishment (in Las Vegas) it says ‘race’ and ‘sports’ it has both and both compliment each other,” Avello said. “

Avello believes horse racing should modernize it’s betting model to appeal to the younger crowd.

“Remember this game has been bet on by an older generation and I think it’s time for some new changes,” Avello said. “I think so changes are going to be coming here soon.”

Recently the Kentucky Derby has seen a dip in attendance and the amount of money bet on the event. But Avello said this year’s showing means the Derby “is back.”

“Remember the pandemic set the Derby back a little bit and the year following it wasn’t the Derby as we all know it,” Avello said. “This was the year the Derby was back, it had as many people as it’s had in the past, the handle was good, expectations were high, very high demand for the Derby this year.”

Fans stand at betting windows in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Spectators crammed in to the first full Kentucky Derby since the coronavirus pandemic began, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in lines to place their bets and buy mint juleps.

Churchill Downs was packed by early afternoon, hours before the biggest race of the day.

For two years, the pandemic upended the typical extravagance of Derby Day. The 2020 running was delayed until Labor Day weekend and held without spectators. Last year’s race strictly limited the number of tickets sold. This year, Churchill Downs hoped to again surpass 150,000, its pre-pandemic numbers.

“It feels like we have a normal life again,” said Michelle Conforto, a milliner from California arriving for her 12th Derby who was delighted to have to wade through thick crowds again. “It’s a milestone for us to move forward.”

Her husband, Joe, wore goggles and a stuffed horse named Miss Fancy on his head, decorated in yellow and olive to match his wife’s elaborate feathered hat, which encircled her head a foot in every direction. They are Derby fixtures and people stop them to take pictures.

“We get to spend time with people and enjoy our lives,” Michelle Conforto said. “Today we feel free.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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