By Bill Speros | | 6 mins
Can Rich Strike Strike Again? The Derby Winner's Chances at The Preakness
The 148th Kentucky Derby produced a record-breaking sports betting handle, a thrilling victory from 80-1 longshot Rich Strike, buzz nationwide and a lot of money for people who took a flier on the three-year old colt on betting apps.
For the first time in four years, the Derby was run on the first Saturday in May in front of a full house at Churchill Downs and did not have a finish tarnished by controversy.
The crowd of 147,294 roared amid shock and awe as Rich Strike cut through the field to pull away from the favorite Epicenter and show horse Zandon, at the wire.
Can the massive handle and interest from the Derby carry over into the Preakness Stakes? The second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown is set to be run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore a week from Saturday on May 21. Post-time is 6:50 p.m. EDT and the race will air on NBC.
Rich Strike is expected to run in the Preakness, as are Epicenter and Zandon. Don’t expect Rich Strike to carry the same lofty price in the Preakness that he did when he was the 21st entrant in the 20-horse Derby field. He is 5-1 in early horse racing odds, the third pick behind Epicenter (5-2) and Zandon (7-2).
The blistering pace of the Derby – which featured the fastest first quarter-mile in race history – set up the perfect condition for a horse like Rich Strike to outpace a mostly exhausted field down the final stretch and at the wire.
The Road to the Triple Crown
There have been 35 horses that have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, with 13 of those going on to win the Triple Crown. Here is the rundown.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winners
Preakness Offers New Challenges
The Preakness is 1 3/16th-mile, or 2 furlongs less than the Derby. It is the shortest of the three Triple Crown races. The Belmont Stakes is run over an unforgiving 1-1/2-mile tract at Belmont Park on June 11.
But focus for the 12 days will be on the Preakness. Neither Rich Strike nor jockey Sony Leon will be able to hide in relative obscurity like they did before the Derby. The rest of the riders in the Preakness will have to balance how to handle both the shorter course and the potential late-race speed and maneuverability of Rich Strike.
Rich Strike was not even entered in the Derby until the day before the race. It grabbed the spot previously occupied by Ethereal Road, who was scratched, about 30 seconds before the deadline.
A record $179 million was bet on the 2022 Derby race on sports betting sites, which is an increase of 15% from 2021 and 8% higher than the previous record set in 2019 of $165.5 million, according to Churchill Downs.
A clean finish and no post-race PED issues (thus far, anyway) should help push the handle for the Preakness. The saga of Medina Spirit and subsequent suspension of trainer Bob Baffert was a major blow to horse racing. The success of Saturday’s race from a drama standard should help in erasing some of that damage. A Triple Crown run by Rich Strike would strip a page from any Hollywood script.
Rocky Road for Derby of Late
Justify won the Kentucky Derby and went on to win the Triple Crown in 2018. But the previous three Derby races before Saturday were somber affairs. In 2019, Maximum Security was disqualified by race stewards despite finishing first.
After a 22-minute delay, bettors who backed 65-1 long shot Country House were rewarded for their investment.
The 2020 Derby was won by Authentic inside a nearly empty Churchill Downs on Labor Day weekend after being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, of course, the 2021 Derby carries a permanent asterisk as race-day winner Medina Spirit was eventually stripped of its victory due to a positive test for a banned substance.
However, that race was not adjudicated for several months. Not only were sports betting winners denied the chance to cash tickets that should have won, Medina Spirit then died following a workout in December.
Rich Strike took the Run for the Roses with the second-highest price ever for a Derby winner. He returned $163.60, $74.20 and $29.40 on a $2 bet. Donerail went off at 99-1 before winning the 1913 Derby.
The money did not stop with the featured race on Saturday. The 2022 Kentucky Derby Day card raked in a record haul of $273.8 million in betting handle. That was a 17% increase over 2021's total and 9% higher than the 2019 record of $250.9 million.
The win was worth $1.86 million to the owners of Rich Strike. And the horse gained even more fans and social media fame by trying to fight off an escort pony after the race.
Horse racing bettors can only speculate as to whether Rich Strike can carry that same fight into the Preakness in two weeks.