‘I don’t remember seeing them cross the finish line:’ Rich Strike trainer Eric Reed reflects on shocking Derby win

Trainer Eric Reed is back in his home of Versailles today after pulling off a longshot Kentucky Derby win on his very first attempt with Rich Strike.
Published: May. 8, 2022 at 11:39 PM EDT
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VERSAILLES, Ky. (WKYT) - Trainer Eric Reed is back in his home of Versailles today after pulling off a longshot Kentucky Derby win on his very first attempt with Rich Strike.

Reed took the time to sit down and relive his greatest two minutes in sports, first recalling Rich Strike’s remarkable stretch run to the finish line.

“I saw him make a nice run into the turn and then all at once I couldn’t find them anymore,” said Reed. “Ken Tyson, a good friend of mine, was standing to my left and I said, ‘Ken, I can’t find him,’ and he goes, ‘He just went up to the inside, I think he’s fifth,’ and I grab my dad who’s standing in front of me and said, ‘Dad, we might hit the board.”

They did more than hit the board, scoring a win at Churchill Downs in his very first attempt. But Reed says he doesn’t even remember his horse crossing the finish line.

“I just remember everybody jumping on me like I had scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl and I was like I got to get up,” Reed said.

Even though the energy that pulsated through Churchill Downs Saturday has ebbed away some, Reed’s disbelief still hasn’t.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that, that Kentucky Derby winner is standing in my barn right now,” said Reed.

Rich Strike defied the odds to give some lucky bettors a big payday and Reed’s entire team a life-changing win.

“My goal for my team was just to get into the derby, that was astronomical in itself,” Reed said.

Their horse, which improbably struck gold, might have gotten some luck along the way from the team’s gold fingers and toes.

”A long time ago my daughter Martha and I went to California to race against the great Zenyatta and I was taking another long shot out,” said Reed. “She said ‘Dad, let me paint your toenails gold for good luck, you’re gonna win this race!’ I let her do it and went out there and got beat by maybe a head to Zenyatta. It was a remarkable race and I called her back that night and said, ‘It almost worked, I’m gonna do this all the time.’”

It’s a high he never thought he could reach after hitting a tragic low in 2016 when his barn burned to the ground.

“For us to come back from what I thought was the highest point in my career, owning Mercury [Equine Center], to climb back up and get even higher, it’s unimaginable,” Reed said.

A native of Lexington living in Versailles, Reed says he’s honored to represent the bluegrass and he hopes that he and Rich Strike can do it again at Pimlico on May 21.

“The Preakness next would be great as long as it’s what’s best for him,” said Reed

Reed said he still gives his toenails that golden glow for every race, like his daughter did many years ago. He said his family’s not quite onboard, but he’ll surely be picking up some more paint soon if they end up making the trip to Maryland.

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