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Rich Strike takes first at the Kentucky Derby in a huge upset

Jockey Sonny Leon reacts as Rich Strike wins the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Ezra Shaw
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Jockey Sonny Leon reacts as Rich Strike wins the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Updated May 7, 2022 at 8:09 PM ET

Rich Strike, who went in an 80-1 shot, is the winner of the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the first stop of the 2022 Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. His win is the second largest upset in Derby history.

Going into the race, Taiba and Epicenter were co-favorites to win, with 5-1 and 4-1 odds, respectively. And many experts had also predicted a win for Zandon, with 6-1 odds.

Nobody had anticipated a win from Rich Strike and his jockey, Sonny Leon, who was making his first-ever Kentucky Derby appearance. Leon waited until the end of the race to make his move, when he overtook both Epicenter and Zandon in the final leg.

Rich Strike brought home the winner's purse of $1.86 million, while Epicenter was awarded $600,000 in 2nd and $300,000 for Zandon in 3rd.

Rich Strike's upset is the second largest in Kentucky Derby history, second only to a horse named Donerail in 1913, who overcame 91.45-1 odds.

Twenty horses competed in what is often described as "the most exciting two minutes in sports," which is about how long it takes competitors to complete the 1 ¼-mile circuit.

Every year on the first Saturday in May, more than 150,000 spectators sporting their Derby best pour into the racetrack in Louisville, Ky., to partake in the longest running sporting event in U.S. history. Countless others tune in to watch the event and place their bets, with over $150 million changing hands each year, according to the Derby website.

The race, also known as the "Run for the Roses," is the first stop in the Triple Crown series. The next race, the Preakness Stakes in Maryland, is set to take place in two weeks, followed by the final stop, the Belmont States in New York, on June 11.

Bob Baffert, trainer of Medina Spirit, at last year's Kentucky Derby. Baffert was suspended after Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance following last year's race. As a result, Medina Spirit was disqualified.
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Bob Baffert, trainer of Medina Spirit, at last year's Kentucky Derby. Baffert was suspended after Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance following last year's race. As a result, Medina Spirit was disqualified.

Last year's derby winner, Medina Spirit, was disqualified in late February after failing a post-race drug test last May. His trainer, Bob Baffert, was suspended for 90 days and fined $7,500, but he denied any misconduct. Medina Spirit, who died this past December, tested positive for betamethasone. The drug is used for pain management and inflammation but is prohibited for use on race days.

The horse racing industry has come under attack in recent years, having to suffer through one scandal after another. Twenty-seven people were indicted on federal charges in 2020 for an alleged doping scheme. And more than 30 horses died at Santa Anita Park in California the year before.

However, changes are ahead: A new body is set to regulate both racing safety and anti-doping control and establish a new national set of standards.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.