Horse Racing

Crown Pride Fades Late, Finishes 13th in Kentucky Derby

As jockey Christophe Lemaire’s horse runs out of steam, 80-1 Rich Strike claims the second-biggest upset in race history.

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Crown Pride under Christophe Lemaire took the lead three-quarters of a mile into the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7.

But when the 1¼-mile race was over, Crown Pride had faded far from the front of the pack.

Trainer Koichi Shintani’s entry finished 13th in the 20-horse field at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rich Strike, an 80-1 longshot, beat Epicenter by three-quarter lengths to win the Run for the Roses. Zandon, Simplification and Mo Donegal rounded out the top five. (Watch the race replay here.)

It was the second-biggest upset in Derby history. 

In 1913, 91-1 Donerail, with Roscoe Goose holding the reins, triumphed.

Lemaire, the Japan Racing Association wins leader in each of the past five seasons, said fatigue was a factor in the final outcome.

“Early on it was quick,” Lemaire said later. “He (Crown Pride) took a good position easily and I could hold him very well. He gradually got tired and couldn't pick up at the end.”

Rich Strike, guided by 32-year-old Venezuelan jockey Sonny Leon, was a late addition to the Derby field, a replacement for Ethereal Road the day before the race.

Assigned the No. 20 post position, Rich Strike, owned by American Rick Dawson, worked his way to the inside and zoomed to the front in dramatic fashion at the wire.

Said Leon: “You know we had a difficult post but I know the horse. I didn’t know if he could win but I had a good feeling with him. I had to wait until the stretch and that’s what I did. I waited and then the rail opened up. I wasn’t nervous, I was excited. Nobody knows my horse like I know my horse.”

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lucas summed up his decision to drop Ethereal Road by telling reporters, "I made an effort to have him ready but I don't think I did a good job. I just didn't feel he was doing well. …  This week, he didn't train that well, either. You know, he got flat and he didn't have that usual energy."

Early Lead for Summer Is Tomorrow

Summer Is Tomorrow set the pace and jumped out to an early lead, holding the top spot at the one-quarter mile mark.

With a blistering pace, French jockey Mickael Barzalona guided Summer Is Tomorrow at the front of the pack and remained the leader with half a mile elapsed in 45.36 seconds.

At that point, Japanese-bred thoroughbred Crown Pride, a great-grandson of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence, was about a neck’s length behind the pace-setter.

Crown Pride, who burst out of the gate at 6:57 PM local time (Sunday, 7:57 AM JST) stormed to the lead around the far turn in 1 minute, 10.34 seconds, with Zozos, ridden by Manny Franco, in fast pursuit. Messier (John Velasquez) then pulled ahead, with Crown Pride and Epicenter in second and third, respectively as they approached the final turn.

Epicenter led with a furlong (201.1 meters) remaining in the opening leg of America's Triple Crown races, with Zandon (Flavien Prat) in second.

Winning trainer Eric Reed was euphoric after the race.

“He passed them all. I’m elated,” Reed told reporters. “I’m happy because this horse trained good enough to win. This rider (Sonny Leon) has been on him all along as he learned the process. He taught him to go between horses. He taught me who to train horses (pointing to his father, Herbert). I’m surrounded by the best. I didn’t think I could win necessarily but I knew if he got it, they’d know who he was when the race was over.”

RELATED: Christophe Lemaire Fulfills Dream Of Competing At Kentucky Derby

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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