Sonny Leone is 32 years old. And although he was the most successful jockey in Venezuela, on Saturday, May 7, he completed a history-riding race. Rich Strike Kentucky Derby.
The rider reached the first races Triple Crown American horse racing, for emergencies. One of the competition’s favorite samples was drawn late Friday.
Organizers called horse number 22 to fill in for one of the three candidates, but they didn’t have one ready. Then came Rich Strike, a three-year-old colt who had not won a race since September 2021.
The rider who is usual for horses was also not available. They then pleaded with Sonny León to try it with Rich Strike, despite the owners’ reluctance who were not entirely convinced, as the Venezuelan had never been in Kentucky Derby. They finally agreed.
Rich Strike has, in its 148-year derby history, had the second fewest bets (80-1) to win the race. Only the 90-1 Donerail winner in 1913 was bigger than the winner in 2022.
He was among the last of the horses and chasers, Lyon told US media at the end of the derby, but “when I was at the last 70 yards, I said, ‘I think I have that race’.”
According to Ivan Roa Frias, in a report for Últimas Noticias, Sonny León is the rider who has won the most number of races in Venezuela. As of December 16, 2021, he has had 221 wins. Last year, he completed 35 wins at the Mahoning Valley Raceway, in Ohio, nearly at the end of the season.
He is equal to Gustavo Avila and Canonero
Leon is the second Venezuelan rider to win the Kentucky Derby. Gustavo Avila Canonero rode second to win the Kentucky Derby and the Brickneys Stakes in 1971. Like Avila and Canonero in 1971, he disrupted the Rich Strike stretch.
Post-race reviews at Churchill Downs from the Lexington Herald Leader include:
“Lyon made a journey, imaginatively patient and daring, that no one present at Churchill Downs on a cloudy Saturday will forget,” says the American media.
He made it clear that the horse started 15th, but in the two minutes and more race he was able to finish the race first three-quarters of the length of the horse that led the Epicenter race.
What Sonny Leone said when he won
“People asked me if I was nervous about getting into the first Kentucky Derby,” Leon said at the press conference after winning the race. ‘I said, ‘No, I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.’ I was at 80-1 and no one knew my horse, but I knew. I didn’t know if we could win, but I had a good feeling with him,” the Lexington Herald Leader reported.
In a race-winning move, Leon rode Messier’s Rich Strike, and had enough horsepower to beat the Louisiana Derby Epicenter winner and Bluegrass Stakes Zandon winner to win the most prestigious horse race in North America.
“He helped me train this horse,” said Rich Strike trainer Eric Reed. “This rider rode it all the time. (Rich Strike) learned the process and (Leon) taught him how to ride and pass horses.”
Now it remains to be seen if Lyon will repeat with the horse in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In 1971, Avila and Canonero won the Kentucky Derby and the Prekness Stakes, but were disappointed in the Belmont Stakes.
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