Trump attends Kentucky Derby as 150,000 revelers pack into Churchill Downs for famous race

Former President Donald Trump visited the Kentucky Derby Saturday as he witnessed the victory of 80-to-1 historical longshot Big Strike and mass crowds returned to America’s most famous horse race. 

The president watched Rich Strike, who wasn’t even in the Derby field until Friday until he was inserted as a substituted for an injured horse hence the low odds, become the second-biggest upset in the Derby’s 148-year history and beat the longest odds for a Kentucky Derby winner since Donerail, who won from 91-1 odds in 1913. 

The horse – which ran middle of the pack until the race’s final furlong, when it made a stunning run for the roses – paid out $163.60, second in the history of the Triple Crown’s first jewel again to Donerail. 

The Rick Dawson-owned Rich Strike is considered the derby’s biggest modern upset since Mine That Bird in 2009, who won at 50-to-1 odds. Mine That Bird went on to finish second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes.   

Trainer Eric Reed summed up his horse’s odds himself. 

‘Small trainer, small rider, small stable, he should have been 80-1,’ Reed said. ‘And so anybody that’s in this business, lightening can strike.

Trump arrived at Churchill Downs for his $75,000-per-person fundraiser around 6 p.m. His entrance was shielded from the general public and the press. 

The event continues his running feud with home state Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

He was ushered into the track through a side hallway that had been used by caterers and staff, where his entourage erected an American flag and a Kentucky flag to greet him. 

Before he arrived, staff pulled curtains to corral the press and public away, guarded by FBI agents in camouflage with automatic rifles.

Whispers of Trump´s arrival passed through the crowd that backed up for twenty minutes. Some shouted his name, ‘Trump, Trump, Trump.’ Others seemed irritated at the delay.

Scroll down for video  

Rich Strike, who wasn’t even in the Derby field until Friday until he was inserted as a substituted for an injured horse, became the second-biggest upset in the Derby’s 148-year history and beat the longest odds for a Kentucky Derby winner since Donerail, who won from 91-1 odds in 1913

Sonny Leon celebrates after riding Rich Strike past the finish line to win the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs

Sonny Leon celebrates after riding Rich Strike past the finish line to win the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs

Rich Strike with Sonny Leon up enters the winner's circle after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

Rich Strike with Sonny Leon up enters the winner’s circle after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

Former President Donald Trump attends the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Former President Donald Trump attends the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Trump arrived at Churchill Downs for his $75,000-per-person fundraiser around 6 p.m. His entrance was shielded from the general public and the press

Trump arrived at Churchill Downs for his $75,000-per-person fundraiser around 6 p.m. His entrance was shielded from the general public and the press

Rich Strike: The 80-to-1 underdog who won the Kentucky Derby 

Jockey Sonny Leon (21) celebrates after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Louisville

Jockey Sonny Leon (21) celebrates after winning the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Louisville

The story of Kentucky Derby-winning horse Rich Strike shocked the sports world on Saturday 

Rich Strike wasn’t even in the Derby field until Friday when Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas scratched Ethereal Road, making room for the chestnut colt trained by Eric Reed. 

The horse was purchased by Rick Dawson, who races as RED TR-Racing LLC, for $30,000 last fall when the colt was entered in a low-level claiming race by former owner Calumet Farm, who bred the horse. 

Rich Strike earned $1.86 million for just his second career victory. The colt lost to Zandon in the Blue Grass Stakes last month and was beaten by derby favorite Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby in March. 

Jockey Sonny Leon guided Rich Strike from far back in the 20-horse field to beat 4-1 favorite Epicenter by three-quarters of a length. 

Leon, from Venezuela, and Reed were in their first Derby. 

‘We are entering and hoping and praying,’ Reed said prior to the race.  

Reed endured a tragedy five years ago when he lost nearly two dozen horses in a barn fire after lightning struck his training center in Lexington. 

He briefly considered the fire might be a signal for him to leave the sport.

‘When we drove up on that that night, I told my wife, I said, ‘We’ve probably lost everything,” Reed told the Louisville Courier Journal. ‘By the grace of God, the wind was blowing in a direction that kept it from getting to the other two barns. The next morning when we saw the devastation, because this happened in the middle of the night, I just thought of all the years and all the stuff we had done to get this beautiful farm and have this happen, that something might be telling me it’s the end of the line.’ 

He said that the kindness of friends, high-profile trainers and people he’d met in the business over the years was the thing that kept him going. 

‘People I hadn’t seen, people I haven’t talked to in years, my best friends were there in the morning to pick me up,’ Reed recalled. ‘It let me know there’s so much good out there, and then I just decided I wasn’t going to let it take me out.’

Prior to the Derby, Reed trained horses on such a small scale that he didn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

‘I never thought I would have a Derby horse,’ Reed said. ‘I never tried to go to the yearling sale and buy a Derby horse. I just wanted to buy my clients a horse that would keep them happy, have some fun and make a little money. If we got a good one, terrific. This was never in my thoughts.’ 

Leon regularly rides on some of the country’s smallest circuits, where the horse flesh is inexpensive and the purse money modest. 

Rich Strike becomes the second-biggest upset in the Derby’s 148-year history and beat the longest odds for a Kentucky Derby winner since Donerail, who won from 91-1 odds in 1913.

Rich Strike ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.61. After taking a bite out of his much costlier competition, he playfully chomped on the pony guiding him to the winner’s circle.

The colt made it look so easy at the end that the biggest challenge for Leon and Reed was getting their minds around winning the sport’s marquee event on their very first try.

‘We had a difficult post but I know the horse,’ Leon said about Rich Strike’s No. 20 far outside starting spot. ‘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.’

That connection between horse and rider was clear as Leon guided Rich Strike from 15th after a mile behind contender Messier on the rail in the stretch. As Epicenter and Zandon battled for the win, Leon angled his mount to the right, split two horses and blasted past the leaders for the highly improbable win.

‘I can’t believe it after Epicenter’s effort,’ said losing trainer Steve Asmussen, who fell to 0 for 24 in the Derby. ‘I got beat by the horse that just got in.’

Leon’s rail ride was reminiscent of jockey Calvin Borel’s stealth move aboard Mine That Bird in 2009. Mine That Bird sprang what was then the Derby’s third-biggest upset, paying $103.20 to win.

Reed had no argument with the bettors ignoring his colt, whose victory surely inspired little guys everywhere.

‘Small trainer, small rider, small stable, he should have been 80-1,’ Reed said. ‘And so anybody that’s in this business, lightening can strike.’

A few days ago, Reed sent Dawson a photo of the colt sprawled in his straw-covered stall with his handlers laying on him, all of them napping. Reed typed, ‘I think our horse is cool and ready to run.’

Dawson responded, ‘If we can wake him up.’

Did they ever.

‘I feel like the luckiest man alive,’ Dawson said, grinning.

Trainer Eric Reed (left) and Owner Rick Dawson (center) celebrate with the trophy after Rich Strike won the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Trainer Eric Reed (left) and Owner Rick Dawson (center) celebrate with the trophy after Rich Strike won the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

The horse was purchased by Dawson, who races as RED TR-Racing LLC, for $30,000 last fall when the colt was entered in a low-level claiming race by former owner Calumet Farm, who bred the horse.

The horse was purchased by Dawson, who races as RED TR-Racing LLC, for $30,000 last fall when the colt was entered in a low-level claiming race by former owner Calumet Farm, who bred the horse.

With favorite Epicenter and Zandon dueling in front, Rich Strike came charging up the rail for a stunning 80-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Jockey Sonny Leon guided Rich Strike from far back in the 20-horse field to beat 4-1 favorite Epicenter by three-quarters of a length. Zandon was another three-quarters of a length back in third at Churchill Downs in front of a crowd that included former President Donald Trump.

‘I about fell down in the paddock when he hit the wire,’ winning trainer Eric Reed said. ‘I about passed out.’

Some got a glimpse of the former President through a short break in the curtains and a rumbled passed through the crowd.

Some cheered, some booed as the former president was whisked up to the high-priced clubhouses on the upper floors.

Then the curtains parted and everyone went on their way.

The event at the historic Churchill Downs track in Louisville is titled ‘MAGA, Again!’ and features a cast of well-known figures from Trump world, including former Florida Secretary of State and Trump impeachment lawyer Pam Bondi.

Also listed as members of the board of directors for the $75,000-per-plate event – $150,000 per couple – are former Trump acting director of national intelligence Ric Grinell and former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. and a former Trump campaign official, is listed as finance chair. 

Trump is listed as a ‘special guest’ in the invite, which was tweeted out by Trump chronicler Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.  

The event puts Trump in the political backyard of McConnell, who said after Jan. 6th that Trump was ‘responsible’ for the Capitol riot. The two men have broken off communications since, and Trump has repeatedly attacked McConnell in public statements, last year calling him an ‘unsmiling political hack.’

Leon celebrates as he rides Rich Strike, who was an 80-to-1 underdog

Leon celebrates as he rides Rich Strike, who was an 80-to-1 underdog

Rich Strike with Sonny Leon up wins the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby followed by Epicenter with Joel Rosario

Rich Strike with Sonny Leon up wins the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby followed by Epicenter with Joel Rosario

But McConnell said in a recent interview he would ‘absolutely’ vote for Trump.  

McConnell opposed Trump’s second impeachment even as he gave a speech blasting his conduct. 

McConnell has been a regular at the Derby, and last year put out a sentimental YouTube video celebrating its history and traditional mint juleps. 

Trump has his own history with the Derby. He attended in 1999 along with Melania Trump.

Last year, Trump drew attention when he labeled winning horse Medina Spirit a ‘junky’ after the Thoroughbred tested positive for betamethasone, a banned substance, before being disqualified. Trump connected it to his attacks on the Biden administration. 

‘So now even our Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is a junky. This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country. The whole world is laughing at us as we go to hell on our Borders, our fake Presidential Election, and everywhere else!’ Trump wrote. 

Longshot and final entry Rich Strike has crossed the finish line first in the 148th Kentucky Derby, outracing favorite Epicenter and Zandon.

The horse entered the field on Friday after Ethereal Road was scratched and started outside but charged down the stretch to pass the leaders and run the 1 1/4 mile in 2:02.61.

At a press briefing Saturday, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear brushed off a question about former President Donald Trump´s rumored appearance at Churchill Downs, noting that Derby Day is ‘a day of festivity, where hopefully we put any divisions aside.’

Ticket prices are $75,000 per person

Ticket prices are $75,000 per person

‘Hopefully, we focus more on the race in front of us than any races in our future,’ Beshear added. ‘It´s a chance for everybody to see that Kentucky is welcoming to anyone who wants to come to this track, former president included.’

The Kentucky Derby is packed to full capacity after two years of COVID restrictions as glamorous racegoers flood the historic Churchill Downs racing complex.

About 150,000 spectators, dressed to the nines and fortified by mint juleps served in souvenir glasses, donned to the Louisville racetrack to enjoy the 14 races taking place on Saturday, including the 148th Kentucky Derby.

The race, which will see 20 three-year-old thoroughbreds run one and a quarter miles, is set to begin at 6.57pm eastern time. 

Zandon, breaking from the No. 10 post, was named the early 3-1 favorite. The dark bay colt is trained by Chad Brown, who is looking for his first Derby win after six losses. It will be ridden by jockey Flavien Prat, who won the 2019 Derby aboard Country House.

Kentucky-bred Epicenter, running out of the No. 3 position, was the second choice in the morning line at 7-2. The horse will be ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, who won the 2013 Run for the Roses aboard Orb.

An Epicenter victory would be monumental for trainer Steve Asmussen who won more horse races than any other trainer in North America, but hasn’t managed to secure a Derby win. His Kentucky Derby record is 0-for-23.

Saturday’s race comes after the past two Derby winners were disqualified. The 2021 winner, Medina Spirit, was posthumously stripped of its victory after the horse tested positive for a steroid, betamethasone, that is legal in Kentucky but banned on race day. Famed trainer Bob Baffert denies the claims, but his career lies in ruins as a result.

Runner-up Mandaloun has since been declared the victor.

In 2019, winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interference and Country House wore the garland of red roses. 

The Kentucky Derby is the first of America’s three Triple Crown competitions. It is followed by the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland on May 21 and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York on June 11.

The Kentucky Derby is packed to full capacity after two years of COVID-19 restrictions as glamorous racegoers flood the historic Churchill Downs racing complex

The Kentucky Derby is packed to full capacity after two years of COVID-19 restrictions as glamorous racegoers flood the historic Churchill Downs racing complex

About 150,000 spectators, dressed to the nines and fortified by mint juleps served in souvenir glasses, donned to the Louisville racetrack to enjoy the 14 races taking place on Saturday

About 150,000 spectators, dressed to the nines and fortified by mint juleps served in souvenir glasses, donned to the Louisville racetrack to enjoy the 14 races taking place on Saturday

Two fans sporting colorful jackets fist bump at the Churchill Downs on Saturday

Two fans sporting colorful jackets fist bump at the Churchill Downs on Saturday

Fans enjoy themselves in the paddock area at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Fans enjoy themselves in the paddock area at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Fans pose for a picture in the grandstand prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby

Fans pose for a picture in the grandstand prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby

A race fan walks to the grandstand before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race on Saturday

A race fan walks to the grandstand before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race on Saturday

Attendees carry alcoholic beverages while walking through the grandstand at Churchill Downs on Friday

Attendees carry alcoholic beverages while walking through the grandstand at Churchill Downs on Friday

Jockey Mitchell Murrill gives a high-five to Erickson, 6, from Minnesota, at the 148th Kentucky Derby

Jockey Mitchell Murrill gives a high-five to Erickson, 6, from Minnesota, at the 148th Kentucky Derby

Jockeys ride around their horses before the start of the first race on the day of the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

Jockeys ride around their horses before the start of the first race on the day of the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

Racegoers returned to the Churchill Downs on Saturday, donning their most colorful outfits and head-turning hats.

After being postponed until Labor Day weekend in 2020 and held without spectators and then run last May with limited capacity, this year’s Run for the Roses is being held without pandemic restrictions. 

That includes facemasks, which were hard to find as race fans packed the paddock area at the historic track. 

As usual, women sported big, colorful hats and fascinators while men wore seersucker suits and other creative attire as cigar smoke wafted through the cool air under a cloudy sky.

Kentucky’s trademark bourbon flowed as well, particularly in mint juleps that filled many glasses.  

A woman wearing a blue floral dress, bedazzled sunglasses and a giant floral hat is pictured at Saturday's race

A woman wearing a blue floral dress, bedazzled sunglasses and a giant floral hat is pictured at Saturday’s race

Fans watch one of the 14 races taking place at the Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday

Fans watch one of the 14 races taking place at the Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday

Actor Walter Maxfield Jones is seen in suit smoking a cigar and drinking champagne at the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Actor Walter Maxfield Jones is seen in suit smoking a cigar and drinking champagne at the 2022 Kentucky Derby

A group of revelers carrying booze show of their Kentucky Derby race cards

A group of revelers carrying booze show of their Kentucky Derby race cards

A woman, Tamara Berlin-Imperato, sports a big pink hat while attending the 2022 Kentucky Derby

A woman, Tamara Berlin-Imperato, sports a big pink hat while attending the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Fans talk with one another in the grandstand prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby

Fans talk with one another in the grandstand prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby

Fans cheer as they watch race 2 prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Fans cheer as they watch race 2 prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday

A woman and her family are pictured in their Derby Day attire

A woman and her family are pictured in their Derby Day attire

Two Derby attendees are seen sporting giant horse hats at Saturday's race

Two Derby attendees are seen sporting giant horse hats at Saturday’s race

Hayley Butler smokes a cigar in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Hayley Butler smokes a cigar in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

The festivities, which began Friday, saw attendees showcasing eye-popping accessories as they gear up to watch what has been dubbed ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports.’

Spectators were seen wearing elaborate hats and outfits, taking selfies with horses, drinking and smoking cigars as Saturday’s races were underway. 

The event housed notable celebrities, politicians and a fan sporting a tyrannosaurus rex costume were among those attending the annual event.

The red carpet saw the likes of Mario Lopez and former members of NSYNC, The Courier Journal reported.

Actor Walter Maxfield Jones was pictured in a gray suit smoking a cigar and double fisting alcohol, with a bottle of champagne in one hand and what appears to be a cocktail in the other.

Attendees are seen posing for pictures at the 148th Kentucky Derby

Attendees are seen posing for pictures at the 148th Kentucky Derby

Race fans look at their racing programs in the plaza at Churchill Downs before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

Race fans look at their racing programs in the plaza at Churchill Downs before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

Three men sporting colorful suits smile for a photo at Saturday's Kentucky Derby

Three men sporting colorful suits smile for a photo at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

A woman poses with a horse mural in the paddock area at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

A woman poses with a horse mural in the paddock area at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

A spectator takes a selfie with a horse at Churchill Downs on Saturday

A spectator takes a selfie with a horse at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Spectators walk the grounds prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby

Spectators walk the grounds prior to the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby

A woman sits on an Old Forester bourbon barrel holding a #KYDerby sign

A woman sits on an Old Forester bourbon barrel holding a #KYDerby sign

A smiling woman is pictured at Saturday's race in a large floral hat

A smiling woman is pictured at Saturday’s race in a large floral hat

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also walked the red carpet with his family, telling the news outlet he was picking Epicenter to take the W this year. 

The governor also discussed why the Derby was so important to the people of Kentucky.

‘The great thing about the Kentucky Derby is that we welcome everybody into Kentucky,’ he said. ‘This is a day of festivity, where hopefully we put any divisions aside.

‘Hopefully we focus more on the race in front of us than any races in our future.’

Unlike Beshear, the t-rex, sporting a name tag that read Rexy, didn’t have much to say as he took its stride down the red carpet. 

The dinosaur did, however, shake his head when asked if this was his first Derby.

U.S. Transportation Secretary and former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg was also seen at the race. He was seen visiting trainer Dale Romans’ barn with his mother.

Former President Donald Trump is also expected to make an appearance at the annual Run for the Roses.

Trump was scheduled to attend a super PAC fundraiser at the complex Saturday, but has yet to be seen. 

Fans walk in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Fans walk in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

A woman wearing a purple floral hat and drinking a cocktail fortified by mint juleps is seen at Saturday's race

A woman wearing a purple floral hat and drinking a cocktail fortified by mint juleps is seen at Saturday’s race

Fans sit in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Fans sit in the infield before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Race fans talk in a concourse before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday

Race fans talk in a concourse before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday

A woman is pictured donning a white, pink and purple floral hat

A woman is pictured donning a white, pink and purple floral hat

Josh Cito, of Denver, cheers on his horse in the fifth race of the day at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Josh Cito, of Denver, cheers on his horse in the fifth race of the day at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Fans are seen smiling and talking to each other in the grandstand on Saturday

Fans are seen smiling and talking to each other in the grandstand on Saturday

The red rose garland awarded to the winning horse is brought into the Churchill Downs plaza

The red rose garland awarded to the winning horse is brought into the Churchill Downs plaza

A group of men sporting colorful suits are seen conversing and checking their cell phones at the Churchill Downs racing complex

A group of men sporting colorful suits are seen conversing and checking their cell phones at the Churchill Downs racing complex

While several big names are turning up for Saturday’s festivities, the 148th Derby is missing horse racing’s household name: Bob Baffert.

Baffert, a Hall of Fame trainer with a record-tying six victories, was banned by Churchill Downs this year and next after Medina Spirit flunked a post-race drug test last year.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission also suspended the Hall-of-Fame trainer from all state racing facilities for 90 days and fined him $7,500. 

However, his shadow still looms large over the Twin Spires as two colts previously trained by Baffert will be in the starting gate: Messier, the early 8-1 third choice named for hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier, and 12-1 shot Taiba. 

Taiba, the least experienced colt in the field, has the most experienced jockey on his back in 56-year-old Mike Smith. He could break Bill Shoemaker’s record as the oldest winning jockey. 

Walter Maxfield Jones takes a selfie at the Kentucky Derby

Walter Maxfield Jones takes a selfie at the Kentucky Derby

A woman sporting a feather hat is seen reading her racing program

A woman sporting a feather hat is seen reading her racing program

A fan wearing a hat featuring a horse mobile is seen sitting in the grandstand on Saturday

A fan wearing a hat featuring a horse mobile is seen sitting in the grandstand on Saturday

Cheering fans watch the fifth race of the day on Saturday

Cheering fans watch the fifth race of the day on Saturday

A young fan watches the horse in the paddock before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

A young fan watches the horse in the paddock before the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby

The track is groomed before the first race of the day at Churchill Downs on Saturday

The track is groomed before the first race of the day at Churchill Downs on Saturday

A man wearing a bunny hat is pictured at the Churchill Downs on Saturday

A man wearing a bunny hat is pictured at the Churchill Downs on Saturday

A woman in a floral print dress, sporting a matching hair piece, is seen on her phone ahead of Saturday's big race

A woman in a floral print dress, sporting a matching hair piece, is seen on her phone ahead of Saturday’s big race

Leave a Comment