Photo: Jockey Sonny Leon, on Rich Strike, wins 2022 Kentucky Derby, by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
As an investment, race horses don't make much sense. They're wildly expensive to train and care for. And most purses -- even if winning -- barely cover a few months of vet bills, feed, exercise, shelter.
Forget about putting a nickel or two in your pocket.
It's a loser's bet nine times out of 10 -- my record is 100 percent upside down on five thoroughbreds.
But it's that chance, however small, which keeps the money flowing in, from owners who can't stop dreaming about hitting it big.
That's why Saturday's stunner -- an 80-to-1 starter running away with the roses in Kentucky -- likely will supercharge interest among fans about becoming owners.
I'm not here to suggest you reconsider. Just keep both eyes open if you're planning to empty your wallet this way, because turning a profit is about as likely as getting a Derby entry at the very last minute, as Rich Strike did on Friday.
"We found out about 30 seconds before the deadline on Friday," owner Rick Dawson told The Associated Press. "It put us in the race, and, really, we always felt if we just got in we've got a shot."
The 3-year-old chestnut colt's owner surely wasn't under the flawed impression that he was buying a piece of history when he submitted a $30,000 claiming ticket before an otherwise ho-hum maiden (nonwinners) race last September at Churchill Downs. Rich Strike, however, surely wowed his soon-to-be owner, crushing the 2nd place finisher by more than 17 lengths that day.
Fast forward to the first Saturday of May, in Louisville. There he was, Rich Strike, loading into the far outside stall, wearing No. 21. On his back sat jockey Sonny Leon, who'd never scored a mount in America's most prestigious horse race. Rich Strike's trainer, Eric Reed, was new to all this pageantry as well.
What could go right went exactly right for Rich Strike. The gates rocketed open, bells tolling. The runners charged ahead, seeking prime position before the first turn. And the front of the herd was blazing. The perfect setup for horses considered closers -- content to stay back, let the leaders tire themselves, then summon the strength to breeze by, in deep stretch.
The course Rich Strike carved over 10 furlongs (1.25 miles) will be relived for many years to come. The horse that looked like an also-ran for much of the circuit effectively came from nowhere, taking advantage of lanes as they materialized, dodging and darting around the crowded field, shocking the world -- the second-longest shot to win in the 148-race history of the Kentucky Derby (Donerail, 1913), paying $163.60 on a $2 win wager.
"I about fell down in the paddock when he hit the wire," Reed said. "I about passed out."
"I feel like the luckiest man alive," Dawson said.
I couldn't speak. Or scream. I might've passed out, too, had I held a cashable superfecta, which paid a staggering $321,500.10. On a four-quarter bet! Talk about ROI!
I stared at the TV for what felt like forever, wondering how this horse made impossible possible. $30k claimers are NOT supposed to win the Kentucky Derby. Not against these kind of odds. Against this kind of quality. The $1.86 million winner's check is proof positive that it indeed happened.
But that's what hooked me to try my hand at the game. The chance. Skill can take a horse, its connections and bettors a long way. Luck is the x-factor. Only need to catch it once to make a lifetime of difference.
Rich Strike found that out this weekend. His life -- and many others -- will never be the same.
I won't say never again. I've done the math, though. Maybe it'll work out better for you.
That's my take. What's yours? Fire off your comments!