Sports

For NBC’s Kenny Rice, Rich Strike’s Ky Derby is an all-timer

If you’ve watched NBC Sports declares of main horse races just like the Kentucky Derby, you understand that Kenny Rice incessantly interviews the successful instructor simplest seconds after a race is administered.

That does now not happen by means of happenstance. “You kind of try to handicap these (races) yourself,” Rice stated Wednesday.

That’s why, for the 148th operating of the Kentucky Derby, Rice situated himself at the 3rd flooring of the Churchill Downs grandstand. He did so that you could be just about running shoes Steve Asmussen and Chad Brown, the conditioners of Derby favorites Epicenter and Zandon, respectively.

Deep into the stretch power, with Epicenter and Zandon combating for the lead, Rice’s race handicapping regarded impeccable.

And then it wasn’t.

As you smartly know, a historical lengthy shot, the 80-1 Rich Strike, made a startling, past due surge alongside the rail and gave the 2022 Kentucky Derby a winner all however no person noticed coming.

Rich Strike’s unanticipated victory used to be why NBC’s British import Nick Luck, now not Lexington’s Rice, wound up interviewing the Derby’s successful connections of instructor Eric Reed and proprietor Richard Dawson.

“Basically, I was up there with John Calipari when I should have been on the floor with Shaheen Holloway,” Rice says, using a school basketball metaphor. “I’ve got to say, I never saw Rich Strike coming.”

Rice says he thinks the country sees Rich Strike’s Derby win as a bigger disappointed than the 2022 NCAA Tournament stunner when No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s, coached by means of Holloway, beat No. 2 seed Kentucky, directed by means of Calipari.

“I will say in Kentucky, we might say Saint Peter’s (was the bigger upset),” Rice says. “I think the rest of America, they might say Rich Strike (was the more unlikely outcome). If you add it up, 80-1 odds are greater than what the Peacocks (who were 18-point underdogs) faced.”

Like Rice, many entered the 148th Kentucky Derby considering the most-likely dominant tale would both be:

A.) Epicenter in spite of everything giving Asmussen, the winningest instructor in North American historical past (9,746 race wins), a Derby victory after the preliminary 23 horses he saddled within the Run for the Roses did not win.

B). Zandon giving Brown, the four-time Eclipse-Award-winning instructor (2016-2019), his first Derby conquest.

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Before unleashing the livid stretch run that gained the 148th Kentucky Derby, 80-1 lengthy shot Rich Strike, with jockey Sonny Leon up, used to be tucked again within the box as he made his method round flip 4 at Churchill Downs. Tim Broekema tim.broekema@gmail.com

Instead of an interview with the Derby-winning instructor, alternatively, Rice as a substitute wound up preferably situated to look at two of the highest running shoes within the U.S. as they persevered an surprisingly sharp unhappiness.

“(Asmussen) had his family up there, his boys with him,” says Rice. “His brother, Cash (Asmussen), who was a great jockey, in Europe especially, (was with him).”

Once the race resulted in that previous, acquainted Derby unhappiness for Steve Asumssen, “he just kind of had a little grimace on his face,” Rice says. “He just shook his head.”

As for Brown, “it was the same,” Rice says. “There was no visible frustration. I think, like everybody else, they were just surprised (by Rich Strike’s win). But these guys know the deal. They know crazy things can happen in horse racing.”

Kenny Rice interviewing Bob Baffert after 2015 Belmont Stakes
NBC Sports reporter and Lexington resident Kenny Rice interviewed instructor Bob Baffert after the Baffert-conditioned American Pharoah clinched the 2015 Triple Crown by means of successful the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. NBC Sports

Rice says that ever since NBC didn’t point out the again tale of Funny Cide, owned by means of a gaggle of buddies who had long past to highschool in combination, on its broadcast of the 2003 Kentucky Derby — simplest to peer the pony win the race — that the community has attempted to ensure that each horse entered in a Derby a minimum of “gets two or three sentences” on its pre-race display.

For Rich Strike, Rice says the tale of the 2016 barn hearth led to by means of a lightning strike that devastated instructor Reed’s operation, killing 23 horses, used to be the principal pre-race narrative known by means of NBC.

“Not for a story, but a couple of sentences in the broadcast,” Rice says.

Sonny Leon, the unheralded jockey who would give Rich Strike a masterful trip in his first Kentucky Derby, used to be little-known to NBC.

“The morning of the race, we always have a meeting with Larry Collmus, who is calling the race, and we go over the pronunciation of everybody’s name,” Rice says. “Sonny Leon comes up. We’re asking around, ‘Does anyone know much about him?’

“We vaguely knew of Sonny Leon from Thistledown (a track near Cleveland, Ohio). But nobody could really say for sure if they had ever interviewed him. And our staff, we’ve covered a lot of races and none of us ever remembered talking to Sonny Leon.”

A Floyd County local and a former sportscaster (1980 thru 1999) at Lexington tv station WTVQ, Rice, 65, has now been running as a reporter on NBC horse racing declares for the previous 23 years.

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Kenny Rice within the modifying room at Lexington’s WTVQ-TV in 1982. A local of Floyd County, Rice labored at Channel 36 from 1980 thru 1999. David Perry Staff record photograph

In that point, the 2015 Belmont Stakes, when American Pharoah clinched the primary Triple Crown since 1978, is the best race he’s coated, Rice says.

The exhilaration of Rich Strike’s not likely win and the compelling again tales of his connections have moved the 2022 Kentucky Derby into the highest 5 of his NBC generation greatest-hits record, Rice says.

“There’s just been so much controversy, disqualifications, around the Derby the past few years,” Rice says. “(Rich Strike) is a story that all of us that cover racing, we probably all needed.”

Related tales from Lexington Herald Leader

Mark Story has labored within the Lexington Herald-Leader sports activities division since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports activities columnist since 2001. I’ve coated each Kentucky-Louisville soccer recreation since 1994, each UK-U of L basketball recreation however 3 since 1996-97 and each Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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