Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of horsemen have held dreams of Kentucky Derby greatness throughout their careers. Only 148 times have breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys been able to have the dreams become reality. On May 7, an Oklahoman was added to the list of dream believers.

Rick Dawson of Edmond, Okla., who owns and races horses as Red TR-Racing, scored the biggest win of his brief racing career when Rich Strike, at odds of 80-1, won the 148th Kentucky Derby by three-quarters of a length. Trained by Eric Reed, jockey Sonny Leon put a brilliant ride on the feisty Rich Strike to thread through traffic in the stretch, navigating from the back of the pack, to defeat 19 rivals and win the most prestigious horse race in North America.

Dawson, a semi-retired oil/gas businessman, was reached in Kentucky, less than 24 hours from winning the derby. He has only been an owner for a few years and counts Rich Strike as his only active horse. He started owning horses while on a fact-finding mission with another prominent breeder and owner from Oklahoma.

“I ran into Everett Dobson at Oak Tree National, where I live in Edmond, and started picking his brain about owning horses. I always liked going to the track, I’ve been doing that for 30-40 years. There is a great thrill in racing. I enjoy the handicapping, the studying, the problem-solving in wagering. I thought it was time to maybe own a horse. Everett invited me to a sale with him in Lexington, Ky., where I was able to shadow him and pick his brain about everything. When I left, I had become a small minority owner in five horses. I went there to observe and came away an owner.

“After a while I realized that if it was worth owning a horse, it was worth owning the horse 100-percent. I got out of the partnerships I was in and refocused.”
Reed bases his operation at his training center in Lexington and normally races around the Midwest. How did an Oklahoman get involved with a trainer in another time zone?

“I spent about three years on a job for my business in Kentucky a few years ago and an acquaintance introduced me to Eric. I really liked his smaller operation, which fit my needs better. He is very transparent in the way he does things, he is always willing to talk and continues to teach me about horses. He treats his horses right and puts them first and that’s the way we approach things with Rich Strike.”

Rich Strike became the first horse that was ever claimed out of a race, to then go on and win the Kentucky Derby. Dawson and Reed claimed the colt for $30,000 out of a race at Churchill Downs on Sept. 17, 2021.

“I am a Keen Ice fan. He is still a new stallion but I’ve always liked him and he is the sire of Rich Strike. I was looking at the Churchill past performances for the Sept. 17 race and noticed he had a lot of great workouts but had a poor turf racing debut at Ellis Park in Kentucky on Aug. 15. I talked with Eric about the horse and he agreed that there was something there we needed to consider so we dropped the $30,000 claim for him, and won a five or six-way shake to get him.”

A “shake” takes place when more than one trainer is trying to claim the same horse out of a race. Each trainer is assigned a number and a draw of numbered pills takes place out of a shaker, to determine the new owner and trainer. The good fortune for the connections of Rich Strike started on the night they claimed the colt.

Rich Strike usually uses a late rally in his races but had only managed to win one of his seven career events before his score in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Dawson credits the superb ride by Leon, in addition to the race setting up perfectly to the horse’s style.

“The race played into his wheelhouse perfectly,” Dawson noted. “It was exactly what we needed. The pace-setters were running early fractions like they were in a six-furlong sprint, not the 1-1/4 miles Kentucky Derby. Sonny put on a super ride.”

The Kentucky Derby field is determined by points accumulated in a long series of races that begins in the fall and continues to the final weeks before the race. One of the races considered by Reed and Dawson for Rich Strike was the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December 2021. It was in Dawson’s backyard and he looked forward to starting his horse in front of his family and friends but it was not to be.

“He had a cough, not too serious, but significant enough that it wasn’t the right move to ship him from Reed’s training center in Kentucky to Oklahoma City for the Springboard. So, we skipped the Remington race and went to Fair Grounds in New Orleans later in December. That is where we met Epicenter in the Gun Runner Stakes. He beat us by 14 lengths in that race but we managed to pass him yesterday!”

Epicenter was the final horse Rich Strike passed in the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby, forcing the winner of the Louisiana Derby to be second in the race.

Dawson is a regular player at Thunder Roadhouse, Remington Park’s off-track wagering site in Oklahoma City. He said his phone blew up after the derby win with his pals from the establishment texting and calling.

“I think they knocked the roof off the place when we won,” Dawson said. “I heard quite a few of them made bets on Rich Strike and have been paid very well.”

As for future plans for Rich Strike, the rest of the Triple Crown awaits. There is also a race that Dawson has marked on his calendar that might work for the colt later in the year.

“We are hoping Rich Strike continues to be healthy and successful in this Triple Crown run. If he can do that, we will also be thinking about a Breeders’ Cup opportunity later in the year. The Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park in late September falls into a perfect spot on the calendar for us but that is a long way down the road.”

Rich Strike provided Dawson with just his third racing win as a solitary owner. The dream-like Kentucky Derby being one of those three triumphs.

Rich Strike, colt by Keen Ice from the Smart Strike mare Gold Strike is expected to continue on the Triple Crown trail, racing next in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, May 21. Remington Park will feature that event via simulcast.

Tracked by more than 170,000 fans on Facebook and 10,600 Twitter followers, Remington Park has provided more than $290 Million to the State of Oklahoma general education fund since the opening of the casino in 2005. Located at the junction of Interstates 35 & 44, in the heart of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, Remington Park will feature the $1,102,440 Heritage Place Futurity and the $250,000 Debbie Schauf Remington Park Championship on May 28. Simulcast racing is featured daily at Remington Park where the casino is always open! Visit remingtonpark.com for more information.