Archives for May 2022


Preakness week is a time of excitement in the world of American horse racing, as leg two of the Triple Crown showcase approaches.  It is also an appropriate time to recognize the out-of-the spotlight organizations that do such humane work with retired racehorses, often saving them from grim fates and finding them new homes and occupations as sport or pleasure horses.  Take a look at two of them that have exemplary records of achievement, one from the world of Standardbred racing and the other from Thoroughbreds.

Hanover Shoe Farms in Hanover, Pennsylvania, is the longtime leader in breeding trotters and pacers, living up to its motto of “the greatest name in harness racing.”  The farm’s stallion portfolio traditionally includes some of the premier studs, its broodmare band is always top flight, and their progeny perennially win some of the biggest races.  What the farm is less known for is the exemplary way it treats its horses that are too old to be productive as breeding stock.  As of February 2022, for example, it had 126 retired mares in its care, and each mare receives lifetime retirement at the farm regardless of whether she earned $300 or $300,000.  Hanover Shoe Farms even lists each of its retired mares on its website. See their names by clicking here.

On the Thoroughbred front, Old Friends farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, is one of many homes for retired racehorses. Old Friends specializes in taking in horses with notable achievements. During Kentucky Derby week 2022, Chuck Culpepper of the Washington Post wrote an article about the farm and its 19-year history.  In its early days, its founder Michael Blowen had lots of farm debt and scarce cash contributions to cover it.  He relates the story of how, in this time of need, a couple from North Dakota visited the farm and said they wanted to make a donation but forgot their checkbook.  Blowen said he had heard this before.  Several weeks later, the couple sent Blowen a check…for $500,000. Culpepper’s article can be read by clicking here.


The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has accredited 82 organizations, listed here.

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The metrics for the 2022 Kentucky Derby reflect a return to normalcy after the pandemic-affected editions of 2020 and 2021. 

Attendance was 147,294 compared to intentionally limited attendance of 51,838 in 2021 and no attendance in 2020.  Record attendance was 170,513 in 2015.

All-sources betting handle (on-track and off-track) for the Kentucky Derby card: $273.8 million, a 9.1% increase over the previous record of $250.9 million in 2019.

The Kentucky Oaks on Friday drew 100,188 fans and had a record all-sources handle of $74.6 million, beating the previous record in 2019 by 24%.

All-sources handle on the Kentucky Derby race only: $179 million, an 8% increase over the previous record of $166.5 million in 2019.

All-sources handle for Kentucky Derby week: $391.8 million, a 14.2% increase over the previous record of $343 million in 2019.

Total audience delivery (TV + streaming) peaked at 19.0 million people from 7-7:15 p.m. Total audience delivery averaged 16.6 million viewers. The TV-only audience averaged 15.8 million viewers, which made the Kentucky Derby the most watched NBC program since Super Bowl Sunday. The NBC household rating for the telecast from 6:31 – 7:21 pm was 7.7 with an audience share of 24%.

The NBC overhead replay of the race on social media is the highest ever for the Kentucky Derby. It has been viewed 36 million times and counting. It is the most viewed moment for NBC Sports’ TikTok account (for all sports) with at least 11.6 million views.


Thinking back over the sports events I’ve been privileged to see in person or on television, six come to mind as monumental upsets, without hyperbole.  They are not even arguable:

Cassius Clay TKOs Sonny Liston to win the World’s Heavyweight Championship, 1964
USA Hockey wins the Olympic Gold, the “Miracle on Ice,” 1980
Villanova beats Georgetown to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, 1985
Buster Douglas KOs Mike Tyson to win the World’s Heavyweight Championship, 1990
Mine That Bird wins the Kentucky Derby, 2009
Rich Strike wins the Kentucky Derby, 2022

All of these were supposedly David vs. Goliath situations, although in retrospect Cassius Clay turned Muhammed Ali became a great champion.  With hindsight, in the other contests the underdogs were seemingly hopeless longshots that charitably had a puncher’s chance, though the jury is still out on Rich Strike.

I can’t say that Rich Strike winning the Kentucky Derby is any more of a monumental upset than, say, the Miracle on Ice, but it ranks right up there with the greatest sports upsets of all time.  Prior to the Kentucky Derby, the colt had won one race from seven starts, was claimed for $30,000, had pedestrian speed figures and lost five races in a row, was trained by an individual that one does not associate with premier racing, and was ridden by a jockey that had never won a graded stake. The day before the Derby he was riding at Belterra Park in Cincinnati and had only Rich Strike as a mount on the Derby Day card.  Moreover, Rich Strike gained entry to the Derby field when D. Wayne Lukas scratched Ethereal Road right before the deadline on Friday.

All of this makes for a narrative for the ages.  For years to come, the story will be told about the day Rich Strike and his connections bested the deep-pocketed owners and Hall of Fame trainers with huge stables of racehorses.  It is so rich in irony and improbability that the story won’t have to be embellished.

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