Who is Sonny Leon? Jockey notches shocking victory at Kentucky Derby with 80-1 Rich Strike

Well, that was unexpected.

Rich Strike secured one of the most shocking victories in Kentucky Derby history Saturday evening, chasing down favorites Epicenter and Zandon to win the 148th edition of the Run for the Roses.

The horse was a late addition to the field, replacing Ethereal Road, who was scratched Friday morning. At 80-1, Rich Strike had the longest odds in the field Saturday. The 3-year-old colt’s victory is the second-biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history, bested only by Donerail, who won the 1913 race at 91-1.

MORE: Full results, order of finish in 2022 Kentucky Derby 

As Rich Strike crossed the finish line, jockey Sonny Leon flashed a series of energetic fist pumps. Leon, 32, seemed as unlikely a choice to claim victory as his humble steed.

The Venezuelan has claimed over a dozen stakes wins, according the Daily Racing Form’s Nicole Russo. He has shined in smaller competitions over the course of his career, claiming back-to-back Best of Ohio Endurance crowns with Forewarned.

But his accomplishments pale in comparison to those of the sport’s biggest names, such as Joel Rosario, Irad Ortiz Jr. and Flavien Prat. Saturday’s race was Leon’s first Derby; he has earned plaudits across Ohio but hadn’t quite established himself on the national level before Saturday.

Sporting bright red-and-white colors, Leon and Rich Strike got free inside, slipping past Epicenter and Zandon in deep stretch to secure the momentous victory.

“When I was in the last 70 yards, I said, ‘I think I got this race,'” Leon said.

Leon became just the second Venezuelan jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Gustavo Avila rode Canonero II to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1971. Leon is among the most accomplished Venezuelan riders to come to the U.S., securing well over 200 wins in his career, according to Ultimas Noticias’ Ivan Roa Frias.

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