Eric Reed living his – and his father’s – Derby dream

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Two weeks after Rich Strike’s shocking 80-1 upset victory in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), his trainer is scheduled to saddle his first starter at historic Pimlico Race Course in a 37-year career.

Eric Reed, who lived every trainer’s dream when Rich Strike won the Run for the Roses following a 15th-to-first stretch surge, will be on unfamiliar ground when he saddles Richard Dawson’s colt for a start in the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21. However, the 58-year-old trainer does have a family connection to Pimlico and the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Although W. E. “Smiley” Adams saddled Master Derby for a victory in the 1975 Preakness, it was Reed’s father, Herbert, who was involved in the early training and development of the son of Dust Commander.

“My dad was orphaned, and he was raised by Mack Miller, the Hall of Fame trainer. My dad, when he got married, had me at 16,” Reed said Monday morning from his Mercury Equine Center near Lexington, KY.

“He was an exercise rider and became a trainer. He was a very good horseman. He was working for Golden Chance Farm – Mrs. (Verna) Lehmann. He developed all kinds of big horses. He would not travel to the races. She would beg him every year, ‘Take them to Florida. You’ve done all the work.’”

“My dad would not leave the family behind,” he added. “He turned down the opportunity most trainers live for – fame, fortune, et cetera – to take care of his family. This Derby that happened to me, having my dad there, was better than winning the race, in all honesty.”

Meanwhile, Rich Strike has returned to Mercury Equine Center for a few days of R & R before resuming training for the Preakness

“He’s just had a couple days off, walking, grazing, getting bathed, just getting over the race, getting his mind right. He’s seemed to come out of the race really good. We’ll have him on the track in the morning,” Reed said. “If things go well this week in the next couple days, I’ll go back to Churchill, gallop him a few days and maybe give him a little workout Monday or Tuesday to stretch his legs. Then, if all goes well, we’ll head to Pimlico.”

  • Rich Strike after winning the Kentucky Derby. Reed is second from right. Photo Coady Photography.