Keeping Score: Upset for the ages

Published: 5/13/2022 6:17:13 PM
Modified: 5/13/2022 6:15:35 PM

Good morning!
At Churchill Downs last Saturday, a plodding three-year-old colt named Rich Strike beat a fleet-footed field of sleek thoroughbreds to win the 148th Kentucky Derby. The little-known steed paid $163.60 on a $2 ticket.

It was the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare. While the frontrunners set suicidal fractions on the backstretch, Rich Strike’s jockey Sonny Leon had his colt settled in last place rounding the far turn. Leon hails from a two-bit track in Ohio called Mahoning Valley Race Course.

Bettors were torn between four colts, undefeated Taiba and stablemate Messier from Santa Anita Park, Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter saddled by Steve Asmussen and Chad Brown’s Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon. Both trainers were desperately seeking their first Kentucky Derby win.

The two West Coast horses were frauds. Taiba cost $1.7 million at auction and finished 12th. Messier was gassed at the ¾ pole and finished 15th, 20 lengths behind the winner.

The race unfolded as some expected. “Epicenter and Zandon, these two stride for stride!” declared track announcer Larry Collmus. “Down to the wire Epicenter and Zandon!”

Then he saw the fast-closing interloper on the rail and yelled over the din, “Rich Strike is coming up on the inside! Oh my goodness…!”

Epicenter and Zandon had flattened like flags in a wind storm, leaving Rich Strike to pick up the pieces. The colt’s first win in six starts reaped a $1.7 million share of the purse.

“I about fell down in the paddock,” gasped trainer Eric Reed, who claimed Rich Strike from trainer Joe Sharp in September for $30,000.

The second leg of the Triple Crown is a week from today, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Maryland. Rich Strike won’t be running, it was confirmed on Thursday. He’ll be back for the Belmont. Don’t expect much.

There’s a saying in horse racing, if you miss the wedding, don’t go to the funeral. In the words of Greenfield’s inimitable handicapper John Dobrydnio, “You won’t find that horse again with a search warrant.”


Prompted by a recent item about UMass softball, reader Roger Ward wrote to say that one of the program’s all-time best is orthopedic surgeon Sherri Kuchinskas who works at Cooley-Dickinson’s sports medicine offices in West Hatfield.

While she was at Wyoming Valley West High School near Allentown, Kuchinskas had reconstructive surgery on both knees. UMass coach Elaine Sortino was undeterred by those physical ailments and recruited her to be her catcher and cleanup hitter at UMass.

In 1992, she helped the Minutewomen make the College World Series and beat UConn (twice), Florida State and Long Beach State before losing to UCLA in the loser’s bracket final.

In 1993, she batted .469 with a .549 on-base percentage. Both are the third-highest in team history.

Best of all, wrote Ward, “She’s an exceptional doctor and a really nice person.”


Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to podcaster Ike Taylor on Pitt’s Kenny Pickett: “This dude loves football, man. He’s not a clock puncher.”

The Steelers will never live down the 1983 draft when they took defensive tackle Gabe Rivera of Texas Tech, which opened the door for the Dolphins to take Dan Marino. Rivera hailed from Texas Tech and lasted one NFL season. Marino was named the 1984 MVP and had a Hall of Fame career.

The Steelers mistakenly thought four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw could still play. The 34-year-old Bradshaw had injured his elbow late season against the Jets. Three months later, he checked into a Shreveport hospital for surgery, but Bradshaw’s career was over. He played one game and retired before training camp the following summer.

When Bradshaw checked into the Shreveport hospital he’d done so under an assumed name, Thomas Brady.


East Longmeadow native Ken Dilanian works for NBC News as a national security and intelligence reporter. Last month, he spoke at the Deford Awards ceremony in Williamstown. The event is Dick Quinn’s thank you to the Williams College students who volunteer to help him run the sports information department.

Quinn doesn’t have one of those fancy “Associate Athletic Director” titles, he simply does his job. In doing so he helps perpetuate the legacy of Williams College football and every intercollegiate sport. “Ken recovered the most famous fumble in Williams history in 1989,” said Quinn. “It gave Williams a 17-14 win over Amherst and the first perfect season (8-0-0) at Williams in 108 years.”


During a game in Boston, White Sox radio announcer Len Kasper closed the press box window to keep his papers from blowing away. “That wind is just too much,” he said.

It reminded me of a day in the 1970s when the Red Sox were waiting out a rain delay. Carl Yastrzemski was in the clubhouse smoking cigarettes and playing cards. After a while, he decided to see what was happening outside and walked down the runway in stockings and stirrups.

Yastrzemski poked his head out of the dugout and when he saw the flag blowing straight in from center field, he smiled and said, “No game.”


Bernardston doctor Doug Weiss is back from Germany, where he tended to the injured during Team USA’s foray into the U-18 World Hockey Championship. “The trip was awesome,” wrote Weiss. “The staff and players were all good to work with and the city and its people were unbelievable. The team lost in the finals to Sweden. We outshot them 51-15 but lost 6-4. Other than losing in the finals it was a great trip.”


MLB NOTES: NY Post columnist Phil Mushnick thinks attitude is why the Mets lead MLB in HBPs with acts like “Pete Alonso’s immodest bat flips and posing on balls that barely get out.” … Line of the week from the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy: “Some Red Sox fans have taken to calling the 99-day lockout ‘the good old days.’” … No Red Sox fan should buy into the notion this is a bridge year. If that’s the case let everyone in for free. … The Yankees’ Nestor Cortes is a lefty version of Luis Tiant, pulled from the scrap heap and mesmerizing hitters with his herky-jerky windup. He has a 1.41 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 32 innings. … Updating players with new teams, Freddie Freeman is batting .316 for the Dodgers, Gary Sanchez is batting .203 with 24 K’s and three walks for the Twins, and Marcus Semien is batting .171 with no home runs for Texas. Semien signed a seven-year deal for $175 million after he hit 45 home runs for the Jays last season. … Entering last night’s start against the Phillies, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was seven wins shy of 200. … Andrew Benintendi is batting .327 for KC and the guy the Red Sox got for him, Franchy Cordero, is batting .222 off the bench. … In San Diego, Manny Machado (.381) and Eric Hosmer (.350) are the top two hitters in the Senior Circuit. … The top four draws in attendance are all National League teams — LA (49,057), St. Louis (38,561), San Diego (37,563) and Atlanta (37,141). Boston is eighth (31,764).

SQUIBBERS: Mike Tyson is in the pot business. His big seller is an edible ear. … The Kentucky Derby would have been a terrific cover story for Sports Illustrated if it hadn’t gone woke. … The Patriots’ over/under this season is 8.5 wins, according to Draft Kings. The Jets are listed at 5.5 and the Giants are 7.5. … “Rumors swirling around DA have it that TB12’s son Jack will not be attending the Academy,” reports a campus insider. “TB would be in favor but Bridget (Moynahan) has other ideas.” … Boston podcaster Gerry Callahan thinks the “80 for Brady” film starring Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno will be a box office flop. “I’ve underestimated Brady before, but there is zero chance that movie doesn’t absolutely suck.” … Forty years ago this week, the Montreal Expos released Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Fans relished Lee’s wit and humor but manager Dick Williams observed, “Lee’s a lot funnier when he wins.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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