Sonny León made it to the annals of the Kentucky Derby history last weekend after winning with the longest odds among all the twenty horses in the famed horse race. But where is Sonny León from? The jockey riding Rich Strike and crowned the 2022 Kentucky Derby for trainer Eric Reed hails from a country with a long-running horseracing tradition.
In the 148 years of the Kentucky Derby, this is the second time we have seen such a big upset, defeating such odds: 80-1 longshot! Since 1913 we haven’t seen something as big as that win. On top of all, Sonny León is a motive of national pride in his country, where he cut his teeth in competitive horseracing.
Who Is Sonny León?
Sonny León is 32 years old. And although he is the winningest jockey in the United States, this Saturday, May 7, he completed a race for history by riding Rich Strike in the Kentucky Derby. Due to an emergency, the jockey arrived at the first of the Triple Crown races of American horse racing. One of the favorite specimens for the competition was withdrawn late on Friday.
The organizers called horse number 22 to fill in for one of the three favorites, but they did not have one ready. Then it was the turn of Rich Strike, a three-year-old colt who hadn’t won a race since September 2021. The rider who is usual for the horse was also not available. They then appealed for Sonny León because of his experience with Rich Strike, despite the reluctance of the owners, who were not entirely convinced because the Venezuelan had never been in a Kentucky Derby. They finally accepted. In the 148-year history of the Derby, Rich Strike had the second-fewest bets (80-1) to win the race. Only the 90-1 Donerail winner in 1913 was greater than the 2022 winner.
Where Is Sonny León From?
In recent days, the athlete most sought after by the world’s media is Sonny León, the Venezuelan jockey who won the 148th edition of the Kentucky Derby and entered the history books of his country, Venezuela.
At that moment, the jockey showed his astonishment at what had been done and launched a phrase that still echoes in the memory of the Venezuelan equestrian fan “This is real.” Four days after that sensational victory, the Venezuelan jockey spoke with this medium about how he has lived that moment and everything that has happened in his life since then.
“I’ve had a lot of full days after winning the Kentucky Derby. I wanted to spend a few days with my family, which I did. Despite that, I have had calls from many important media from all over the world. It has not been easy. But I am always willing to give the attention that everyone deserves. And the most important thing is that I let them know that this victory is for my country Venezuela”, were the first words of the Criollo whip.
León Is The Second Venezuelan Rider To Win The Kentucky Derby
Sonny León is the second Venezuelan jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Gustavo Ávila was the first one. Back in 1971, he rode Cañonero II to victory at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Only eleven Latin American jockeys have won the 148-year-old race, making this feat a great moment for Venezuelans and Latin American pride everywhere. Good for him!
Next Stop: Preakness Stakes
For the second step of the triple crown, things for Sonny will be different; he entered the Derby 24 hours before the race. Now at Preakness Stakes, he will be the center of attention of the whole world. “We are prepared to handle that tension,” he said. Rich Strike is still resting, this week he will go out for a few laps and see how the racehorse came back to go to the Preakness.
The trainer will keep the horse as he has been doing it, with his gallops, exercising him, and putting him up for Pimlico. Pimlico is a slightly faster track, the distance is a bit shorter than the Derby, but the plan cannot be changed, the horse must run just as calmly, wait for a move, and if everything goes well, the horse will decide the race.