The Sweet Reason the Long-Shot Kentucky Derby Winner's Trainer Painted His Nails Gold

“It's good luck.”

148th Kentucky Derby Eric Reed
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Trainer Eric Reed pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Kentucky Derby on Sunday, and he did it with help from his daughter.

His horse, Rich Strike, wasn't even entered in the race on Friday morning. It was thanks to a last-minute scratch that the team even made it to the Churchill Downs paddock. As the gun sounded on Sunday, they had 80-1 odds. When Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leon crossed the finish line just a few minutes later, they became the second-longest shot to win the 148-year-old race.

In the winner's circle, Reed held up his right pinky finger as cameras flashed. It was hard to miss his gold-painted nail.

He told WLKY that the toenails on his right foot were also painted gold as part of a good luck tradition started by his daughter.

"When I went out to California to race against Zanyada, my daughter Martha painted my toenails gold, and said, 'This is for good luck daddy.' And it was really good luck," Reed recalled. "So, anytime we ran in big races, we would do this, everybody involved. And it's a fun thing for Martha and it's a catch. It's good luck."

The derby isn't the first time Reed's life has changed in the blink of an eye.

According to Sports Illustrated, in 2016 a fire caused by a lightning strike destroyed his barn, killing 23 of his horses and nearly ending his career for good. Last year, the previously little-known trainer survived a near-death bout with COVID-19, which put him in the intensive care unit for nine days.

His other daughter, Shelby, told SI that as she drove to Louisville for the race on Saturday morning, she alternated between thoughts of, "I just hope he doesn't finish last," and tears of joy over the fact that her father made it to this point at all.

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Something tells us that Reed will be sporting gold-painted nails when he, Leon, and Rich Strike take on Preakness later this month.

Congratulations, y'all and good luck... not that you'll need it!

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