Differences with owner Rick Dawson over a media deal to tell the story of last year’s 80-1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike have led Eric Reed to resign as the colt’s trainer.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Reed told Horse Racing Nation.
He said that after issuing a written statement saying, “unfortunately, Mr. Dawson has made a demand of me that I simply can’t abide.”
Minutes later Dawson sent a statement of his own, saying, “it appears (Reed’s) agent-manager and Eric are subject to an agreement with Omaha Productions they signed months ago that may incriminate them regarding possible violation (of) my trademark and NIL (name, image and likeness) rights as owner of Rich Strike.”
Dawson also shared a text message that Reed sent him. It said this came down to making a choice between the owner and the media deal.
“You’ve put me in a position I never thought I would be in,” Reed told Dawson. “Any ultimatum is a bad situation. I have to think of my family first.”
Reed and a spokesperson for Omaha Productions confirmed last Friday that the media company owned by former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning came to terms on a project to make two motion pictures about the Rich Strike story, including a documentary and a scripted film.
“I have not made this decision lightly,” Reed said of his parting with Dawson, “but I have concluded that it is in the best interest of Reed Racing and my family. I wish nothing but success for Rich Strike and Mr. Dawson going forward.”
Rich Strike has been stabled at Reed’s Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, Ky., since Sept. 17, 2021, when the trainer claimed the then 2-year-old colt on Dawson’s behalf. Reed trained Rich Strike for 12 of his 14 races, including the unlikely Derby victory a year ago. The colt’s record with Reed was 12: 1-1-3 with earnings of $2,498,620.
“I have made plans to move all my horses including Rich Strike immediately,” said Dawson, who did not name a new trainer.
“I will take the absolute best care of all your horses while you make plans to relocate them,” Reed said in his text message to Dawson. “I’m very sorry it came to this.”
This year Reed also has trained maiden-winning 3-year-old filly Shewillghostu and 5-year-old allowance-winning gelding Common Bond for Dawson. Dawson said he also had six 2-year-olds in training with Reed.
Beth Fryman, the agent-manager to whom Dawson referred and the spokesperson last week for Omaha, said, “The team is on West Coast time. Let me get back to you.”
Asked whether this were something that might blow over, Reed and Dawson separately said no.
Following are the full statements from Reed and Dawson:
Reed, Thursday, 8:13 a.m. EDT
“I regret to announce that I have made a decision to resign as the trainer of Rich Strike. My stint as his trainer has been the joy of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity and the ride the horse has given me and to everyone associated with Reed Racing.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Dawson has made a demand of me that I simply can’t abide. I have not made his decision lightly, but I have concluded that it is in the best interest of Reed Racing and my family. I wish nothing but the best for Rich Strike and Mr. Dawson going forward.”
Dawson, Thursday, 8:36 a.m. EDT
“I just received notice that Eric Reed has quit as my trainer. I have to make plans to move all my horses, including Rich Strike, immediately. It appears his agent-manager and Eric are subject to an agreement with Omaha Productions they signed many months ago that may incriminate them regarding possible violation of my trademark and NIL rights as owner of Rich Strike. See agent and Omaha Productions announcements. Life will go on. Go Richie.
“Eric’s text to me:
“Rick, I appreciate everything we’ve done together and will always be happy for the history we made. But you’ve put me in a position I never thought I would be in. Any ultimatum is a bad situation. I have to think of family first. With great regret as of now, I am resigning as your trainer. Thank you for the ride, and I will take the absolute best care of your horses while you make plans to relocate them. I’m very sorry it came to this.”