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Jockey with track record of success at Thistledown, Mahoning Valley rides Rich Strike to Kentucky Derby victory

Sonny Leon has won more than 200 races at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course, plus another 90 at JACK Thistledown Racino.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — You've heard the song about the horse with no name. Rich Strike was the thoroughbred whose name no one knew.

But after he won the Kentucky Derby last Saturday at Churchill Downs, Rich Strike has become a household name.

So has his jockey.

"Two words: Sonny Leon," says Mark Butch.

Butch, from Youngstown, was one of dozens of people placing bets on Sonny Leon and Rich Strike. Butch knew the odds were 80 -1, yet he had Rich Strike to win, place, and show because he knew how Sonny Leon races.

Mark Butch won $6,000 betting on Sonny Leon.

Leon has won more than 200 races at Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Youngstown, plus another 90 victories at JACK Thistledown Racino in North Randall. 

Folks at the Mahoning Valley Race Course say Sonny Leon is popular with the fans.

On Hollywood Game at Mahoning Valley Race Course's Facebook page, they wished Leon luck before the Kentucky Derby. When he won, more than a thousand liked their page.

"We had a hunch something special might happen today... Congratulations to Mahoning Valley's top jockey, Sonny Leon, you are a Kentucky Derby Champion! AND by the way, a $10 Win ticket paid a smooth $800, thanks for sharing the love Sonny," the post read.

Leon's last race in Youngstown was in April. The season here runs from October to April, which is why he was able run the Kentucky Derby with Rich Strike.

The duo weren't even supposed to run at Churchill Downs. But after after another horse was scratched on Friday, Rich Strike was entered. The two then went on to make make history with their come-from-behind win. 

Although the horse racing world might have been shocked by what happened at the Kentucky Derbe, no one in Youngstown was surprised. After all, Leon races like this all the time.

And as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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