Over Dispute About Movie Deal, Eric Reed Resigns As Trainer of Rich Strike

Eric Reed | Coglianese

by Bill Finley and J.N. Campbell

After failing to come to an agreement over a proposed movie project, Eric Reed informed owner Rick Dawson via text Thursday morning that he has resigned as the trainer of 2022 GI Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (Keen Ice). Reed said he did so after Dawson gave him an ultimatum, telling him that if he didn't drop the movie project, he would move the horse to another trainer.

“I have to do what's best for my family,” Reed said. “Ultimatums never work. It's a very sad day because I love Richie. This was a difficult decision but, really, I was given no choice.”

The story was first reported by Horse Racing Nation's Ron Flatter.

The dispute revolves around plans by Omaha Productions, the media company owned by former NFL superstar Peyton Manning, to make a movie about Reed, his father Herbie, Rich Strike and the Derby win. The movie is being based off of a story written by Pat Forde that ran in Sports Illustrated after the Derby. With the headline, “A Search for Family, a Love for Horses and How It All Led to Kentucky Derby Glory,” Forde goes into detail about Reed's relationship with his father, who overcame a difficult upbringing.

Dawson said Reed first mentioned the movie project to him shortly after the Derby, but said little to anything to him since then.

“They were intentionally keeping me out of the loop,” Dawson said.

Reed explained that it was not important to involve Dawson on the details because the movie is about him and his father and not Rich Strike.

“He was unhappy that Peyton Manning and Omaha are doing a documentary feature on my family story,” Reed said. “He thinks it should be about the horse. It's about my family story, from my father's humble beginnings and terrible childhood to getting to the winner's circle of the Kentucky Derby with his son. He thinks it should be about Rich Strike. There will be a portion about Rich Strike because I was his trainer. But it's not a movie about Rich Strike at all.”

Dawson countered that the story of Reed and his father cannot be told without going into detail about the Derby victory. For that reason, he felt he needed to be included in the process and that his rights as the horse's owner needed to be considered. He said he asked to see the signed contract Reed and his agent Beth Fryman agreed to with Omaha, but was told he could not because of a confidentially agreement.

“I said to Eric if any of this includes Rich Strike, I should have been included,” he said. “I own Rich Strike. I said I'd like to look at the agreement you have with Omaha. I'd like to see if maybe you've made some promises that are beyond your capabilities. A lot of this was mishandled and things were done behind my back.”

Reed countered that Omaha tried to work with Dawson, but he refused to speak to them.

“We tried our best to explain the situation to him, but he wouldn't talk to any of their people,” he said. “He wanted me to give him paperwork I don't have and they won't release for legal reasons. They offered many times to call and discuss it with him. They thought if they could speak to him, they could work it out in five minutes but he refused to speak to them.”

Dawson said his main issue was not whether or not he should receive compensation as the owner of Rich Strike. Rather, he says, he took issue with what he believes was a situation where Reed, his agent and Omaha forged ahead without giving any consideration to his rights as the owner of the horse.

“Compensation has never been the issue with me,” he said. “I have authorized the use of Rich Strike's image before and 100% of the money we made went to charity. I've never taken a dime from t-shirt sales, hat sales. I don't know if the right word is disrespect, but I've been lied to and I didn't like that. I also believe that Omaha should have done their due diligence. If they were told that Rick Dawson was on board with this when that wasn't the case, that was misleading and untruthful. I am very surprised someone like Omaha would sign an agreement with the agent and Eric about a movie that includes Rich Strike and the Derby without somebody thinking 'should we contact the owner of Rich Strike?' The fact they stonewalled me on seeing the agreement and then copped out by telling me there is a confidentially agreement and they can't show it to me, that tells me that there's something in there that incriminates them. That tells me something is up.”

As the situation deteriorated, Reed and Dawson conversed only by text. Dawson denies that he gave Reed an ultimatum, but did tell him that he needed to choose between his loyalties to his agent and to him, and that if he chose the agent, then he would start looking for another trainer.

“I have no problem with Rick,” Reed said. “I hope the horse runs as well as I think he will this year. I love that horse and am so glad Rick was the guy I won the Derby with. We got a year of happiness and hopefully this one little bit will go away down the road. I was given a choice and I had to make the right choice.”

Dawson said he has yet to pick a new trainer for Rich Strike.

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