(Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
- G1 winner at 9 furlongs (Wood Memorial)
- Trainer: James Jerkens
- Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
- Owned by: Centennial Farms
- Record: 6: 2-1-1
- Earnings: $704,610
- Best speed figures: 104 Beyer (Wood Memorial), 103 BRIS Figure (Wood Memorial), 107 Equibase
Background: Ignored in the Wood Memorial at 9-1, Wicked Strong put his strongest hoof forward to catapult from also-ran to big winner in one of the deepest prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Named for the Boston Marathon bombing victims by his Massachusetts-based owners, 5% of Wicked Strong’s earnings go to the OneFund and hopes are high all-around that the Hard Spun colt will strengthen when given an extra furlong.
Prep Schedule: Wicked Strong did not debut until September at Belmont Park, racing a well-beaten 2nd going 7 furlongs on a sloppy-sealed track. Given an extra furlong and a dry going next out, the colt made his move on the turn to win by 2 lengths over the well-regarded Cool Samurai. Finishing with “good energy” in an oddball stakes debut in the Remsen (II) going 9 furlongs, Wicked Strong missed Honor Code and Cairo Prince by a mere half-length. Shipped out to Gulfstream Park next for his three-year-old debut, the colt never got going as expected in the Holy Bull (II), finishing an uninspired 9th after stopping in the 1 1/16 mile race. Trying again at Gulfstream, he improved in a deep 1 1/16 mile allowance race won by Florida Derby (I) winner Constitution, coming in from off the pace to be 4th, beaten 6 1/2 lengths. Shipped back to Aqueduct and back to 9 furlongs for the Wood (I), he made a sustained drive around the leaders to score by 3 lengths.
Pedigree: Featuring two traces to Northern Dancer in his first five generations, Wicked Strong is by the young sire Hard Spun, who has experienced success after the racetrack with graded stakes winners Questing, Zo Impressive, Reload, and Hard Not to Like. A son of Danzig, Hard Spun was a big factor in the deep 2007 Triple Crown, racing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in each before being 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic won by the mighty Curlin. Wicked Strong’s dam Moyne Abbey features multiple crosses to Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Somethingroyal, and Tom Fool as a daughter of near-Triple Crown winner Charismatic out of a daughter of 1989 Sovereign winning turf horse With Approval.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++, Variant: 319.92
Dosage Index: 2.27
Running Style: Off-the-pace, closing
Pros: Showing the right moves as a young horse and going long, Wicked Strong appears to be best when given more ground, and looks the part of a legitimate classic horse with a G1 win to his credit. He will get an ideal pace setup in the Derby with many likely early speed horses.
Cons: He was unable to ship well outside of New York and had to go wide around horses to win the Wood. That kind of move makes him risky as a horse who saves his best for late.
Final Word: As a Massachusetts native and the biggest fan of his stablemate Juba (same jockey/trainer/owners), I naturally was eager to see Wicked Strong do well both as a two-year-old when I saw him in the Remsen— he inspired a “whoa!” from me then as I stood just past the wire coming in fast late in the stretch— and in the Wood where he was my choice to win. While he does feature some detractors and still has some mystery to how good he *really* is, he is my current, absolutely unopposed top choice to win the Kentucky Derby.