All day long on the fast
track at Aqueduct horses were winning from off the pace. Jockeys were making
long sustained runs down the middle of the track to catch the early pace
setters. This did not escape Jimmy Jerkens, the trainer of the Wood Memorial
winner, Wicked Strong.
Accordingly, Jerkens told
his jockey Rajiv Maragh, “It’s great to save ground all the way, but if you get
him to that crown in the stretch, go ahead. They were taking off from there all
The race unfolded as
expected with the unbeaten 1.60-1 favorite Social Inclusion battling on the
lead with long shot Schivarelli. Those two went head to head for the first half
mile in :47.47. At that point Schivaelli began to fade and Social Inclusion
opened a 1¾ length after the first six furlongs were run in 1:11.16.
Coming down the stretch
Social Inclusion, who looked a little sweaty and washed out before loading in the
gate, began to tire and bear out in the stretch.
The race was played out
perfectly for Jerkens' horse, “The pace was pretty quick," said Jerkens. "When I saw him laying
only five lengths off the lead just galloping I really thought we had a big
shot. He was really comfortable behind a pretty fast pace, relatively close
without any effort. I felt really good after that.”
Maragh said the race went just as planned, "It
all unfolded well. I was going to let the horse dictate where he wanted to be.
He fell into a nice groove early, and he finished up really strong. It seemed
like he had a lot left, and coming down the lane I was just thinking 'Let's go
to the wire first.' It worked out good."
Wicked Strong was
impressive in 2013 as a two-year old. He finished third in the Remsen just
behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince. Off he went to Florida for his three
year-old campaign, but Wicked Strong did not like the Gulfstream Park surface.
He had two unimpressive performances there.
Jerkens talked about Florida, “The first race [the Holy Bull] was terrible. He acted
terrible in the gate and he was very nervous behind the gate. He ran a lot
better the next time [an optional claiming allowance]. I thought it was worth a
shot at the Florida Derby or the Wood Memorial and the closer we got to both
races I decided I was going to train him up to the Wood Memorial.”
In the end Wicked Strong
drew off to win by 3½ lengths over the previously unbeaten Samraat. Wicked Strong paid $20.40 to win, earned $590,000,
and a place in the Kentucky Derby gate with the 100 points. Wicked Strong would
be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Jerkens if he manages to make the race.