Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
With 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice in front of him, Wicked Strong breezed five furlongs in 59.10 seconds, the quickest of 12 workouts at the distance over the Belmont training track on Sunday.
Wicked Strong began his work several lengths behind Palace Malice and his workmate Celebrator and was eager to catch the Pletcher pair, but exercise rider Kelvin Pahal kept Wicked Strong in check.
"I thought he went real good," said Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Wicked Strong for Centennial Farm. "It was a little fast, but [Pahal] saw me put my hand up to slow down, and he did. He didn't pull him back, but he didn't urge him any. It looked like he saw [Palace Malice and Celebrator] ahead of him and really got into gear around the turn and was approaching them fast, which is why I slowed him down.
Sometimes they [catch horses ahead of them]. You don't mind them doing it if [the other horses] are only a few lengths in front, but when they are six lengths in front it's a different story. But it was good. I'm happy with it."
Wicked Strong, who won the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in May, finished fourth, 5 ¾ lengths behind California Chrome, in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 3. The son of Hard Spun had blowout workouts before the Wood and the Derby but will not have a blowout before the Belmont Stakes, according to Jerkens.
"He'll probably just gallop into the race," said Jerkens. "He gallops pretty steadily. I blew him out at Churchill because he wasn't really getting into the bridle when he galloped. He was really distracted, which is why we gave him a little something."