Wicked Strong entered the 2014 Kentucky Derby with an impressive win in the Wood Memorial and a compelling backstory. His name is an homage to his Boston roots but he didn’t exactly do the city proud in either of Triple Crown appearances. Wicked Strong finished fourth in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes–not bad, but out of the money. He’s hoping to improve upon that in the Travers Stakes.
Wicked Strong won the July 26 Jim Dandy ahead of one of his likely Travers opponents, Tonalist. On Friday he breezed a half mile in :48 ⅗ seconds over the training track at Saratoga Race Course in preparation for his start in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on August 23. With his regular exercise rider Kelvin Pahal aboard the Centennial Farms owned colt turned in the third fastest time at the distance. Wicked Strong also maintained his strong pace past the wire, galloping out to five furlongs in 1:01 and 3/5 according to NYRA clockers.
Wicked Strong’s trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, was pleased with the effort but keeping it in perspective saying simply that he ‘thought it was good’. Jerkens emphasized that he didn’t want to overwork his horse and said that the training was ‘perfect’ for his needs with his last race only two weeks ago. Jerkens said that he’ll start more serious training for the August 23 Travers Stakes next week.
Much of the credit for Wicked Strong’s success in the Jim Dandy has been attributed to an equipment change. After the headstrong colt proved difficult to control in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont his trainer added blinkers for the Jim Dandy and Wicked Strong responded emphatically with an impressive victory. He’ll be wearing blinkers for the Travers as well. Trainer Jerkens says that Wicked Strong has been a ‘little bit fiesty’ since arriving at Saratoga but not to a degree that concerns him. In fact, he thinks that the congestion and activity of the Saratoga race meet is good preparation for the hubbub of Travers Day. Jerkens says that the constant activity is a good way for his horse to get used to the type of noise and activity that he’ll encounter on race day.