Stroll had won a grade III and grade II. Now he has a grade I on his resume, winning Saturday's $453,900 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) by 2 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs the race prior to the Kentucky Derby (gr. IT).
The fractions were very slow in the race, perhaps because a heavy rain had hit the area and caused the course to return to a yielding condition.
``When the turf is soft like it was, it's hard to make up ground,'' Bailey said. ``He handled the going well and finished up strong.''
Under Jerry Bailey, Stroll sat off lukewarm 4-1 favorite Sweet Return as they went the quarter in :25.36 and the half in :51.04. Bailey moved Stroll to the front as they went six furlongs in 1:15.54.
Stroll was unchallenged down the stretch as Sweet Return hung tough to finish second, nosing out fast-closing Mystery Giver. The mile split was 1:39.72 and the nine furlongs was covered in 1:58.00.
Stroll had won four straight stakes to close out his 3-year-old year, three of them graded. He is owned by Claiborne Farm and trained by Bill Mott. The homebred colt is by the Claiborne stallion Pulpit
and out of the Prince Sabo mare Maid for Walking.
``We needed this,'' Mott said. ``It's been too long since we won a race like this.''
Stroll paid $11.60, $6, and $4.60 as the second choice, while Sweet Return returned $5.60 and $3.60. Mystery Giver got third and paid $5.20.
Burning Sun was fourth, followed by Honor in War, Kicken Kris, Everything to Gain, Sir Cherokee, Stage Call, Perfect Soul and Skate Away.
The winner earned $281,418 with his seventh win in 13 starts. In his only previous start in 2004, he was fifth as the choice in the Maker's Mark (gr. IIT) at Keeneland April 9. Stroll won five consecutive races last year and boasts lifetime earnings of $733,965.