Wicked Strong to Train at Belmont for Derby
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Wicked Strong in the Wood Memorial
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TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Wicked Strong will remain at Belmont Park to do the bulk of his training prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), trainer Jimmy Jerkens said April 6.

Still bubbling over the Centennial Farms colt's emphatic stretch burst to win the $1 million event for 3-year-olds the previous evening at Aqueduct Racetrack, Jerkens said he had no firmed up his Derby plans.

"We don't really know anything yet; we haven't talked but I am sure we will this afternoon or tonight or tomorrow," said Jerkens. "It's kind of early. I don't really organize horses' training right down to the minute. I like to have a little bit of a plan, but I don't want to be stuck to something if I see something I don't like.

"Thinking off the top of my head, I hear there's a plane leaving (for Louisville) the Monday before the Derby; we'd probably want to do that. He'd do the majority of his training here at Belmont Park."

The win gave Wicked Strong 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, ensuring him a spot in the starting gate for the May 3 Derby. Jerkens, whose father, Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, won the 1992 Wood with Devil His Due, said Wicked Strong looked good, albeit a little tired, Sunday morning. The Hard Spun   colt ran the 1 1/8-mile Wood in 1:49.31, the fastest since Bellamy Road   posted a record 1:47.16 clocking in 2005.

"He was a little tired, which is understandable," said Jerkens. "Usually, he's hogging the hotwalker. He walked around like a regular horse this morning."

Jerkens said Wicked Strong's schedule for the next week calls for him to walk for two days, then gallop, then walk again.

Named in recognition of the heroes and victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombing, Wicked Strong is one of a number of graded stakes winners trained by Jerkens and his father for the Massachusetts-based Centennial Farms.

Jerkens, who assisted his father for many years before going out on his own, won the Metropolitan Handicap, the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (all gr. I) for Centennial in 2007 with Corinthian  .

"With Centennial you always have a chance to get a good one, that's for sure," said Jerkens. "They've been very loyal. We did very good with Corinthian; we needed this to happen."

Samraat, who suffered his first career defeat when second to Wicked Strong, will breeze twice at Aqueduct before he departs for Churchill Downs to compete in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Rick Violette said Sunday morning.

"In two weeks he'll go a half (mile), and then a week later he'll go a mile, and then on (April 28) we'll get on a plane and go to Kentucky," said Violette, who trains the homebred for Leonard Riggio's My Meadowview Farms.

Samraat, who had previously won the Withers and Gotham (gr. III) and three races for New York-breds, raced between horses in third early in the Wood before dropping back to fourth up the backstretch while continuing to be surrounded. The son of Noble Causeway advanced into second by the three-eighths pole, and came under a drive while trying to match strides with the leader Social Inclusion.

Both were overtaken by Wicked Strong less than a furlong from the wire, and Samraat kept on well to nose out Social Inclusion for second.

"One horse ran better," said Violette. "It was a great experience. He had been clear in his previous starts. Yesterday, he got surrounded for the first time, which was terrific.

"(Wicked Strong) ran great," Violette added. "He had a perfect trip. Everybody else did the hard work, and he picked up the pieces on what might have been the best part of the racetrack."

Meanwhile, owner Ron Sanchez looked anything but dismayed that his beaten 8-5 favorite Social Inclusion
didn't win the Wood and will likely lack the necessary points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. On the contrary, he was delighted with his colt's third-place finish after clearing off by 1 1/2 lengths in the stretch.

"He ate everything this morning; he's happy," Sanchez said Sunday morning as a bright-looking Social Inclusion took in the conversation across the shed row with his ears pricked.

Sanchez said Social Inclusion, whonis trained by Manuel Azpurua, would van to Gulfstream Park later Sunday to train for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 17.

"If we can make the Derby, we're going to go, but I think the main goal is the Preakness," Sanchez said. "It was the original plan. It's going to be tough to be in the Derby, you know? Actually, we are in spot 22 with 20 points, and there are like four preps coming up. It wasn't our main goal to get into the Derby, but we gave it a try."

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