Three Derby Contenders Work in New York
Three contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)—Wicked Strong, Samraat, and Uncle Sigh—had their final classic preparations in New York April 25.
"It's always good to finish up a work like that," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "It's for stamina, and it just keeps him from getting too nervous. I like the way he worked. A lot of things have to work out. He's got to handle the crowd, he's got to handle the track, he's got to handle all the other things that go with it. At least he's going there in a good frame of mind and in good condition. As far as how he's doing, I couldn't be happier."
Wicked Strong leaves New York on a van for Louisville on April 26, arriving at Churchill Downs early the next morning.
"He's got a good work under his belt; I was happy to get this out of the way," said Jerkens. "We can afford to lose the day he's going to lose shipping. He can lounge a little bit, we can take him out in the afternoon to look at the place, and then he can gallop Monday morning."
Jerkens said Wicked Strong would most likely blow out a quarter-mile through the stretch on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
"If he gallops out in :37 and change, that should be all he needs," he said.
A $375,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase bred in Kentucky by William F. Lynn, Wicked Strong has a 2-1-1 record in six starts, with earnings of $704,610, for owner Centennial Farms.
Also working over the Belmont training track was Uncle Sigh, who went five furlongs in 1:00.19 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.19 and seven furlongs in 1:29.09. NYRA clockers timed the son of Indian Charlie in fractional splits of :12.30, :24.37, and :36.09.
"He came home shading 23 seconds; it was a very strong work," said trainer Gary Contessa of the Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony Robinson colorbearer. "His last quarter-mile was effortless and it was exactly what I was looking for. He came back like he can't even blow out a match."
It was the second time Uncle Sigh worked in blinkers, which he will wear in the Derby.
"He's much more focused [with blinkers]; he's rating kindly," said Contessa. "I see that he's rating kindly in behind horses; we put him in behind horses and made him eat dirt. We've done our due diligence this last month and we've worked him where he has to come up through the rail. I don't see any hesitancy, and I always saw hesitancy in [Uncle Sigh] without the blinkers. "
Like Wicked Strong, Uncle Sigh will be vanned to Louisville, departing at 5 a.m. EDT, April 26.
"I might do something at Churchill. I'm thinking maybe Wednesday or Thursday let him run through the stretch just to let him air out a little, three-eighths," Contessa said. "I just wanted to get his [work] done here; this is his hometown. I didn't want to throw him into the fire down in Churchill right away and I think we're getting there far enough in advance that he'll be able to take it all in."
Uncle Sigh was bred in New York by Milfer Farm and sold at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of preferred New York-bred yearlings for $270,000.
Uncle Sigh comes into the Derby off a fifth-place effort after a troubled trip in the Wood Memorial. Previously, the colt had consecutive runner-up finishes in the Withers and Gotham Stakes, both grade III.
Working toward the Derby at Aqueduct Racetrack was Samraat, the Wood Memorial runner-up who breezed a mile in 1:45.91, with an opening quarter in :27.79 and a half in :54.62. He galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 1:58.72.
"I really didn't want him to go too fast," said trainer Rick Violette. "We just wanted to get it done. Time was only important if he went too fast, and he didn't. He went great."
A homebred for My Meadowview Farm, Samraat won the first five races of his career, including the Withers and Gotham, before finishing second in the Wood Memorial.
"Now, we have eight days (until the Derby) with a travel day," Violette said. "We'll let him be happy and recharge his batteries. He'll have a light week, and he just has to feel like King Kong on Saturday. I think it's a wide-open race. California Chrome is the target, and the favorite, but there are going to be 19 horses to beat. You need a good trip, a little bit of luck here or there, and a good horse to win."
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