As Wicked Strong crossed the line in the Wood Memorial, my initial thought was, "Ah! I had the pace right but picked the wrong horse!?!?" But the more I watch the replay, and the more I look at the company with which he has competed, the more I'm convinced that Wicked Strong has a chance to not only run well, but to win the Kentucky Derby.
WIcked Strong, by Hard Spun out of Moyne Abbey (Charismatic)
By Hard Spun, Wicked Strong has lived up to his sire's track record. Thus far, and Hard Spun has 4 crops of foals that have reached the race track, he has shown the ability to get some truly top class runners that like 2 turns. Headlined by Questing, winner of the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga, Zo Impressive (G1 Mother Goose), Hard Not to Like (G1 Jenny Wiley), and Someries (JPN), who won against the boys at 1 in a G1-JPN, Hard Spun has not lacked success. But what he has not had yet was a true Kentucky Derby contender. Well, he certainly has that now.
Rating off the pace in 6th nearly the whole way around in the Wood, Wicked Strong proved that his flat performances at Gulfstream could be chalked up to trying to make up ground on a track that has heavily favored speed the entire meet. Personally, I would have given him a complete pass in the Holy Bull and considered him more highly that I did if he hadn't finished fourth in an AOC after that. However, the company line in that AOC was impressive, with Constitution, Tonalist, and Mexicoma running 1-2-3. Whoops, my bad.
But things are pretty interesting with the female side of Wicked Strong's family. His dam, Moyne Abbey (by Charismatic) did her best running around two turns on the lawn. She only one a single race but did most of her running in allowance company. While the results are pretty thin in the first dam, it gets much better as we go back a generation.
Classic Approval, by With Approval, is an outstanding producer. In addition to Wicked Strong's dam, she has two top notch stakes horses. First is Gulch Approval, a fantastic miler. He (well, he's a gelding) won the G3-Oceanport at Monmouth, but was 2nd in the Maker's (insert product) Mile to the top-class Artie Schiller and was 3rd in the G1-Shadwell Mile. His ridgling brother (bad luck for the two brothers, eh?) is Approval Rating, by Lemon Drop Kid. He was G3 placed, but the important take away is that every single success was at Woodbine on the polytrack.
But the jewel of the family is the Grade 1 winning, track record setting, classy, Student Council. The winner of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar in 2007, along with a mess of other Graded Stakes races. A sire himself, he was a truly unique case in terms of his development. Still a maiden at 4 after 10 attempts, his owners, Millenium Farms kept at it with him, and it paid off big time. It was clear that he didn't truly and fully develop until age 5, a rarity in North American racing, but his sire Kingmambo was probably the biggest reason for that. He moved up to stakes company and was as good as anyone in the handicap division in 2007. He even shipped to Tokyo to run in the Japan Dirt Cup, something rarely seen.
So what do we see? I see a closer that should handle the distance and should love the fair and deepish track at Churchill Downs. I see a horse with a ton of turf pedigree, but a dirt superstar in the family. His sire gets plenty of dirt runners, and has multiple grade 1 winners on dirt. I think he's very well suited to not only compete, but he could win.