2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders: Wicked Strong

USA TODAY Sports

Our series on the contenders for the 2014 Kentucky Derby turns to Wicked Strong, winner of the Wood Memorial.

Wicked Strong

Wickedstrong_medium

Trainer: James Jerkens
Owner: Centennial Farms
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Sire: Hard Spun
Dam: Moyne Abbey (Charismatic)
Lifetime Record: 6-2-1-1
Lifetime Earnings: $704,610

Future Wager Odds: Pool 1 - 4/5 (Field); Pool 2 - 3/2 (Field); Pool 3 - 3/1 (Field); Pool 4 - 5/1 (Field)

Notable Races: G1-Wood Memorial (1st); G2-Holy Bull (9th); G2-Remsen (3rd)

The Good

Wicked Strong's victory in the Wood Memorial could be that breakthrough victory we look for in a three-year-old colt has figured out how to take that "next step". Sitting four lengths back from a strong early pace, Wicked Strong put in a good sustained run down the Aqueduct stretch drive en route to a relatively easy 3 ½ length victory over the previously undefeated Samraat. On paper and visually, Wicked Strong's Wood was quality race and might be a bit better than my initial rating.

The (maybe) Bad

While Wicked Strong has put in good races when he's raced several lengths off of the lead pack, he's run his worst races when he's found himself well towards the back of the field, as opposed to a mid-pack position. I wouldn't want to see Wicked Strong running dead last (or somewhere in that vicinity) in the Derby as I'm not sure his late kick is strong enough to mow down the leaders in the final quarter mile. On the other hand, if he's able to sit mid-pack, maybe five to six lengths back (and, of course, out of trouble), I think his chances are greatly improved.

Looking at all six of Wicked Strong's career races, I think he definitely has enough tactical speed to sit more towards the front of the field than the rear. He's yet to show the late run necessary to make up five or more lengths in the stretch but, if he can keep tabs of the leaders early, his tactical speed could allow him to move with a length or two of the lead on the far turn which would put this colt in an excellent spot to try and grind out the victory.

Final Thoughts

The more I look at Wicked Strong, the more I like this colt's chances to run a good race in the Derby. He improved a bunch in that last start after struggling to find consistency in his prior races, so I definitely like the direction of his form. He doesn't need to sit up near the front but has run well when positioned anywhere from a length to four lengths back of the leaders in the early stages. And finally, I really like the way he ran on in the Wood after being stuck down on the inside for the early stages and then swinging wide into the stretch; he'll likely have to face traffic issues at Churchill and the education in the Wood should come in handy.

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