WOOD MEMORIAL S. | PURSE: $1,000,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES
NEW YORK -- Wicked Strong pulled a 9-1 upset in the $1 million Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct on Saturday.
The surprising victory earned the colt $590,000 in purse money, and 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. He now has more than enough points to enter the Run for the Roses.
Wicked Strong wasn't prominent in the Derby discussion before the Wood. The win was only his second in six starts, and his first in a stakes.
Rajiv Maragh was aboard as Wicked Strong barreled down the center of the track, beating the previously undefeated Samraat by 3 ½ lengths.
Social Inclusion was the 8-5 favorite, having won both starts at Gulfstream Park in very fast times. He drew the outside post in the 10-horse field for his stakes debut.
Social Inclusion and jockey Luis Contreras were hung wide into the first turn as they ranged up to battle 16-1 shot Schivarelli for the lead.
Social Inclusion won that battle, pulling clear midway on the far turn. But it took a toll in the fast pace as he battled through a half mile in 47.47 seconds.
As Social Inclusion move to the front, Jose Ortiz urged Samraat to pick up the chase. But it was Wicked Strong, sixth in the early stages, with the best momentum as he gained ground with every powerful stride.
"He fell into a nice groove early and he finished up really strong," Maragh said. "He's really maturing at the right time now, and I don't think we're at the bottom of him yet."
Wicked Strong is trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens. He has never had a Derby starter, coming closest with Quality Road, the 2009 Florida Derby winner who missed the entire Triple Crown with a foot injury.
"I'd love to get another crack at it, that's for sure" Jerkens said of the 1 ¼ mile Derby. "He looks like a horse where distance shouldn't bother him."
Wicked Strong is owned by Centennial Farms, best known for campaigning Colonial Affair, winner of the 1993 Belmont Stakes. Centennial President Donald Little Jr. originally wanted to name the colt Boston Strong as a tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims, but the name was already assigned.
Wicked Strong paid $20.40, $7.80 and $4.20.
Samraat, 5 for 5 coming in, returned $4.80 and $3 as he edged Social Inclusion by a nose for second place.
Trainer Rick Violette is also making Derby plans for the New York-bred Samraat.
"Other than getting the win, he got a huge education," Violette said. "As long as he comes out of it all right, we'll head to Kentucky."
Social Inclusion, the 8-5 favorite, paid $2.70 to show.
The time was 1:49.31 for the 1 ⅛ miles on the fast track.
Schivarelli held on for fourth, followed by Uncle Sigh, Noble Moon, Kristo, Effinex, Harpoon and Los Borrachos.
Jockey Javier Castellano won both $300,000 supporting stakes for 3-year-olds.
In the supporting stakes: Coup de Grace edged Oliver Zip by a nose in the Bay Shore Stakes. The colt trained by Chad Brown improved to 3 for 4 with his first stakes victory. Coup de Grace paid $16.20 to win. The time was 1:23.19 for the seven furlongs.
Trainer Todd Pletcher enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the $300,000 Gazelle for fillies as My Miss Sophia beat Got Lucky by 7 ¼ lengths. The 4-5 favorite paid $3.60 to win, her second victory in three starts. My Miss Sophia earned 100 points, assuring a spot in the Kentucky Oaks.
The time was 1:50.48 for the 1 1-8 miles.
Dads Caps, ridden by Contreras, took the $500,000 Carter at 10-1. The 4-year-old trained by Rudy Rodriguez led all the way, beating Sahara Sky by 1½ lengths. He paid $23.60 to win. The time was 1:22.02.