In his first work since winning the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong breezed a solid half-mile in :49.62 seconds the morning of April 17 over the Belmont Park training track.
Off his first stakes win in the April 5 Wood at Aqueduct Racetrack, Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong is expected to be one of the favorites for the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
With exercise rider Kelvin Pahal in the irons, the bay son of Hard Spun stepped onto the training track shortly after the 9:30 a.m. renovation break accompanied by a pony. The colt galloped a mile before breaking off.
New York Racing Association clockers caught Wicked Strong in splits of :12.19 seconds and :35.76 seconds, galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.84.
Tainer Jimmy Jerkens appeared genuinely delighted with the move.
"He did most of his work on the turns, which is what I wanted; I thought it would keep him from working too fast," said Jerkens, 55, who has never saddled a Derby starter. "He eased up a little bit in the stretch and then picked it before the wire. It was just what I was looking for."
Wicked Strong is one of three New York-based horses pointing to the "Run for the Roses." Wood runner-up Samraat, winner of the Aqueduct's Gotham and Withers, and Uncle Sigh, who was fifth in the Wood after finishing second to Samraat in the Gotham and Withers, have both qualified for the Derby. Both are scheduled to work the morning of April 18 at Belmont Park.
Wicked Strong, who finished in the money in his three starts as a juvenile at Belmont and Aqueduct while breaking his maiden last October, did not fare well in two starts at Gulfstream Park during the winter. He finished ninth in the Holy Bull Jan. 25 and fourth in an allowance/optional claimer Feb. 22.
Returned to New York for the 1 ⅛-mile Wood, he came charging from sixth on the outside and went on to a 3 ½-length win over previously undefeated Samraat and favored Social Inclusion at odds of 9-1.
"He's a little bit on the light side, but I don't see him any lighter after running that hard and that tough a race," said Jerkens. "I didn't think he lost a pound and I'm really happy about that."
The trainer said Wicked Strong, named in honor of the victims and heroes of last year's Boston Marathon bombing, would have one more work at Belmont. Jerkens said it most likely be at six or seven furlongs next Thursday or Friday, before being vanned to Louisville.
"He's never been on a plane, and he's been up and down to Florida twice [on a van]," said Jerkens. "I'm not sure if he'll go the day after he works, or two days after. We'll have to see."
Wicked Strong, whose sire Hard Spun was runner-up in the 2007 Derby, probably will blow out over the Churchill Downs strip two days before the Derby, Jerkens added.