Jamaica’s Rajiv Maragh rides Wicked Strong to victory in Wood Memorial
NEW YORK (AP) — Wicked Strong pulled a 9-1 upset in the US$1 million Wood Memorial for three-year-olds at Aqueduct on Saturday.
The surprising victory earned the colt US$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 barrelled down the centre of the track, beating the previously undefeated Samraat by 31/2 lengths.
Social Inclusion was the 8-5 favourite, 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.
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 11/4 mile Derby. "He looks like a horse where distance shouldn't bother him."