While California Chrome remains the Kentucky Derby favorite he does have some competition. Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong is now a solid #2 betting choice following the withdrawal of the Bob Baffert trained Hoppertunity with a foot injury. Although there is some concern about his outside starting position his morning line odds of 6/1 indicate that might not be as big of a problem as some have speculated.
Veteran horseman Jimmy Jerkins trains Wicked Strong and he’s happy to have a horse that is running well at the right time:
“He ran so well in New York, and I hope it transfers to Kentucky. He’s getting hot at the right time, so it’s definitely exciting. Just to have a horse start in the Kentucky Derby is a big deal.”
Some handicappers think that Wicked Strong’s closing style is a perfect fit to win in a field full of frontrunners. Jerkins hopes they’re right:
“Well, it looks good on paper, but so many things have to go right regardless. We have to be able to be in a good spot where he’s comfortable and saving a little ground and he puts in a little bit of a move and improves position and hopefully he doesn’t get stopped in the meantime.”
Jerkins admitted that Wicked Strong can be a feisty and headstrong horse:
“He wants things his way, and it’s kind of a deal where you’ve got to kind of give and take almost like having a teenager at home. I’ll let him have his way some days and then he turns around and he gives you a little slack.”
Wicked Strong will start from the #19 position, moving over one spot following the withdrawal of Hoppertunity. Pablo Del Monte will now start from the #20 position–assuming he ends up running in the race which was still being finalized on Thursday night. The Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 3 at Louisville’s historic Churchill Downs racetrack with over 100,000 fans watching live and millions watching around the world. It is the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown with the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes on deck.