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Aqueduct Racetrack Notes - April 6, 2014

By NYRA Press Office | 04/06/2014 03:55 PM ET
Wicked_Strong_2_Inside
Wicked Strong
PHOTO/Adam Mooshian

  • TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong poised for Run at the Roses
  • Wood runner-up Samraat to train at Aqueduct in lead up to Kentucky Derby
  • Social Inclusion, third in the Wood as the favorite, likely to make next start in Preakness
  • Wood Memorial fifth-place finisher Uncle Sigh could play waiting game at Churchill Downs
  • Gazelle top two My Miss Sophia, Got Lucky leaving for Louisville on Monday for Kentucky Oaks
  • Rodriguez heading to Preakness undercard with G1 Carter winner Dads Caps

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was still basking this morning in the glow of Wicked Strong's emphatic victory over previously undefeated Samraat and Social Inclusion in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial.

The win gave Wicked Strong 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, ensuring him a spot in the starting gate for the May 3 race, but Jerkens said he and the colt's owner, Centennial Farms, hadn't made any firm plans for a trip to Louisville.

"We don't really know anything yet; we haven't talked but I am sure we will this afternoon or tonight or tomorrow," said Jerkens, whose father, Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, won the 1992 Wood with Devil His Due. "It's kind of early. I don't really organize horses' training right down to the minute. I like to have a little bit of a plan, but I don't want to be stuck to something if I see something I don't like. Thinking off the top of my head, I hear there's a plane leaving the Monday before the Derby; we'd probably want to do that. He'd do the majority of his training here at Belmont Park."

Jerkens said Wicked Strong looked good, albeit a little tired, this morning. The Hard Spun colt ran the 1 1/8-mile Wood in 1:49.31, the fastest since Bellamy Road's record 1:47.16 in 2005.

"He was a little tired, which is understandable," said Jerkens, adding that Wicked Strong's schedule calls for him to walk for two days, then gallop, then walk again. "Usually, he's hogging the hotwalker. He walked around like a regular horse this morning."

Wicked Strong, named in recognition of the heroes and victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombing, is one of a number of graded stakes winners trained by Jerkens and his father for the Massachusetts-based Centennial Farms.

Among those trained by the elder Jerkens are 1970s stakes winner Silent Account; multiple graded stakes winner Aptostar, who took the 1988 Acorn and the 1989 Vagrancy; Topicount, victorious in the 1988 Rare Perfume, and With a Twist, winner of the 1988 Rare Treat. Jerkens, who assisted his father for many years before going out on his own, won the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and the Gulfstream Park Handicap for Centennial in 2007 with Corinthian.

"With Centennial you always have a chance to get a good one, that's for sure," said Jerkens. "They've been very loyal. We did very good with Corinthian; we needed this to happen."


Samraat, who suffered his first career defeat when second by 3 ½ lengths to Wicked Strong in yesterday's Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, will breeze twice at Aqueduct before he departs for Louisville, Ky. to compete May 3 in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Rick Violette said Sunday morning.

"In two weeks he'll go a half [mile], and then a week later he'll go a mile, and then on [April 28] we'll get on a plane and go to Kentucky," said Violette, who trains the homebred for Leonard Riggio's My Meadowview Farms.

Samraat, who had previously won the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham and three races for New York-breds, raced between horses in third early in the Wood before dropping back to fourth up the backstretch while continuing to be surrounded. He advanced into second by the three-eighths pole, came under a drive while trying to match strides with the leader Social Inclusion, was overtaken by Wicked Strong a furlong from the wire, and stayed on well to edge Social Inclusion by a nose for second.

"One horse ran better [than Samraat]," said Violette. "It was a great experience. He had been clear in his previous starts. Yesterday, he got surrounded for the first time, which was terrific. It was a learning experience; he had to run hard to put Kristo away to be able to go after Social Inclusion. He didn't change leads great up the lane. Again, it was a new experience chasing down horses off the bridle rather than inhaling them. I thought he was going to be fourth up the lane. A couple of times I went 'Oh, well.' He kept finding more. He made three surges.

"[Wicked Strong] ran great," Violette added. "He had a perfect trip. Everybody else did the hard work, and he picked up the pieces on what might have been the best part of the racetrack."

In contrast to the Wood, Samraat raced outside his main competition in the Withers and Gotham, and Violette hopes the experience gained by the son of Noble Causeway will help him when he competes in the Kentucky Derby.

"If he's a good horse, he's supposed to move forward off this," said Violette. "Most tough running experiences make the better ones better."


Owner Ron Sanchez looked anything but dismayed that his beaten 3-2 favorite Social Inclusion didn't win the 90th running of the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial on Saturday. On the contrary, he was delighted with his colt's third-place finish behind Wicked Strong and Samraat after clearing off by 1 ½ lengths at the top of the stretch.

"He ate everything this morning; he's happy," Sanchez said Sunday morning as a bright-looking Social Inclusion took in the conversation across the shed row with his ears pricked.

Sanchez said Social Inclusion would take a van out of Aqueduct at 2 p.m., Sunday, and head down to Gulfstream Park to train for the Preakness Stakes on May 17. The Wood effort was an attempt to get the colt into the Kentucky Derby, but Sanchez said there would be no further push for the first leg of the Triple Crown.

"If we can make the Derby, we're going to go, but I think the main goal is the Preakness," Sanchez said. "It was the original plan. It's going to be tough to be in the Derby, you know? Actually, we are in spot 22 with 20 points, and there are like four preps coming up. It wasn't our main goal to get into the Derby, but we gave it a try."

Based on his first three races, Social Inclusion appears to be one of the best runners in his class. He won his first two starts in style at Gulfstream Park; in the second, he crushed Remsen winner Honor Code by 10 lengths in an allowance on March 12, earning a 111 Beyer Speed Figure, tops among 3-year-olds this year.

In the Wood, however, Social Inclusion, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, met adversity for the first time. He broke a bit outwardly at the start and then didn't make the lead, which he had in his first two starts.

Instead, he moved up from his outside post in the field of 11 and engaged Schivarelli, running stride for stride into the far turn, where he opened up by 1 ½ lengths heading for home. Down on the inside, he tired a bit late and then lost a photo for the place by a nose to Samraat.

The quarter-mile fractional times for the Wood show Social Inclusion quickening as the race went on: 23.79 seconds for the opening quarter, followed by 23.32 and 23.29 and then a 25.23. The final eighth of a mile went in 12.92 seconds.

Asked what he learned about his horse, Sanchez didn't hesitate: "He's a warrior, that's what I learned. He overcame everything and ran big. I thought he was going to win in the stretch. The concern was the track was too deep and slow in the stretch. All the closers came all day long. The only horse I was concerned with was Wicked Strong."


Marcelo Arenas, assistant to trainer Gary Contessa, said that TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial fifth-place finisher Uncle Sigh came out of the race in good shape and could head to Kentucky to wait and see if he gets into the Derby on points. With the top 20 guaranteed a slot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses, the Wounded Warrior stables' color-bearer rests at No. 18 on the leaderboard with 24 points. However, there are two 170-point races remaining: the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland Race Course on April 12.

"He really lost the race when he came out of the gate slow," said Arenas. "It's very disappointing, but Gary is considering bringing the horse to Churchill Downs. If we get in, great. If not, there's other races, maybe something like the Derby Trial [Grade 3, one mile, April 26]."

Uncle Sigh's loss marked the first time the Indian Charlie colt had been worse than second in five starts, including two second-place finishes in the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham to Wood runner-up Samraat.


Both Grade 2 Gazelle winner My Miss Sophia and runner-up Got Lucky will be on a plane bound for Louisville, Ky. on Monday to prepare for their next engagement in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 2 at Churchill Downs, trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning.

The trainer will have three starters in the race - which he won last year with Princess of Sylmar - including undefeated In Tune, winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks on March 29.

Pletcher added that Harpoon, who finished ninth in the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, also emerged from his effort in good order.

"We'll probably freshen him up and run him in [an entry-level allowance]," he said.


Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said his Dads Caps, 10-1 upset winner of the Grade 1, $500,000 Carter Handicap, likely would be pointed toward the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap on May 17 on the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico.

Dads Caps won the seven-furlong Carter in a time of 1:22.02, turning back rival Strapping Groom on the far turn and opening up by 3 ½ lengths in the lane, more than enough to hold off the late charge of Sahara Sky.

"It's three-quarters [of a mile], and I won it last year with Sage Valley, so that was my plan," Rodriguez said of the Maryland Sprint.

Dads Caps entered the Carter off second-place finishes in the Grade 3 Tobaggan Stakes and Tom Fool Handicap, losing the lead late in both races. This time, however, he carried his speed.

"We took a chance and it worked out pretty good; the owner really wanted to run the horse," Rodriguez said, referring to Vincent Scuderi. "I think the jockey [Luis Contreras] did an excellent job because he rated the horse very, very good. When he went in 23 [seconds for the first quarter-mile], I thought we had a very good shot to win. Every time he runs, he goes 21, 22. I told the jockey, 'If you go 23, I think they're going to have a hard time,' and he went 23 and change. He never punished him. He just kept the horse together."

Rodriguez said he planned to give Dads Caps plenty of time between races and not tackle the best of the best every time out.

"That's why I don't want to run him in these races," he said, referring to races like the Carter. "I don't have that many good horses in the barn. If I get one, I try to keep him sound for as long as I can because they are very, very hard to come around."

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