The Kentucky Derby is a Southern event, but one contender is bringing an extra dose of New England and New York flavor to this year’s race.
Wicked Strong is owned by Bostonian Donald Little Jr., who named the horse in honor of the Hub’s resiliency in the face of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings. And he’s trained by a New Yorker, Jimmy Jerkens, giving him another connection sure to please a different group of Northeasterners.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. He’s Racing for the Boston Bombing Victims
Wicked Strong’s name is about as Bostonian as it gets. The name actually wasn’t Little’s first choice, but since Boston Strong was already taken, the owner decided to add a New England twist and throw in wicked, which is used interchangeably with “very” or “super” throughout Massachusetts and much of Eastern New England.
Little has pledged to donate 1 percent of Wicked Strong’s earnings to marathon victims, and has upped the donation to 5 percent during the Triple Crown races.
2. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is a Horse Racing Lifer Whose Father Was a Hall of Famer
Jimmy Jerkens has had an up-and-down career that has included several high-profile wins, but none in the Triple Crown races.
In 2009, he trained Quality Road, who was among the favorites to win the Derby before having to withdraw five days before the race with a hoof injury. Edward Evans, Quality Road’s owner, later dumped Jerkens in favor of Todd Pletcher.
3. He Won the Wood Memorial
Wicked Strong was a 9/1 longshot in the Wood Memorial, the Derby warmup that features the best 3-year-olds in New York racing. But after lagging near the back of the pack, he carved out an opening in the middle of the track for a surprise victory that elevated his status from longshot to contender at the Derby.
Watch video of the race above.
4. He’s Racing From the 19th Position
Wicked Strong initially drew the 20th position during Wednesday’s post position draw. But when Hopportunity withdrew from the Derby with a sore foot, Wicked Strong moved over a spot to 19th.
Horses haven’t had a ton of historical success from the 19th position, but I’ll Have Another won the Derby from the 19th position in 2012.
Watch the video above to hear Jerkens discuss Wicked’s position and his preparation for the Derby.
5. He Has the Second Best Odds to Win
Hopportunity’s injury moved Wicked Strong up a spot to second on the list of Derby favorites. Wicked opened race day with 7/1 odds to win, trailing only favorite California Chrome, who’s leading the pack at 5/2. Danza is next at 9/1, followed by Intense Holiday at 13/1.
You can follow live odds and wager totals on the Kentucky Derby site.