The win gave Wicked Strong 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, ensuring him a spot in the starting gate for the May 3rd 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,” 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.”
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.
A day of firsts, as Dads Cap takes the Carter
Dads Caps, allowed to dictate a modest pace, gave himself, jockey Luis Contreras, and trainer Rudy Rodriguez their first Grade 1 victories with a 1 ½-length win over Sahara Sky in the $500,000 Carter Handicap for sprinters 3-years-old and up on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The second biggest long shot in the field at 10-1, Dads Caps raced under Contreras’ tight hold through an opening quarter-mile while receiving mild pressure on the outside from Strapping Groom and on the inside from Central Banker.
Entering the far turn, Strapping Groom moved up to challenge Dads Caps and drew within a head of the leader as they began to sneak away from Central Banker, with Sahara Sky ranging up three-wide. Dads Caps flicked away Strapping Groom’s bid through a half and took a clear lead into the stretch.
Sahara Sky, the second choice, attempted to bridge the gap but never seriously threatened. Clearly Now, the 5-2 favorite, split horses in the stretch to finish third, 5 ¼ lengths behind the winner.
“Rudy told me this horse had a lot of speed early and just try to save horse to the end,” said Contreras, whose most lucrative win in his career to date was a score in the 2011 Queen’s Plate, which is restricted to horses bred in Canada. “He did it so easy and was very strong at the end.”
With Dads Caps’ Carter triumph, Rodriguez now has a Grade 1 win as a trainer to match his victory as a jockey in the 2008 Grade 1 Suburban Handicap aboard Frost Giant.
Dads Caps, who had broken his maiden in a $60,000 claiming race in February 2013 at Aqueduct, entered the Carter off three straight runner-up finishes in stakes on the Big A’s inner track.
He was second by three-quarters of a length to Candyman E in both the restricted Spooky Mulder in December and Grade 3 Toboggan in February and last time was tagged in the final sixteenth a mile when he was runner-up by one length to Strapping Groom in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap on March 1.
“We always thought he was a special horse,” said Rodriguez. “We ran him for maiden sixty thousand just to get him eligible for the starter allowance [races]. We never had the opportunity to run him in a starter allowance, but he was improving every time we ran him.”
Prior to the Carter, Rodriguez’s biggest win of his career was a victory with Vyjack in last year’s Grade 3 Gotham, also at Aqueduct.
Dads Caps, a son of 2006 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap victor Discreet Cat, was bred in Kentucky by his owner, Vincent Scuderi. He enhanced his record to 4-3-1 from nine starts and earned $300,000 with his Carter win. He has earned $512,150 to date.
Rodriguez said he and Scuderi will later deliberate on a return spot for Dads Caps.
“We have a couple of options,” said Rodriguez. “I have to talk to the owner and take it from there. I’d like to give him a freshening because he’s been running pretty hard in the winter.”
Sahara Sky will target the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap on June 7, according to Dan Ward, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.