LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Wicked Strong has a built-in fan base for the Kentucky Derby. Like the entire city of Boston.
The colt named in honor of the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings figures to be among the favorites for Saturday’s race. He’s got the credentials, having impressively won the Wood Memorial at 9-1 odds.
Wicked Strong is owned by a Boston-based partnership that has pledged to donate 5 percent of any money won by the bay colt during the Triple Crown series to the fund set up for the bombing victims.
“It’s a neat thing,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “Might be an extra force that will help us, if you believe in that kind of stuff.”
“Sometimes you do,” he replied. “Things seem to happen like that for some unexplained reason.”
Wicked Strong began racing with the name Moyne Spun. Donald Little Jr., who heads the Centennial Farms partnership, didn’t like that moniker and decided to rename the horse with the marathon bombings in mind.
His first thought was Boston Strong, but the name was already taken. So the new name became Wicked Strong — giving it a linguistic Boston twist.
It seems to fit the once-headstrong colt, which got away from his handlers a couple times early in his career. That’s why Jerkens keeps a pony waiting to escort Wicked Strong back to the barn after a trip to the track.
The colt ranked fourth on the points leaderboard that determines the maximum 20-horse field for the 1 1⁄4-mile Derby. The victory in the Wood — his first in a stakes race — and the 100 points that went to the winner put him in the Derby picture.
He will be the first Derby starter for both Centennial Farms, which won the 1993 Belmont Stakes with Colonial Affair, and Jerkens, a 55-year-old son of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.