Wicked Strong was a victim of overcrowding early in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
The three-year-old colt out of Centennial Farms in Beverly, Mass., finished fourth in the 140th running of the race Saturday in Louisville, Ky. The upside, if there is such a thing for fourth place, means a $5,000 donation to The One Fund, based on the horse's $100,000 purse.
"It sure is something, every little bit helps," said Don Little, owner of Centennial Farms. "We're very proud of his effort and we're looking forward to continuing the journey. He's a very talented horse. It just wasn't quite his day. Almost but not quite."
The race was won in dominant fashion by California Chrome, which went off the favorite at 5-2, pulling away down the rail to beat a field of 19 horses. The mare finished the 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.66.
Little and his syndicate will donate five percent of Wicked Strong's earnings in the Triple Crown races to The One Fund. He said Saturday his horse will not run in the Preakness in two weeks.
Little said that the horse will "regroup" and may run in the Belmont Stakes on June 7. "If we wanted to take a shot at another Triple Crown race it would be that one and not the Preakness. We want to see how he's doing in a few days and talk to his trainer and go from there," Little said. "That track is nice and wide for us. We didn't have as much space as we would have hoped. But we have a month to figure it out."
Wicked Strong provided the first crack at the Kentucky Derby for both trainer Jimmy Jerkens and Centennial Farms, which purchased the colt at a yearling sale for $375,000 in 2012.
Commanding Curve was second and Danza was third. Wicked Strong went off at 6-1.
The horse broke well from the far outside post but met early trouble.
At that point, Little said, he knew Wicked Strong, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, would not prevail. "I'm very happy and proud of him the way he ran down the stretch," Little said. "It's nobody's fault, it's just the way the race played out. He was still coming at the end."
Wicked Strong was able to position himself in the middle of the pack at the head of the homestretch before having to change position twice. Even with a clear shot, it's unlikely he could have caught the winning mare and finished 5 3/4 lengths back.
California Chrome will pocket $1.24 million of the Derby's projected $2 million purse, with Commanding Curve getting $400,000 for second and Danza $200,000 for third. Wicked Strong managed to close out the 5-17-4-20 superfecta, which returned $7,961.90 on a $1 bet.
Wicked Strong was a 9-1 upset winner at the Wood Memorial at New York's Aqueduct Park in April, "gobbling up ground" down the homestretch for a 3 1/2-length victory over the 1 1/8-mile course. Wicked Strong broke its maiden at Belmont last fall but didn't win again until the Wood. He ran a tepid ninth at the Derby prep Holy Bull at Florida's Gulfstream Park in January and followed that with fourth-place finish. "A lot of people could have given up on him," Little told The OBF Blog in the weeks before the race. "He showed it as a 2-year-old but like a teen-aged kid, some develop slower than others. He had to put it together mentally."
"He's a good horse and has overcome a lot of adversity," Little has said of Wicked Strong, who is by Hard Spun out of Moyne Abbey. Wicked Strong has a Kentucky Derby winner in his mare's bloodline. Charismatic won the Derby and Preakness in 1999, but injured himself when running third in the Belmont.
Wicked Strong attempted to deliver a Triple Crown win of sorts Saturday for Boston sports fans. The Bruins rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Montreal Canadiens and the Red Sox beat Oakland 6-3 as Jon Lester fanned 15 batters.
Wicked Strong got his name courtesy of Kim Jacobs, the wife of Charlie Jacobs and daughter-in-law of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs after Little learned the name Boston Strong had already been chosen for a horse based in Manchester, N.H. Kim Jacobs and Holly Little, Don's wife, were at a Bruins game late last season and were discussing their dilemma in naming the horse in honor of those lost and injured in the Boston Marathon bombings and all that is Boston.
"Kim told my wife: 'Boston Strong' is great, but it should have been 'Wicked Strong' right from the beginning because everyone knows that 'Wicked' is so Bostonian.' I got a text that said: 'Kim just came up with a great name' and we submitted it," Little recalled.
Before Saturday, Wicked Strong had raised $7,046.10 for The One Fund, based on math and his career earnings of $704,610.
Little and 27 partners share a stake in the horse. He had a total of 72 guests at the race. Among the well-wishers who turned out for Wicked Strong in Louisville earlier this week was Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.
There were many Red Sox caps spotted among the the high-end hats at the track. And many joined in when the people running the public address system played the Fenway Park sing-along ‘‘Sweet Caroline," the Associated Press reported earlier Saturday.
"This name didn't come from any promotional angle," Little said. "We thought it would be great for the people of Boston, and for the victims of the attacks and their families, as well as the sport. This was another way to recognize the victims of the tragedy, and keep the message going. It's hard for people in this day and age to remember these things. People have to remember the victims, families and first responders. We did this to keep the message going. There's no way we could have predicted it would have gone like this."
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