Wicked Strong Odds to win the 2014 Belmont Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 5/27/2014
Wicked Strong came from seemingly nowhere to win the Wood Memorial, and with that he became a star on the Triple Crown trail. He was the second choice to win the Kentucky Derby, but he ran a troubled fourth. The somewhat disappointing result has lowered expectations for this horse here in the Belmont, though he is still seen as a serious contender according to the odds. So, can Wicked Strong win the Belmont? And, more importantly for bettors, what are Wicked Strong's odds to win the Belmont? Let's look at that, and at four other factors that will determine how attractive he is to bet on here:
Wicked Strong's odds to win the 2014 Belmont Stakes: There are two groups of contenders in this race in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Five horses are viewed as legitimate contenders, and the rest are various degrees of long shots. Wicked Strong is among that top group. He sits at +800 to win the race at Sportsbook.ag, which has him tied at fourth with Commanding Curve behind favorite California Chrome, Ride On Curlin and newcomer Tonalist. The group of five horses is correct, but I would rank Wicked Strong slightly higher than he currently is.
The Derby: Finishing fourth as the second favorite in the biggest single race on the planet isn't a total disaster, but it isn't quite what you hope for, either. When you look back at his effort, though, there are a couple of acceptable excuses. First, he stumbled out of the gate, so he wasn't at his best from the start. He recovered decently, but that early blow to the confidence can be a big issue for a young horse in what already is the most intimidating race they have seen by far. Second, he bumped into Candy Boy after that start and again was somewhat shaken. Despite that he closed nicely, and though he was no threat to finish better than fourth he still had a solid day. With a better start, a better trip and more distance he could be in position to do better than that in his second Triple Crown attempt.
Breeding: I like the breeding for this horse in this spot better than any other horse in the field. His sire, Hard Spun, was a true Triple Crown warrior. He didn't win a race, but he was second in the Derby, third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont. In most years he would have fared much better, but he had the misfortune of running into an impossibly deep class of three-year-olds that year that included Street Sense, Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. He was a tough horse who has sired tough horses. Wicked Strong's damsire is Charismatic. He won the Derby and Preakness in 1999, and he would quite possibly have won the Belmont as well if not for a broken leg suffered deep in the stretch. He was a true warrior. Though most of his breeding success has been at shorter distances than this, the stamina is obviously there to be drawn on.
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh does not have a ton of experience at the Triple Crown level, but he has had some decent success in his limited experience. He was third in the 2011 Derby aboard Mucho Macho Man and fourth this year on this horse. He does not have Belmont Stakes experience, but he is based in New York, so he knows the track very well. He would be far from my first choice as a jockey in this spot - his decision making in-race isn't all it could be. The long and quirky Belmont stretch has spelled doom for a lot of inexperienced riders in this race, though, so at least we don't have to worry about that being a problem in this case.
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens is part of a true racing family. He, his father, Allen, and his brother, Steve, have combined to win nearly 5,000 races as trainers. The star of the group is Allen. He has won 3,853 races, has been in the racing Hall of Fame for 40 years, and is still training, and winning races, at 85 years old. The family is proof of just how tough the Triple Crown challenge can be - none of their combined 4,854 wins have been in Triple Crown races. They really haven't come that close. The closest that Jimmy came was in 2009. Quality Road won the Florida Derby and would have quite possibly been the Kentucky Derby favorite until a foot injury took him out of the Triple Crown. Jerkens and his family know their stuff, but they have no experience winning on the biggest of three year old stages.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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