04/30/2014 7:02PM

Jerkens concerned about No. 20 post for Wicked Strong

Barbara D. Livingston
Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong, shown training Thursday, drew the far-outside post for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was enjoying his first Kentucky Derby experience until Wednesday’s post-position draw, where his Wood Memorial winner, Wicked Strong, was assigned post 20 for Saturday’s 140th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

“I didn’t like it,” Jerkens said afterward. “At least you got a long run to the first turn.”

Since 1930, there have been 14 horses to break from post 20 in the Derby, with Big Brown in 2008 the only one to win from there. Caveat, in 1983, was the only other horse to finish in the top three.

On television, the retired Hall of Fame jockey and current racing analyst Jerry Bailey said the post might not be so bad considering that Wicked Strong comes from well off the pace.

“Like Jerry was saying, if the speed is quick and they might get to rolling in a clump, he can draft in behind them, and it will work out okay,” Jerkens said.

The one positive for Wicked Strong is that he, along with Wildcat Red, who drew post 10, will be the last of the 20 horses to load, so he won’t have to stand in the gate very long. However, in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Wicked Strong had issues behind the gate prior to that race and ultimately finished ninth.

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“That’s a concern,” Jerkens said. “He’ll be behind the gate a long time, but for a 20-horse field, they usually get ‘em loaded pretty quick. I don’t know, I’m trying to convince myself it’s not a bad post, but I don’t know if I can.”

Rajiv Maragh will ride Wicked Strong.

During the one-hour draw telecast, jockey Edgar Prado texted Jerkens with the word “perfect” to describe his reaction to the draw. Prado, who is sidelined with a neck injury, rode Wicked Strong to a maiden victory at Belmont Park last October.

“I said, ‘Are you kidding me,’ ” Jerkens said. “He said, ‘Absolutely perfect.’ I said, ‘Okay, I hope you’re right.’ ”

Due to the draw, Mike Battaglia, the oddsmaker at Churchill Downs, dropped Wicked Strong from second choice to third choice at 8-1 behind Hoppertunity, who drew post 10 and was made the 6-1 second choice behind California Chrome (5-2).

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Mike Watchmaker, the national handicapper for Daily Racing Form, kept Wicked Strong as the second choice at 8-1, ahead of Hoppertunity (10-1).

Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert said the No. 20 post for Wicked Strong might not be so bad.

“Sometimes it can help you because you can be in the middle, and it could be a complete wreck in the middle, and at least he’s going to be free of a lot of stuff if it happens,” Baffert said.