Each Kentucky Derby horse has his own unique character traits. This year, there’s a wide variety of personalities – everything from the feisty Ride on Curlin, known to bite, to a calm, cool customer in the popular California Chrome.
Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong can be a bit tricky. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens compared him to a teenager who “wants things his way.”
“He’s a tough little guy,” Jerkens said. “He’s kind of plain looking, but he has a little streak in him like you like to see for a colt.”
Just like a teenager, Wicked Strong sometimes needs a “chaperone” of sorts on the track.
“The pony was with him, which was good,” Jerkens said of the colt’s jog at Churchill Downs Monday. “That’s when it gets a little tough, is on the way home. He got loose on us a couple of times early in his career coming home from the track. We like to have at least somebody there with a shank or a pony or both.”
Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome, the stunning chestnut with the white blaze who has captured the eye of race fans across the nation, is renowned for being unshakable. The California-bred colt made his first plane trip Monday to Kentucky and took his new surroundings in stride.
Apparently, that’s par for the course for the likely Derby favorite.
“He’s a horse that’s not scared of strange things,” trainer Art Sherman said. “He kind of adapts real easy.”
“He’s got no bad habits. He just goes out there and does his thing.”
Trainer Dale Romans thinks very highly of his Derby contender Medal Count, and with good reason. Medal Count won the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, came back eight days later and posted a strong second to fellow Derby hopeful Dance With Fate in the Blue Grass Stakes.
“He’s one of these horses, the more you do with him, the better he gets,” Romans said. “He’s kind of a throwback horse with a throwback pedigree.”
Romans said although Medal Count showed brilliance from day one, it took a while for him to put it all together – like any developing athlete.
“I think he had all the physical attributes, it just wasn’t mentally all together yet,” he said. “He was like a 6-8 eighth-grader. Now he’s a 7-2 senior at U of L.”
While California Chrome is the eye-catching, stylish type, little Vicar’s In Trouble doesn’t draw much attention with his looks. He makes his statement on the track. He has two graded stakes wins under the guidance of jockey Rosie Napravnik.
“He’s on the small side,” trainer Mike Maker said. “He’s not the most attractive horse. But he is well balanced, and as time goes on, he's maturing and looking a lot better. He wouldn't win any beauty contests the last few months, but having said that, he makes up for it by trying hard.”