New York-bred Brooklyn Strong scored an upset win in Saturday’s $150,000, Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct to jump on the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
The Wicked Strong gelding benefited from a well-timed ride from jockey Joel Rosario to engage pacesetter and post-time favorite Ten for Ten in midstretch, and he outfinished that foe to win by a neck. He covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.60 on a sloppy and sealed track and picked up 10 qualifying points for the May 1 Derby via Churchill Downs’ prep series.
Sent off at 7.10-1 odds in a five-horse field, Brooklyn Strong broke sharply but was taken back by Rosario to stalk in fourth as 1.25-1 Ten for Ten set an unhurried pace, covering six furlongs in 1:12.69. Shug McGaughey-trained Ten for Ten, runner-up in the Nov. 8 Nashua Stakes, led into early stretch with Brooklyn Strong the only threat, but Rosario angled his mount to the outside and the pair wore down the leader in the final sixteenth.
“He was responding to me and I didn't know how much horse I had, but I felt like we were moving very well,” Rosario said. “I was confident he would keep moving forward. I had to ride him a little bit.”
Ten for Ten was 8 ¾ lengths clear of third-place Known Agenda, with Nashua winner Pickin’ Time and Erawan completing the order of finish. Ten for Ten earned four Derby qualifying points, Known Agenda two, and Pickin’ Time a single point for their efforts.
Trained by Daniel Velazquez, Brooklyn Strong won his debut, a waiver maiden claiming race, at Delaware Park on Sept. 12. Off of that three-length score, Velazquez entered him in the seven-furlong Bertram. F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont Park in early October, and he finished third. Brooklyn Strong then started in the one-mile Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 24, like his prior start a race restricted to New York-breds. He won the Sleepy Hollow by 2 ¼ lengths, persuading his connections to give him a class test in the Remsen.
"I was very confident going in. I knew the distance was key and I was confident about the off track,” Velazquez said. “I was happy with his performance. He really dug in. Today was a big showcase for him against tougher competition and I couldn't be happier.”
Brooklyn Strong improved to three wins from four career starts with earnings of $195,000. He is owned by Mark Schwartz, who bought him for only $5,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. April 2-year-old auction.
“We'll come back healthy and then start picking our spots,” Velazquez said. “This is a big prep for the Derby moving forward. Now, we're definitely Derby dreaming.”