Pick Six Racing's Vyjack—who last time out won a Keeneland allowance over the same lawn upon which his half sister, champion Tepin, has picked up three grade I wins—returns to the graded ranks June 5 in the $100,000 Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park.
The 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding still seeks his first turf stakes score for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who took over conditioning duties from Rudy Rodriguez in the spring of 2015. Vyjack is a multiple graded stakes winner on the dirt, including the one-mile Kelso Handicap (gr. II) in 2014. On the turf last year he ran second in the Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) and third in the Forbidden Apple Stakes at the mile distance, and that strong Keeneland allowance victory April 21 after a six-month layoff also was earned over eight furlongs.
The distance makes sense in a family way, given Tepin's affinity for grass. The 5-year-old Bernstein mare, out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened, capped her stellar season last year with a victory over males in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
Vyjack drew post 7 in a field of 8, but will start from the outside as long as the race stays on the grass; the rival to his right is a main-track-only entrant. He will be ridden by Chris DeCarlo for the first time, his fourth different rider in as many starts. Jose Lezcano was aboard for the Keeneland score, but has other commitments Sunday at Belmont Park.
Another horse of interest is grade III winner Middleburg, who himself returned from a significant layoff to run second by a neck in the April 30 Miami Mile Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid has run well for trainer Christophe Clement at Monmouth, where last year he won the Cliffhanger Stakes (gr. IIIT) and placed in the Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT).