The 6-year-old son of Into Mischief ran behind the hottest of paces early under jockey Flavien Prat and closed late to pass Om and Obviously for the victory. He hit the wire in 1:31.69 for the eight furlongs, besting Wise Dan's 2012 record of 1:31.78.
“With the fast pace I knew I would be farther back, but it was fast enough and we fought," Prat said. "There were some good horses in here and to catch those types of horses, you’ve got to be good and you’ve got to be brave. I knew I was able to put up a fight but when you’re racing horses that are good, you never know for sure if you’ll beat them.”
A two-time grade II winner on dirt, the City of Hope was Vyjack's first stakes win on grass and first stakes win overall since the 2014 Kelso Handicap (gr. II).
The Phil D'Amato-trained gelding, in his second start for the conditioner, raced in sixth as the Frank Conversation, St. Joe Bay, and D'Amato stablemate Obviously vied for the lead through an opening quarter in a zippy :21.40.
Obviously, who made a three-wide move in the first turn to take control, ran a half-mile in :43.97 and six furlongs in 1:07.86, but didn't get his usual clear lead early. For the first time since the 2013 City of Hope Mile, the Choisir gelding didn't have a lead after the first quarter-mile of a race.
But under first-time jockey Tyler Baze, it was business as usual for Obviously down the backstretch with a 1 1/2-length lead. He had the same advantage at the eighth pole, but was eventually collared by Vyjack and Om, and finished third, a length behind the winner. Vyjack settled inside early, angled out exiting the final turn, and closed to win by a half-length over Om.
Both D'Amato and Baze questioned whether the longshot horses gunning for the lead should have been in the race.
“It’s too bad that there were two horses (Frank Conversation and St. Joe Bay) that maybe didn’t belong that went out there like that, but under the circumstances, I thought he ran awesome,” Baze said.
“I thought the fractions were suicidal," D'Amato said. "Obviously was a victim of circumstances and there were two horses that maybe didn’t belong in here and our guy still fought valiantly. The whole time I thought Vyjack was in the best spot to have a chance to win."
The winner paid $10.60, $4.80, and $2.80. Om brought $4.40 and $2.40, and Obviously—the even-money favorite—paid $2.10.
The win pushed Vyjack's earnings to more than $1.3 million, with an 8-4-3 record from 27 starts.
Although D'Amato originally planned to run Vyjack in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), he said after the City of Hope that he's now open to more options.
"The original plan was the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for Vyjack, but with the way he ran today, we’ll see," D'Amato said. "The turf milers here have such tremendous turn of foot and Vyjack showed that today and it set up for him."