Gotham Winner Vyjack Headed to Wood Memorial

Gotham Winner Vyjack Headed to Wood Memorial
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Undefeated Vyjack remains on track for the $1 million Wood Memorial (gr. I) following his terrific victory in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack March 2.

The 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial will be contested over Aqueduct's main track April 6.

"He was training before on the main track, and he ran very good (in a pair of starts last December)," said trainer Rudy Rodriguez on the morning after Vyjack's 2 1/4-length triumph over the inner track in the Gotham. "So far, he's been very good, so, hopefully he'll keep going that way, and, hopefully we'll keep him sound."

Rodriguez earned the biggest victory of his training career when the son of Into Mischief   launched an impressive stretch run from eighth in the field of 11 3-year-olds for jockey Joel Rosario.

The victory gave Vyjack, who is unbeaten in four starts, 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" qualifying system, which likely is enough to put him in the starting gate at Churchill Downs May 4.

Rodriguez is optimistic that Vyjack can continue to improve as he progresses to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

"He doesn't know what he's doing yet," said Rodriguez of Vyjack's upside. "I think he's still got more. He's big and strong, so hopefully he'll keep growing and keep running. We're very, very impressed with what he did yesterday."

In his three prior starts, Vyjack either set the pace, as he did in winning the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 5, or was pressing the issue.

Ridden by Rosario for the first time in the Gotham, Vyjack raced in 10th around the clubhouse turn and still had much ground to make up as the field reached the quarter pole. Angled outside, the gelding blew past his competition in the stretch and won going away.

"I was looking for him to run that way, taking dirt in the face because we have been working with him like that," said Rodriguez. "He's a type of horse where if you grab him, he wants to go, go, go. I told that to Joel, and I guess he just grabbed the reins. He said he was a little concerned because when the other horse pushed him outside he was (wider than he wanted to be), but it looked like he did everything he was supposed to do.

"We were very, very happy to see him do what he did yesterday, especially when everything was winning close to the pace."

Rodriguez noted how Vyjack has matured since his victory in the Jerome.

"His mind is more settled," said Rodriguez. "Pretty much, you have to let him do what he wants to do without pushing him."

Vyjack, who races for David Wilkenfeld's Pick Six Racing, heads into the Wood 4-for-4 with earnings of $442,400. All four of his races have been at Aqueduct, two on the main track, and two on the inner track.

Elsewhere, Overanalyze  , beaten favorite and fifth-place finisher in the Gotham, was bound for Palm Meadows Training Center the morning of March 3.

"He pulled up great," said Whit Beckman, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "No real excuse for him from a physical standpoint. We sent him back to Florida and Todd will take a look at him."
 

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