Vyjack picked up 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system for owners Dave Wilkenfeld and Pick Six Racing when he won Saturday’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, NY. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez noted that Vyjack will likely make his next start in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Apr. 6.
In the early going, Vyjack did not look like he would be the one sitting in the winner’s circle at the conclusion of the race. Todd Pletcher’s Overanalyze, off as the favorite at odds of 8-5, quickly moved to the center of the track from his outside post position, but did not go after the lead. Trainer John Terranova's longshot West Hills Giant was happy to take that role and led the field around the 1 1/16 mile route. Overanalyze settled into fourth behind Transparent and Escapefromreality.
By the first call, Vyajck was second to last in the field of 11. He had never been back farther than third at this point in his previous starts. As the field made their way along the backstretch, Vyjack slowly moved forward. At the top of the stretch, Vyjack passed his competitors on the outside and arrived at the leaders by mid-stretch. He seemed to pause for a brief second just before reaching Elnaawi, but kicked for home and quickly mowed down his competitors, finishing in front by 2 ¼ lengths.
West Hills Giant and jockey Jose Espinoza overcame an objection by Channing Hill, the jock aboard Elnaawi, to finish second. Kiaran McLaughlin's El Nawaii finished third, a neck in front a fast closing Siete de Oros. Overanalyze appeared dull throughout in his three-year-old debut and finished another 1 ¼ lengths back in fifth.
“He broke OK, and I didn’t want to get in a hurry,” said Vyjack’s jockey Joel Rosario. “I just let him do whatever he wanted to do. He was pretty relaxed behind horses, and he did everything right. Turning for home, I was pretty far behind, but that’s where he wanted to be. He passed [West Hills Giant], and then he just kept on going.”
The versatility Vyjack showed is something one wants to see in a Kentucky Derby candidate at this stage in the game. It shows that this gelded son of Into Mischief is growing and learning something from his training in-between races. However, the way Vyjack turned his head down the stretch shows that he’s still a young horse with room for improvement.
The win gives Vyjack 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system and moves him into the number two slot on the leaderboard, behind IveStruckANerve. West Hills Giant and Elnaawi debuted on the leaderboard with 20 and 10 points, respectively, for their second and third place finishes.
Vyjack returned $6.70, $4.20, and $3.20. West Hills Giant paid $21.20 and $12.20 and completed the $2 exacta for $223. Elnaawi paid $6.40 and completed the $2 trifecta for $2,278. Siete de Oros completed the $2 superfecta for $21,724. The final time for the 1 1/16 mile race over the fast dirt was 1:44:09.
Photo: Courtesy Aqueduct Racetrack/Adam Coglianese