03/03/2013 1:40PM

Aqueduct: Gotham Stakes 1-2-3 set for rematch in Wood Memorial

Michael Amoruso
Vyjack, with Joel Rosario riding, wins the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Vyjack, West Hills Giant, and Elnaawi – the top three finishers from Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct – all came out of the race in good order and are expected to meet again in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial here April 6.

Meanwhile, Overanalyze, beaten 4 1/4 lengths when finishing fifth as the Gotham favorite, came out of the race sound, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Overanalyze was due to arrive in south Florida by 1 p.m. Sunday, and Pletcher said he would see how the horse trains in the next few weeks before mapping out a game plan.

At Aqueduct, trainer Rudy Rodriguez was still beaming about how well Vyjack performed Saturday and how he was doing Sunday morning. Vyjack ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.09 and earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

“He looks like he came back good, he ate everything last night,” Rodriguez said in his barn office Sunday morning. “Good. Happy. Walked around very proud of himself. We’re happy, too, that’s for sure.”

Rodriguez was particularly pleased with how well Vyjack relaxed in the early stages of the Gotham. He was next-to-last early under new rider Joel Rosario and raced about four to five wide down the backstretch before rallying five to six wide in the stretch. And he did it on a surface that was playing kind to horses sitting closer to the pace.

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“I was looking for him to run that way, taking dirt in the face and everything because we’ve been working with him like that,” said Rodriguez, who trains Vyjack for David Wilkenfeld’s Pick Six Racing. “He’s the type of horse you grab him he wants to go, go, go.”

Vyjack actually broke a step slow, something that probably helped him avoid some crowding that went on entering the first turn. It prompted Rosario to have to take the gelding a bit wide entering the first turn.

Though Vyjack is now 4 for 4 and has won from  6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, Rodriguez believes that Vyjack has more to offer.

“He don’t even know what he’s doing yet,” Rodriguez said. “I think he’s still got more. He’s nice, big, strong. Hopefully, he keeps growing and keeps learning, but we were very ,very impressed what he did yesterday that’s for sure. Wide on both turns and circled the field.”

West Hills Giant, who set the pace before settling for second, lived up to his connections’ expectations, even if he was dismissed by the bettors at 33-1. He set the pace in the Gotham before settling for second, a half-length in front of Elnaawi.

“The horse had been training really well, we definitely expected him to step up yesterday,” said Tonja Terranova, assistant to her husband John. “We thought he was going to run really well, we were happy that he did exactly what we thought he was going to do. We’re definitely going to point for the Wood.”

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Elnaawi, making his first start after a maiden win, got bumped entering the first turn and also raced wide, but stayed on well to finish third, outfinishing Siete de Oros by a neck.

“Really happy with the run, improving horse, a lot of horses had it a little tight into the first turn that’s for sure,” said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “We ended up a little wide, but I don’t think Channing [Hill] could have done anything different. It was a good education for him.”

Pletcher said that Velazquez had to use Overanalyze to get his attending position entering the first turn, but it was nothing that should have impacted his performance.

“When Johnny needed a little more response, he ran very even through the lane,” Pletcher said. “He didn’t get beat bad, but still didn’t have the punch down the lane that we were looking for.”