03/04/2013 3:34PM

Aqueduct: Vyjack benefiting from extended stay in New York

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Tom Keyser
Vyjack, undefeated in four starts, will aim for a third consecutive graded-stakes win in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Rudy Rodriguez’s decision to leave Vyjack in New York this winter had everything to do with the gelding’s state of mind.

So, while Rodriguez took about a dozen horses to sunny and sometimes-warm southern Florida – including his top 3-year-old filly, My Happy Face – Vyjack was left behind to endure the harsh winter weather of Queens and Aqueduct’s overly scrutinized inner track.

“He’s a little mental – that was the main reason,” Rodriguez said Sunday. “We didn’t want to go to Gulfstream. Aqueduct is like a private training center.”

Thus far, the decision has paid off handsomely, as Vyjack has won two graded stakes this winter, including Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham, which kept him undefeated and earned him 50 qualifying points toward the May 4 Kentucky Derby. He will have his final prep for the Derby in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial over Aqueduct’s main track April 6.

David Wilkenfeld, who owns Vyjack, said the son of Into Mischief was gelded before he ever raced because he was difficult to train. Rodriguez also found Vyjack to be a challenge when he got the gelding in his barn last summer.

“Sometimes he wants to put the brakes on,” said Rodriguez, a former jockey who gets on Vyjack himself in the mornings. “If you’re at Gulfstream and Palm Meadows, maybe there are 2,000 horses in and out, in and out. Over here, the track opens at 5:30 [a.m.], there are maybe 10 horses, and [sometimes] I can gallop him by myself.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Rodriguez said he can tell in Vyjack’s training that the serene environment of Aqueduct has helped him mentally.

“He’s a lot more comfortable with what he’s doing,” Rodriguez said. “In the beginning, we don’t even [give] him a chance to let him look around on the track because then he doesn’t want to move. We have to get the whip and get him going, or get the pony, or play with him a little bit. But now, he’ll stand there. His mind is more settled.”

Vyjack had raced on or near the lead in his first three starts. In the Gotham, Vyjack, ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, settled comfortably in the early stages, sitting 10th in the 11-horse field before rallying powerfully around the turn and into the stretch. He easily dispatched of the pacesetting West Hills Giant outside the sixteenth pole and drew clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths. He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.09 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

“I was very, very happy to see him do what he did, especially when everything was winning close to the pace,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez believes Vyjack has yet to show his true self.

“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.”

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, where Vyjack won his first two races, including a Nov. 10 maiden victory over subsequent stakes winners Clawback and Orb. Vyjack also won the seven-furlong Traskwood Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths in the slop.

The Wood is expected to include Gotham second- and third-place finishers West Hills Giant and Elnaawi. Normandy Invasion, the runner-up in the Remsen here last fall and the fifth-place finisher in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds last month, also is pointing to the race.

Siete de Oros, who finished fourth in the Gotham after running second in the Jerome and third in the Withers, is possible. However, Ramon Preciado, the owner and trainer of Siete de Oros, said he also will strongly consider the $750,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 21.

Overanalyze, last year’s Remsen winner, returned to Southern Florida on Sunday after finishing fifth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths, in the Gotham without an excuse. Jockey John Velazquez said Overanalyze was just going through the motions when he asked him for run at the three-eighths pole.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he wanted to watch the horse train for a few weeks before deciding where he would run next. The Wood was originally on his schedule.

Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
martin my apologies for the name calling.not cool on my part.point stands.give the guy the credit due before you slam his reputation.when you wake up at 4 in the morning every day and go into freezing temperature to train these animals we enjoy racing.then you earned a license to trash them.til then,either accept it or find another pastime
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
martin it is easy to chirp rudy is a juicer.here is a trivia question you mental midget. pletcher,assmussen,oneil and rudy rodriguez.which one of these trainers has not served a suspension within the last few years for medication issues. oh no batman.the answer is rudy rodriguez.so if he is juicing as you imply.this must be the smartest man in horseracing.how he can avoid detection.especially because of geniuses like you he is constantly being scrutinized
Martin More than 1 year ago
RUDY RUDY RUDY OSCAR OSCAR OSCAR Quick now What did the late OB &RR have in common? Just a remarkable turnaround when horses enter their barns. Of course you must attibute it to the great skills of these conditioners and certainly could not be anything of a chemical nature..Vyjak sure is royally bred.Maybe that's it.Has anyone ever heard of his sire? What a joke !
FMeatball More than 1 year ago
Definitely LIKE Vyjack !! Have him @ 49/1 in the Derby !! WHOOP WHOOP !
Oz Nelson More than 1 year ago
I should say I only like a horse instead of loving one unless I've met him so I like Vyjack and I also like ORB ( and his grandparents) with 50 pts your in the K.D. if your horse is healthy and your ownwer chooses, case close done! Another horse I like with zero,0 points is Verrazzno WHAT he comes to his next race still green but he has an out recently which some of the other horses in prep races haven't. He could become part of the NIFFTY FIFFTY GANG.(I could be wrong but he reminds me of BIG BROWN.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Haters alive and well this morning. Put some sugar in that coffee wont be so bitter.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Pletcher barn is cool to cold right now! 0 for 6 with 6 well thought of colts in the last fortnight, beginning with the ill fated Violence, than Palice Malice, followed in succession by Forty Tales, Overanayze, Charming Kitten, and in an important 9f Allowance Optional Claimer at Gulfstream, Doherty, the ML and post time favorite. BAD KARMA folks. And yet I see Privman and Watchmaker still have Overanalyze ranked 8th in their Top 20, while they have the race winner, Vyjack, who has done nothing wrong, ranked 17th. Some folks just keep believing their own hyped touts, no matter how they fail to perform to expectations. Two (2) two race wonders at the top of the 20 contenters ranking now as of March 3rd, with the #1 colt listed from the bad karma Pletcher barn, who has yet to face Stakes level company with that one, or run him on a two turn route of ground, For this pair of "expert handicappers"....reallyy odd, don't you think? Keith L.!
John Stahl More than 1 year ago
Keith, Watchmaker and Privman update Derby Watch on Fridays, so the current version doesn't take the Gotham into account.
Albert More than 1 year ago
I like the part about Todd trying to decide where to run Overanalyze next. How about a nice one turn mile Optional Allowance at Gulfstream? He can win by 10 in 1:35 and fool a lot more people into thinking he's a really good one. Been watching that route for Todd's tomato cans for a long time. But hey, a win is a win.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
DRF has the TALIBAN FILTER!!!...So Sad...
JOHN More than 1 year ago
If he really is "a little mental", and likes to look around, I really hope they get him to Churchill Downs immediately after the Wood. From the sounds of it they need to give him plenty of time to settle in and get some training over the track. I think this horse has a huge chance to win the Derby. If they ship in late and don't have a work over the track, I would view that as huge negative from a handicapping standpoint. How he handles the new environmrent may make or break his Derby. Vyjack is the most talented 3yo I have seen thus far. Good Luck the rest of the way