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Aqueduct: Vyjack stays undefeated in Gotham
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - David Wilkenfeld wasn’t alive in the pick six at Aqueduct following Saturday’s Gotham Stakes - he said he didn’t play - but his dreams of the Kentucky Derby were certainly alive and well after the race.
Wilkenfeld, whose stable is named Pick Six Racing, owns Vyjack, who showed a new dimension by rallying from next-to-last in a field of 11 to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes to remain undefeated in four career starts.
Perhaps more importantly, Vyjack earned 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby, which will be run May 4 at Churchill Downs.
“The way he ran today he showed he’s the real deal,” said Wilkenfeld, who named the gelding after his parents Vivienne and Jack. “We always thought he’d do good going long. I think he proved that today.”
Vyjack had won his three previous starts - including the Grade 2 Jerome on Jan. 5 - from on or near the lead. Saturday, he was next to last, about seven lengths behind after the opening half-mile before launching a five-wide rally in the stretch under Joel Rosario that propelled him to a 2 3/4-length victory over the pacesetting West Hills Giant. It was a half-length back to Elnaawi in third.
He was followed in the order of finish by Siete de Oros, Overanalyze (the 8-5 favorite), Transparent, Amerigo Vespucci, Champion Boy, Escapefromreality, Sky Captain, and Ore Pass. Now and Then scratched.
Vyjack, a gelding by Into Mischief, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.09 and returned $6.70 as the second choice.
Wilkenfeld races under the moniker Pick Six Racing because of his success hitting that wager. In 2008, he had the sole winning ticket of a pick six at Santa Anita that paid $3.3 million. He said he did not play Saturday’s pick six at Aqueduct, which had a $113,159 carryover entering the day. The pick-six paid $4,999 to 67 winning tickets.
The pick six Saturday might have paid a lot more had 33-1 West Hills Giant held on.There was an objection lodged against West Hills Giant and rider Jose Espinoza by Channing Hill, the rider of third-place finisher Elnaawi for interference soon after the start, but it was disallowed.
Vyjack was ridden by Rosario for the first time because Wilkenfeld felt that Cornelio Velasquez was not a good fit for the gelding because he needed to relax more. Rosario had no problem getting Vyjack to relax on Saturday.
“He broke OK, and I didn’t want to get in a hurry,” Rosario said. “I just let him do whatever he wanted. He was pretty far behind, but that’s where he wanted to be. He passed [West Hills Giant] and then he just kept on going.”
Rudy Rodriguez, the trainer of Vyjack, had been working with the gelding in the morning to get him to relax.
“I tell Joel don’t move too soon - let him do his race,” Rodriguez said. “He was able to relax. We were able to work with him in the morning; looks like we did a good job so far.”
Wilkenfeld said Vyjack would run back in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6.
John Terranova, the trainer of West Hills Giant, said his New York-bred would likely run back in that race as well.
West Hills Giant was attempting two turns on dirt for the first time and did well to hold second after setting the pace under Jose Espinoza.
“Jose rode him fantastic, he just got a little green in the stretch, I might need to close up his blinkers a little bit,” Terranova said. “He was leaning in looking around a little bit at the eighth pole; he got a little lost out there.”
The biggest disappointment of the race was Overanalyze, who was sitting a good fourth in the second flight of horses down the backside, but offered no punch down the lane and finished fifth.
“The first part of the race he was in perfect position - whatever I asked he was right there,” jockey John Velazquez said. “When we got to the three-eighths pole he let go. I tried to put him back into the race. He just went through the motions.”
Downright laughable! Vyjack the "mental" horse will NEVER survive the crowds and the level of activity at Churchill Downs. I give him the best chance to finish 16th in the Derby, if he's lucky. You people, I hope, keep betting him with both fists.
I wonder if Aidan O'Brien is preparing George Vancouver for an assault on the Kentucky Derby. He was a very impressive winner at Santa Anita last Fall and is in the hands of the world's greatest horseman. If he comes, watch out!
Rumors around NY that this horse might get sold. I don't know how much they could get for gelding but this horse has the points to get in.
Rudy Rodriguez is the trainer in case anyone hasn't noticed. At some point, he will need to cheat to win and it wont work.
why do ppl always have to be negative? the horse is 3yrs old for cryin out loud!
Mark it down. Vyjack an also-ran in Kentucky. He beat little more than maiden winners on Saturday. You'll have more excuses than the captain of the Concordia, as to what went wrong in Kentucky on the first Saturday in May for Vyjack.
kick in with the juice
Very impressed by Vyjack. Every 3yo prep people criticize the strength of the field! I thought he beat a nice field yesterday and did it exactly the way you want to see a horse do it when you're thinking mile and a quarter. Also will continue to watch Elnaawi. I was impressed with his effort, he was wide on both turns and still had good kick down the lane. He's only a maiden winner, his nw1x was canceled, so they tried him here, and he responded. He needed this race, and it'll be interesting to see if he takes another step forward in the Wood. Then again, if everyone didn't have Derby fever, they would be wise to look for a nw1x and point him toward the Preakness.
all things considered, horse mad a nice effort!
matt i have been touting this horse.david is a very close friend.it is amazing now that every race has lost its' luster for 3 yos' except the derby.the wood is arguably the most prestigious prep in america.it would be an honor to win it.our belief is that if he is good enough and lucky enough to win the derby.it would be amazing.rudy rodriguez(unjustly criticized in the public forum) is a complete horseman.from the minute he got this horse ,he fell in love with him.the personal hands on care vyjack has received fro rudy his brother gustavo and the rest of their staff is greatly appreciated.their hard work is evident in the results.no disrespect to anyone,but i feel rudy has earned the right to call the shots.we are now all passengers on the bus rudy is steering.hopefully we will have a strong and healthy horse,the joy he has brought to this point has been incredible.you can almost say,the rest is gravy.but as a competitor.david does want it all for vyjack