01/05/2013 5:55PM

Aqueduct: Vyjack works hard to stay unbeaten in Jerome

Tom Keyser
Vyjack (left), under Cornelio Velasquez, grinds out a head victory over 41-1- longshot Siete de Oros in the Jerome for 3-year-olds.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It remains to be seen if Vyjack is a viable candidate for the Kentucky Derby but he did his pass his first test around two turns and first gut check winning Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,00 Jerome Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct.

 Engaged in a stretch-long duel with 41-1 shot Siete de Oros, Vyjack, the even-money favorite under Cornelio Velasquez, battled back from the outside after being passed in deep stretch to win the Jerome by a head. It was three lengths back to 39-1 longshot Amerigo Vespucci in third. He finished a half-length in front of Long River, who was followed in the order of finish by Vegas No Show, Notacatbutallama, Mudflats, and James Jingle.

 The win was the third from as many starts for Vyjack, a gelding by Into Mischief owned by Pick Six Racing and trained by Rudy Rodriguez.

While Velasquez said afterward he believes Vyjack is a “Kentucky Derby horse,” Rodriguez wasn’t ready to proclaim that just yet.

 “Maybe it’s too early to say but let’s hope,” Rodriguez said. “We got to think big. We might as well think that way.”

 Rodriguez did say that Vyjack would skip the Withers here on Feb. 2 and point to the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham here on March 2.

 After winning his first two starts - both sprints - by comfortable margins, Vyjack was severely tested in the Jerome. He was in tight entering the first turn, and then attempted to bear out down the backside after taking the lead from Mudflats through a half-mile in 47.58 seconds.

 Siete de Oros, under Maria Remedio, came up alongside Vyjack around the turn and put his head in front turning for home. The two battled through the stretch, with Siete de Oros seemingly edging clear inside the sixteenth pole.

 But Vyjack kept persevering, and, after getting bumped by Siete do Oros in deep stretch, switched leads and came away with the narrow victory.

 Vyjack covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:40.67 and returned $4.30 as the favorite.

 “My horse I think is a good horse. He’s a little green. He didn’t pay too much attention in the race,” Velasquez said. “He tried to get out at the half-mile pole and quarter pole and then that horse got inside, he passed me, and my horse changed leads and he came back.”

 Rodriguez said he would take it easy with Vyjack for a few weeks before pointing to the Gotham, a 1 1/16-mile race that, unlike the Jerome, offers qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

 “I’m very comfortable [waiting],” Rodriguez said. “Cornelio said he was trying to get out a little bit … Hopefully, next time, he won’t do that.”

 Meanwhile, Ramon Preciado, the owner and trainer of Siete de Oros, was very pleased with his gelding’s performance. Preciado put blinkers on the son of A.P. Warrior because he felt he was “a little green” in his previous four races, two of which were victories.

 “With the blinkers he was paying more attention,” Preciado said.

Preciado had to make a jockey change from Angel Arroyo to Remedio after Arroyo had visa problems and could not return to the U.S. from a trip to Panama, according to Preciado.

 Preciado said he would look to run Siete de Oros back in the Withers here on Feb. 2. The Grade 3, $200,000 Withers, run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track, does offer qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.