03/15/2013 2:34PM

Aqueduct: Wood Memorial prospect Vyjack learning how to relax

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Michael Amoruso
The owner of unbeaten 3-year-old Vyjack reportedly turned down an offer of more than $3 million.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The aggressiveness that Vyjack displayed earlier in his career was not evident Friday morning at Aqueduct as the undefeated 3-year-old worked an easy half-mile over the inner track in preparation for the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6.

Taking his cues from his trainer and exercise rider Rudy Rodriguez, Vyjack breezed four furlongs in 51.23 seconds over the inner track. He went his first quarter in 26.44 and his second quarter in 24.79 with Rodriguez not moving his hands on the gelding. Vyjack galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.69.

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“I was very impressed the way he was nice and relaxed, very comfortable,” Rodriguez said later at the barn. “He’s usually kind of aggressive. Right now, we’re very, very excited what he is doing. He’s learning a lot and he’s putting his mind together. Today, he was waiting for me to move a little bit. I just sat [on] him, let him be comfortable, let him do what he wants to do.”

This was Vyjack’s first workout since his 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Gotham here March 2. Vyjack has won all four of his starts – all at Aqueduct – and has ascended into the top 10 on most handicappers’ Kentucky Derby lists.

He has elicited interest from outside parties wanting to buy the gelding. According to Rodriguez and owner David Wilkenfeld – who attended Friday’s workout – an offer of at least $3 million was made following the Gotham.

Wilkenfeld, who watched Friday’s workout from a patrol judge’s tower on the backside, had previously told Rodriguez not to send him any offers.

“He got one so big he felt obligated to send it,” Wilkenfeld said. “It started with a 3.”

Wilkenfeld said he has no intentions of selling even a piece of Vyjack.

“I don’t like partners. I really don’t,” Wilkenfeld said “The energy is great. It’s my friends and family, Rudy’s family, Gustavo’s family, I don’t like to mess with karma.”

Wilkenfeld said he started thinking about the Kentucky Derby after Vyjack won his maiden race over Aqueduct’s main track Nov. 10 and sat down with Rudy Rodriguez and Gustavo Rodriguez, Rudy’s brother and assistant, to map out a plan.

“I told them we’re going to think Kentucky Derby and if the horse disappoints us he disappoints us, but I didn’t want to think small. I want to think big and plan that way,” he said. “And that’s what we did.”

Vyjack’s first three races came within eight weeks, but then he had eight weeks between the Grade 2 Jerome and Gotham.

“Even though [the Jerome] was a little close to his prior two races, we wanted to get a two-turn race in him, get to know more about the horse,” Wilkenfeld said. “They found out what they needed to work on even more and had 60 days to work with him, and the results show their efforts.”

The efforts of the Rodriguez brothers to get Vyjack to relax were first on display in the Gotham, when Vyjack rallied from 10th in a field of 11 to win going away.

The Wood, run at 1 1/8 miles, pits a new challenge as Vyjack is slated to go up against the undefeated Verrazano, recent winner of the Tampa Bay Derby.

Both Rodriguez and Wilkenfeld said they are looking forward to that challenge.

“We’ll find out what we have,” Wilkenfeld said. “Like Rudy said, you got to face him sooner or later. I think we got a very good horse. I know [Verrazano] is a very good horse. That’s what the people want, right, to see a good horse race?”

Rudy Rodriguez worked the horse Friday, but beginning Saturday he starts a 20-day suspension for two positives for the drug Flunixin (also known as Banamine).

“It’ll be hard for me, because I like to be here. I like to be around the horses,” said Rodriguez, who can return to the barn April 4. “I’m going to miss it.”

Wilkenfeld said while it isn’t ideal not to have his trainer around for three weeks, he has confidence in Gustavo Rodriguez.

“I’ve been around the barn. Gustavo is terrific. They work very closely together,” Wilkenfeld said. “I’ve seen him on the horse as well. Obviously, I’d like to have both of them, but what can I say?

Head Heart Hoof works

Among the bevy of other workers sent out Friday by Rodriguez was Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes winner Head Heart Hoof, who was timed for a half-mile in 49.27 seconds before the renovation break.

Though happy with the way Head Heart Hoof breezed, Rodriguez said he is not looking to run the 7-year-old New York-bred gelding in a graded stakes for his next start. Head Heart Hoof ran a decent third, beaten one length, in the Grade 3 Tom Fool on March 2.

“I believe the other day he ran one of the best races he ever ran,” Rodriguez said. “I know we lost, but man he ran, and that race got to him, too. He looked like he lost weight.”

Another delay for main track

Though spring officially arrives next Wednesday, the opening of Aqueduct’s main track has been pushed back another week due to forecasted winter-like weather.

With temperatures forecast in the low 40s and the threat of storms that could bring mixed precipitation to the area both Saturday and early next week, New York Racing Association officials have decided to continue racing on the inner track for an additional week.

Thus, racing on the inner track will continue through March 23, with the main track now scheduled to open March 27. Aqueduct is dark March 24 due to Palm Sunday.

All races in the condition book scheduled for seven furlongs will now be carded and run at six furlongs. Wednesday’s Sonia’s Scamp Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, scheduled as a one-turn mile race, will be run at a mile around two turns.