04/19/2013 11:43AM

Kentucky Derby: Vyjack has first work since Wood Memorial

David Grening
Vyjack, most recently third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, rolls around in his pen following his half-mile breeze Friday at the Fair Hill training center.

FAIR HILL, Md. – A visit to the bucolic Fair Hill training center on the Maryland-Delaware border wasn’t originally on the agenda for Vyjack. But if he wins the 139th Kentucky Derby in two weeks, the gelding’s 13-day stay here may prove to be one of the reasons.

The relaxed atmosphere, a near-empty dirt track on which to train, and a variety of equine-therapy equipment have all seemed to benefit Vyjack, who emerged from a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6 at Aqueduct with a respiratory infection.

“He’s enjoying every minute of it,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez said Friday. “I told him, ‘When you get back to Aqueduct, this is over.’ Who knows? If he wins the Derby, maybe we’ll come over here for the Preakness.”

Vyjack, a gelding by Into Mischief, brings solid credentials to the Derby, as his four victories include the Grade 2 Jerome and Grade 3 Gotham.

On Friday, Vyjack had the first of two pre-Kentucky Derby workouts by breezing an easy half-mile in 51.64 seconds over the dirt surface.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

With Rodriguez aboard for the move, Vyjack went an opening eighth in 13.57 seconds, the quarter in 26.65, and then came home his second quarter in 24.99 with a little urging from Rodriguez. Vyjack galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.87.

Though it would end up being the slowest of 10 workouts at the distance on a cloudy, misty morning, Rodriguez was happy enough with what he felt underneath him.

“I like what he did,” Rodriguez said. “Nice, comfortable.”

Vyjack has a history of being a handful, and he was a bit antsy before the work, as Rodriguez brought the horse up while the tractors were still renovating the surface. Vyjack acted up a little, forcing Rodriguez to have groom Carlos Torres take him for a little walk.

The first one on the track just before 9 a.m., Vyjack jogged the wrong way, stopped, and took a sharp left turn when he saw someone near the rail. Rodriguez got Vyjack’s attention, and the rest of the training session went without a hitch.

“He was full of himself,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been much more aggressive the last three days at least, like he was looking for work.”

Following the work, an endoscopic examination of Vyjack’s lungs was clean.

Also after the work, Vyjack got to roll around in a round pen, which he has done every day he has been here.

“This is pretty much his routine,” Rodriguez said.

One of the reasons Vyjack came to Fair Hill was to spend some time in the facility’s hyperbaric chamber. He went into the chamber several times for about an hour each visit. Horses in a hyperbaric chamber breathe pure oxygen under pressure, and the oxygen gets delivered to damaged cells to help heal the diseased or injured tissues.

Rodriguez also took advantage of the cold-water spa, which allows a horse to stand in circulating ice water. At the track, a horse usually stands with its front legs in a tub of ice.

Rodriguez noted that trainers Graham Motion and Michael Matz – who have both won the Kentucky Derby – are based here. “That can’t be all bad,” he said.

Vyjack was to end his stay at Fair Hill on Saturday afternoon, when he was to board a van headed for Louisville, Ky., and Churchill Downs.

Vyjack likely will get to Churchill on Sunday morning, accompanied by Rodriguez. The two will be stabled in Dale Romans’s barn. All eyes will be on Vyjack, as he will be under 24-hour video surveillance as a condition of Rodriguez getting licensed in Kentucky.

Rodriguez, who recently served a 20-day suspension for two positive tests for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory flunixin, said he doesn’t mind the scrutiny as much as his owner, David Wilkenfeld, who wondered why the entire Derby field won’t be under round-the-clock surveillance.

“I told him, ‘You don’t need to worry; you got a good horse,’ ” Rodriguez said. “I don’t worry about nobody else. I worry about what we’re doing.”

If Friday was an indication, Vyjack and Rodriguez are doing just fine.

mrm More than 1 year ago
I know it was his first work back but it sounded a litttle dull to me. He had to be urged to gallop out in slightly under 104.
Rufus More than 1 year ago
I'm sick and tired of the trainers, who continue to show illicit drug positives while sporting an incredibly high win percentage, and their syncophants --- who proclaim them to be wonderful people and true horsemen. They insist that it's different this time, unlike the Oscars', the Ferriolas', the Greg Martins, the Rick Dutrows', despite while the illicit drug positives continue to add up. They insist that it is "true talent" and the others, who question what they see are "just jealous over someone else's success". I'm sick and tired of them insisting, that these trainers have too much riding on things to risk doing anything wrong, and that "they're frankly too big to fail". Yes, it's always different, until it isn't. There are only so many ways to feed hay, oats and water, and to provide the training to the horses, that sets them apart from everybody else. I'm sick and tired of all the people that should know better, and look the other way. Something stinks, and it's not being produced by any of the horses. And, people wonder why the sport of horseracing is in trouble, as "Baffert-Gate" descends in the background. I am just a nobody but, I am ashamed at what I see, and for all those who proclaim that, "It's different this time."
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
No problem with most of what you had to say Rufus. However, we need to be careful of throwing around the term "illicit drugs". Flunixin/Banamine is an non steroidal anti inflammatory in the same classification as aspirin or ibuprofen, and is a legal therapeutic. An overage of this type is not a good thing,and should bear a punishment, but just not the same as an illicit or illegal drug. I do tend to defend some in these circumstances as most want to bury them without the real understanding of these things, and also single out those they don't like while ignoring others they do like. Fair is fair. If someone wants to stick someone with a derogatory name tag, and say throw him out for his drug violations, then you have to start with the ones who have more. When they find out who has more, they get real quiet.
Joel Winicki More than 1 year ago
Well put....
Raymond Hackinson More than 1 year ago
its nice to see such detail about every second of Vyjack's daily routine. Rudy is sure to point out that out He is like a card dealer brushing his hands while changing shifts. 'See, nothing hidden here' I thought Rudy put the camera provision in his license request. and it was not required as a provision of his approval.
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
If Vyjack is victorious it will be attributed to something in the air at Fair Hill & all the 2014 KD entries will be spending time there before descending on Churchill Downs.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Do us a favor Rudy. Don't mention Matz or Motion in the same sentence in reguards to yourself. Motion has never had a drug violation and I don't believe Matz has either. Clean racing horseman with class. Not a shady past.
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Curiosity is getting the better of me tom. Im gonna make an assumption and say the guy you currently work for has no violations. Am i correct? Had the pleasure of being in the same barn as GM one winter at GP , guy ran a tight ship , impeccable staff . I was impress with his operation for sure. IN a perfect world all operations should be that good.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
There are differences between accidental overages here n there and "accidentally using too much meds on a horse". You must understand that certain claiming trainers train daily on meds while certain horseman use ice, foot tubs, therapeutic blankets, accupuncture, massage therapy, TIME! I hear he and Jacobson have a secret handshake. I respect your views Robert. But I don't agree about these types. No matter how many horses a Guy has, they know who is on what Med. Some just push their luck. The new rules are catching the risk takers. By all means if an animal needs help for soreness, then help out. But don't risk animal or jockey trying to win. Best of luck to you Robert
Mark More than 1 year ago
Can anyone tell me Rudy's win % after the suspension?
Mark More than 1 year ago
I can if you don't know. And its not 29% .
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Nothing like a little mini vaction before the biggest race of his career . Gets the head right. Good luck to Vyjack and connections.
D More than 1 year ago
Good Luck to Rudy and Vyjack!! You def will be one of the 4 horses I key on top!!
NoSolaceSolomon More than 1 year ago
Interesting as he might not have even been 100%
Mark More than 1 year ago
Go Go committed to Vyjack over Police Malice 2 ndcin blue grass JJ takes off Louisiana Derby winner to ride Normandy Invasion Johnny V gives up mount on Florida derby winner to ride wood winner Verrazano . Hmmmm ..... looks like these guys think wood is THE prep to key in on ...
Francisco Pannaci More than 1 year ago
Nice picture of Vyjack playing with toys and all, did not know they did that too !!. Thought it was all racing. DRF probably should post more pictures of the common life of the race horse so that we the fans of thoroughbred racing can have a complete scope of those magnificent creatures.
Babette Cade More than 1 year ago
Why don't you try looking outside DRF.