10/08/2016 7:13PM

Vyjack makes D'Amato's decision harder by winning City of Hope Mile

Benoit & Associates
Vyjack could be headed to the Breeders' Cup Mile after setting a turf course record winning the City of Hope Mile.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Vyjack ran a mile on turf in course-record time of 1:31.69 in Saturday’s $201,725 City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita. The victory will prompt discussions regarding a Breeders’ Cup race goal for the 6-year-old Vyjack here in four weeks – the $1 million Dirt Mile on Nov. 4, or the $2 million Mile on turf on Nov. 5.

Before the race, trainer Phil D’Amato said he preferred the Dirt Mile. The win in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile may have changed the outlook.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Vyjack beat the previous course record of 1:31.78 set by Wise Dan in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Santa Anita installed a new turf course in June. The course was used for the first time for the start of the autumn meeting on Sept. 30.

Vyjack ($10.60) was the beneficiary of a torrid pace in the City of Hope Mile that helped his late kick through the final three furlongs.

Vyjack was sixth early, well behind pacesetter Obviously, who disputed the pace with Frank Conversation through an opening quarter-mile in 21.40 seconds. Obviously led by 1 1/2 lengths after a half-mile in 43.97 seconds.

Om, a 5-2 shot, closed from fourth to pose a challenge to Obviously in early stretch before Vyjack rallied three wide to take the lead in the final sixteenth.

Vyjack finished a half-length in front of Om, who was a half-length in front of Obviously, the even-money favorite. Perfectly Majestic finished fourth, followed by Hootenanny, Patriots Rule, Express Himself, St. Joe Bay, Ed Johnson, and Frank Conversation.

Om looked like a winner on the turn, but could not hold off Vyjack.

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“I liked the spot all the way until the other horse caught me,” said Dan Hendricks, who trains Om.

Phil D’Amato trains Vyjack and Obviously. He credited Prat with putting in time in the morning to learn Vyjack’s tendencies.

“Flavien has gotten to know what the horse can and can’t do,” D’Amato said.

D’Amato said jockey Tyler Baze followed instructions to take Obviously to the lead even though the 8-year-old gelding was vigorously urged to get past Frank Conversation and St. Joe Bay in the opening quarter-mile.

“He did what I told him to do and got to the front,” D’Amato said.

Owned by Pick Six Racing, Vyjack has won 8 of 27 starts and earned $1,321,900. The Grade 2 City of Hope Mile was Vyjack’s first win since an allowance race at Keeneland in April and his first stakes win since the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park in September 2014. Vyjack was trained by Rudy Rodriguez at the time, and joined D’Amato’s stable in California earlier this summer.

D’Amato said Obviously will be considered for the BC Mile or the BC Turf Sprint on the hillside turf course on Nov. 5.

“We’ll keep our options open with both horses,” he said.

The final time left D’Amato somewhat surprised.

“The turf course is so fast and everyone is trying to feel out where you need to be on the track,” he said. “I don’t see that kind of pace happening in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”