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Wood Memorial Probably Next for Vyjack

Vyjack, Joel Rosario up, wins the 2013 GIII Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Rudy Rodriguez usually avoids looking too far into the future, but he couldn’t help but express cautious optimism the morning after he picked up his biggest victory as a trainer when Vyjack came from off the pace to win Aqueduct Racetrack’s Grade 3 Gotham by 2 ¼ lengths.

The victory gave Vyjack, who is unbeaten in four starts, 50 points in the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying system, which likely is enough to put him in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 4.


“He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet,” said Rodriguez of Vyjack’s upside. “I think he’s still got more. He’s big and strong, so hopefully he’ll keep growing and keep running. We’re very, very impressed with what he did yesterday.”


Ridden by Joel Rosario for the first time in the Gotham, Vyjack, who had set or pressed the pace in his previous three starts, raced in 10th around the clubhouse turn and was in eighth when the field reached the quarter pole. Angled outside, the gelding blew past his competition in the stretch and won going away.


“I was looking for him to run that way, taking dirt in the face because we have been working with him like that,” said Rodriguez. “He’s a type of horse where if you grab him, he wants to go, go, go. I told that to Joel, and I guess he just grabbed the reins. He said he was a little concerned because when the other horse pushed him outside he was [wider than he wanted to be], but it looked like he did everything he was supposed to do. We were very, very happy to see him do what he did yesterday, especially when everything was winning close to the pace.”


Rodriguez noted how Vyjack has matured since his victory in the Grade 2 Jerome on January 5.


“His mind is more settled,” said Rodriguez. “Pretty much, you have to let him do what he wants to do without pushing him.”


Vyjack’s owner, David Wilkenfeld of Pick Six Racing, said after yesterday’s race that he and Rodriguez will keep the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial over Aqueduct’s main track on April 6 as their next objective.


“He was training before on the main track, and he ran very good [in a maiden special weight in December and the Traskwood overnight stakes on December on the main track],” said Rodriguez. “So far, he’s been very good, so, hopefully he’ll keep going that way, and, hopefully we’ll keep him sound.”


Rodriguez expressed no disappointment over Head Heart Hoof’s third-place finish in yesterday’s Grade 3 Tom Fool, won by Comma to the Top. Head Heart Hoof, a 7-year-old, was making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Toboggan on February 2.


“It was one of the best races he’s ever run,” said Rodriguez of Head Heart Hoof’s performance in the Tom Fool. “I was more impressed to see him hang around with that type of horses than what he did last time [in the Toboggan]. I know last time he was a winner, but it looked like he had [Comma to the Top] beat. [Comma to the Top] was just better than us, but I was very, very happy with the way he ran. He was going very good, very comfortable. The last time [jockey Cornelio Velasquez] took a nice hold of him. Yesterday, [Velasquez] was able to let him relax and move along very comfortably with another horse. For a moment, it looked like he was going to sprint away from [Comma to the Top].”




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