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Kentucky Derby 2013: Vyjack is a Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma

To play, or not to play, that is the question. An eternal question that plagues the horseplayer on a weekly, if not daily basis, and certainly not exclusive to the one day a year where the entire world seems to watch. But let’s not fool ourselves, the Kentucky Derby is a different animal. It’s an event in which everyone wants to look good, and whether we are talking about fancy hats or Pick 4’s, we all want to bring our best on the first Saturday in May. Because of this, handicappers spend infinitely more time on Derby data than any other race. Derby handicapping is a minefield of mysteries, and we can only hope to unlock as many of them as possible before both Kentucky Derby starting gates spring open. One such horse of mystery to me is Vyjack.

Vyjack has been a bit of a puzzle of mine since day one, constantly making me question my beliefs and notions as to what kind of horse he really is. Questions such as ...

Is he a front runner, or does he prefer to rally?

He was undefeated heading into the Wood Memorial, but had he really beaten anything?

Can a son of new sire, Into Mischief, really excel at the classic distance of ten furlongs?

He ran a good race in the Wood, but was his third place finish a sign of worse things to come, or was it actually a big performance considering how competitive he was despite coming out of the race sick?

He spent some quality time taking in pure oxygen at the bucolic setting of Fair Hill Training Center … Is this the kind of thing that can help a young horse arrive at Churchill Downs with the most positive of attitudes?

The general clocker consensus was that his lone workout at Churchill Downs was nothing to write home about … Is this something that should really concern me?

Now I know we’ll likely have most of these answers taken care of late Saturday afternoon, but that doesn’t do me much good in the here and now, and at the betting windows. And frankly, it’s no fun to let the riddle of Vyjack go unsolved before the answer is revealed. So, I’m going to try to answer these questions now, and as simply as possible.

I think he is a rallier, or at least, that is what he has become. Perhaps he was talented enough to be on the pace early on, but now in his last two races, and thanks to his training, is now very comfortable in picking off horses like he did in the Gotham. Keep in mind, in the Wood he got no pace to run at.

I recognize that the Wood Memorial versions of Verrazano, and Normandy Invasion were likely his toughest tests to date, but looking back at race one through race five, I am quite content that Vyjack has faced good competition since his debut.

Can he get the distance? Why not. Into Mischief has only proven to be a good young sire to this point. He has not had the chance yet to prove that his offspring cannot handle the classic distances. If Vyjack is good enough, I don’t believe it is the distance that will beat him on May 4.

Considering that he was right there and never packed it in against two of the Derby favorites in the Wood is a very good sign. They ran fast in the stretch and so did he. That kind of running coming out of the Derby far turn may serve him very well. And what if he improves, because he was not at his best physically for the Wood?

Yes, his time away from the daily grind is a positive. Rudy says he is a happy horse, and that is good enough for me. My only question is … Can I get some quality R&R and pure oxygen treatments at Fair Hill sometime soon?

And finally … No, the fact that a few clockers said Vyjack only looked okay during his Churchill Downs breeze, does not faze me at all. They simply do not know what is inside this horse.

Questions answered; Vyjack will by my top long shot selection for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. 


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2013: Vyjack is a Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma...

they all lose for some reason(infection) but now they must stepppp up, a mile qt. is a longggg way
We still have to wait for the draw but Verrezano and Orb seem to tower over the others. The only benefit to this is the 20 horse field that along with the extra distance helps the fan/bettor get a better price somewhere else and still have a chance.Current odds are Verrazano 4/1, Orb 5/1, Normady Invasion 10/1, Goldencents 10/1, Itsmyluckyday 12/1, etc. This is the first time that individual horses have been the betting favorite over the field taken as a whole.That may change, but not yet.
Pedigree wise, neither Vyjack, nor Goldencents would be in my top 10, but yes of the two horses, I prefer Vyjack, and at double the odds. Good luck to everyone who loves Goldencents.
"Into Mischief has only proven to be a good young sire to this point. He has not had the chance yet to prove that his offspring cannot handle the classic distances." Amazing, using the same horse (Into Mischief) to say one has distance limitations (Goldencents) and one doesn't (Vyjack) in the same race.
Yes, Vyjack will win giving owner Pick Six Racing, trainer Rudy Rodriguez, and jockey Garrett "Go-Go" Gomez their first Kentucky Derby wins. Garrett "Go-Go" Gomez will get his first Derby win in 10 tries and Rudy Rodriguez will get his first win with his 1st Derby starter.
Agree t_v >> & TIA.
Sorry but, two races back when he won the only horse he beat of any worth was overanalyze in a slow fraction race. Then in the wood he wad a chance to win but was turned back by Verrazano and passed by NI at the finish in another slow fraction race. I know it was said that he had infection the previous race is to why did not run as good. I don't buy that as if he did have a medical issue last race, why did they run him. Points right! I know how important it is getting to the KD but running a horse when he was sick would make it tougher in immediate races down the road, like the KD. Personally I don't think he is as good as many others in the KD anyway. Pitch!
This one has been flat slow...SO far (no past performances in the format I need to evaluate energy distributions) no info to see just how out of it this one MIGHT be...Don't know yet..Friady AM will have it
There is enough value in this field to keep me from using a horse that has had a medical setback since his last race.
he ran about the same without the infection
He was on antibiotics just after the Wood Memorial. Makes him an automatic throw out for me.
I've loved Vyjack from the start, and i confidently feel the ONLY shot he has to win the derby is if he sits back and tries the one-shot from the clouds closing style that he displayed in the Gotham. I know he is versatile and can stalk the pace, but I just don't feel he can hang with some of the top horses using that style, unless his lung infection seriously impacted his wood performance, but i doubt that.
This horse has me wondering on unused potential. But here's the thing. Every year there is always horses who are very interesting. But only one can win. Somebody has got to finish 2-20.
This guy confuzzles me, Brian. I'm not even going to post my famous lengthy comments... I don't know what to say about him. He's confuzzles me, badly.
I would be more inclined to use It's My Lucky Day over Vyjack if we're talking about horses who didn't win their races.
Great article. I have thought so highly of this horse since his maiden and he has always impressed. Vyjack will be spread out from top to bottom in my supers. It is easy to see that two different Vyjacks ran the Gotham and the Wood. In the Gotham, that was the 100% fit, what you see is what you get horse. In the Wood, his heart was still there but he was not 100%. Vyjack is the best "longshot" of the field and there is no way I would leave that one out.
I, too, have been tussling with how to use Vyjack. He has never been a horse that has dazzled in the morning. He is a horse that has benefitted from having his trainer as his exercise rider with each work being a teacher-student session. I think he is a mature horse and I like him, as you know all should know. What kind of a longshot do you see, Brian? 15-1 or higher? I'll use him in a trifecta play. The $1 superfecta is too rich for my bankroll.
why not.secreteriat won by not winnin g his race.monarchos won by not winning his race.funny cide won by not winning his you see a pattern folks.the positive of winning a major race prior to the derby is the purse you get if you own the not get me wrong.there are no negatives.but if history has taught us really does not make that much of a difference.
All great questions. I really like Garrett Gomez getting the mount, like how Vyjack surprised so many in the Jerome and Gotham and I was excited to see get Rudy cleared to race in the Kentucky Derby. Vyjack appears to be doing well which is great but, I'm not sold on betting this good story. So, unfortunately i can't agree, Vyjack won't be my top long shot this year.

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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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