Rudy Rodriguez says he usually avoids looking too far into the future, but he couldn’t help but express cautious optimism the morning after Vyjack won the Grade III Gotham Stakes.
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 tenth 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 said Vyjack has matured since his victory in the Grade II Jerome on Jan. 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 I Wood Memorial as their next objective.
“He was training before on the main track, and he ran very good (on it, too),” said Rodriguez. “So far, he’s been very good, so, hopefully he’ll keep going that way, and, hopefully we’ll keep him sound.”
Overanalyze Back to Florida; Elnaawi Staying Put
Overanalyze, beaten favorite and fifth-place finisher in the Gotham, was bound for Palm Meadows Sunday morning.
“He pulled up great,” said Whit Beckman, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “No real excuse for him from a physical standpoint. We sent him back to Florida, and Todd will take a look at him.”
Elnaawi, third in the Gotham, appeared to emerge from the race in good shape and could make his next appearance in the Wood Memorial.
“Great run, we were happy with him,” said Artie Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “He appears fine now and the plan is the Wood.”
Edited NYRA release