- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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Wood Memorial next objective for unbeaten Vyjack
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's Grade 3 Gotham by 2 1/4 lengths on Saturday.
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," Rodriguez said 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 gelded son of Into Mischief 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," Rodriguez explained. "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," Rodriguez said. "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 Saturday'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 November and the Traskwood overnight stakes on December 9 on the main track)," Rodriguez remarked. "So far, he's been very good, so, hopefully he'll keep going that way, and, hopefully we'll keep him sound."
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."
"Great run, we were happy with him," said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He appears fine now and the plan is the Wood."