Pick Six Racing's Vyjack displayed plenty of heart in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome at Aqueduct, re-rallying to the lead in deep stretch to post a head decision. The three-year-old gelding, who was making his graded and two-turn debut over the inner track, thrust himself into the Kentucky Derby picture and remained unbeaten in his third career start for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
Vyjack completed a mile and 70 yards in 1:40 3/5 with jockey Cornelio Velasquez.
"He's still learning and hopefully he keeps learning. He was very game," Rodriguez said of the narrow win. "He shows us in the morning he's that way. I really don't want to see him on the lead because he'll kind of want to wait for horses. Hopefully this race will wake him up a little bit and put him more in the game because he's got a lot of talent."
Mudflats sprinted to the lead after the gates opened, but Vyjack hustled forward from his inside post and was up close in second along the rail as the field entered into the first turn. The opening quarter-mile was completed in :24 and as the field made its way into the backstretch, Vyjack advanced to seize command, passing the half-mile point in :47 2/5 with a one-length lead.
Vyjack continued to show the way through the far turn, but he drifted out a little approaching the top of the stretch, allowing 41-1 longshot Siete de Oros to surge into contention along the inside. That rival struck a head in front while passing the six-furlong mark in 1:12 and continued on a short lead through the majority of the stretch drive, but Vyjack grimly battled back in the latter stages to thwart the upset bid.
"My horse, I think, is a good horse, but he's a little green," Velasquez explained. "He doesn't pay too much attention during the race. He tried to get out, and at the quarter pole the other horse came inside. He passed me and my horse changed leads, but I had a lot of horse.
"My horse tried to get out, fought a little bit, changed leads, and came back again."
The winner paid $4.30, $3.30 and $2.90 as the even-money favorite among eight rivals. Vyjack won his career debut, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, by 1 3/4 lengths on November 10 and captured the seven-furlong Traskwood Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths on December 9, both performances coming on Aqueduct's main track. He's now earned $202,200.
Siete de Oros finished three lengths clear of 39-1 outsider Amerigo Vespucci, who edged fourth-placer and 5-2 second choice Long River by a half-length. Vegas No Show came next under the wire and was followed by Notacatbutallama, Mudflats and James Jingle.
"The owner and I already discussed this; now we'll just back off a little bit and wait for the (Grade 3) Gotham (on March 2 at Aqueduct)," Rodriguez said when asked about Vyjack's next start. "Hopefully, he'll show up again."
A son of first-crop sire Into Mischief, Vyjack is out of the unraced Stravinsky mare Life Happened, a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Disco Rico and the dam of Prime Cut, who placed in the Grade 2 Peter Pan and the Grade 3 Lexington in 2011. This is also the female family of champion sprinter Smoke Glacken. Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, Vyjack initially sold as a yearling for $45,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July Sale before bringing a winning bid of $100,000 from his current connections at Fasig-Tipton Maryland May Two-Year-Old Sale last year.