Photos courtesy Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Even-money favorite Vyjack surged back over 41-1 shot Siete de Oros to win the $200,000 Jerome Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack by a head Jan. 5, the same day 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar put on a 7 1/2-length show over five others in the $100,000 Busanda.
Sophomore Vyjack remained undefeated in three starts for Pick Six Racing and trainer Rudy Rodriguez, while Princess of Sylmar won her third in a row.
In the mile and 70 yard Jerome, two determined runners hooked up coming off the turn and engaged in a ding-dong stretch battle, with Siete de Oros poking a head in front on the rail before Vyjack refused to be denied outside.
The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief was making his graded stakes debut off a 5 3/4-length romp over a sloppy track in the $75,000 Traskwood Stakes going seven furlongs at Aqueduct Dec. 9. He will now await the March 2 Gotham Stakes (gr. III), the next step on the road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"The owner and I already discussed this; now we'll just back off a little bit and wait for the Gotham," Rodriguez remarked. "Hopefully, he'll show up again. He's still learning and hopefully he keeps learning. He was very game. 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."
Vyjack was hard-held by jockey Cornelio Velasquez breaking from the two hole, as Mudflats shifted over from post six and got a head in front to lead the quarter in :24.14. But the big colt soon powered his way back up to the front, going the half in :47.58 while leading by about half a length heading into the stretch.
Meanwhile jockey Maria Remedio had Siete de Oros creeping up along the rail, and as the field of eight moved for home through three quarters in 1:12.04, Vyjack drifted out a little and allowed a seam to open for his rival. The two runners separated themselves from the bunch to run a mile in 1:36.59.
"My horse, I think, is a good horse, but he's a little green," Velasquez said. "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."
Vyjack was all-out to collar his longshot competitor, who put up a game fight on the inside while equipped with blinkers for the first time. But the winner put in one last determined surge coming up to the wire, getting the job done in a final time of 1:40.67.
"(Siete de Oros) passed me and my horse changed leads, but I had a lot of horse," Velasquez said. "My horse tried to get out, fought a little bit, changed leads, and came back again."
Ramon Preciado, trainer of Siete de Oros, said the blinkers improved his contender. Siete de Oros, a Pennsylvania-bred son of A. P. Warrior, was making his first start away from Parx Racing, where he recently finished third in the Dec. 8 Pennysylvania Nursery Stakes.
"He ran the way we expected him to run," Preciado said. "We thought the blinkers helped him a little bit. He had run a couple of races before and was a little green. With the blinkers, he was paying more attention."
"Very, very game," Remedio said of her mount. "I didn't expect to be sitting back. Because he did have blinkers on, I thought I'd be sitting closer to the lead. He settled in very nicely and made a very, very nice move."
Vyjack returned $4.30, $3.30, and $2.90 while Siete de Oros brought $23 and $11 and 39-1 shot Amerigo Vespucci paid $7.90 to show. Long River, Vegas No Show, Notacatbutallama, Mudflats, and James Jingle completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened, Vyjack has now earned $202,200.
For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.
VYJACK FOUGHT SIETE DE OROS TO THE WIRE