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David Wilkenfeld of Pick Six Racing describes the thrill of winning the Gotham Stakes with Vyjack.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog, @mbauerherzog, America’s Best Racing

Vyjack kept his undefeated streak alive on Saturday when he won the $400,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) in a time of 1:44.09. The victory was the second-straight graded stakes win for the 3-year-old gelding by Into Mischief.

Vyjack changed his running style for the 1 1/16-mile Gotham with a late closing run, a different tactic than the slightly off-the-pace style used in his previous races. The bay gelding went to the back of the field soon after the break, only beating one horse around the first turn. Vyjack moved up to eighth after a half-mile but didn’t launch his winning run until the 3-year-olds entered the stretch and jockey Joel Rosario swung him to the outside. The gelding relished the open ground, taking off and passing seven horses in the final five-sixteenths of a mile to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

“He broke OK, and I didn’t want to get in a hurry,” Rosario said in the NYRA press release. “I just let him do whatever he wanted to do. He was pretty relaxed behind horses, and he did everything right. Turning for home, I was pretty far behind, but that’s where he wanted to be. He passed [West Hills Giant], and then he just kept on going.”

Second-place finisher West Hills Giant nearly completed a front-running win, leading into deep stretch and holding on determinedly for second by half a length with Elnaawi finishing third. Siete De Oros rounded out the top four.

The Gotham is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, and Vyjack earned his first 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby. His next start will be the April 6 Wood Memorial, also at Aqueduct.

“That’s always been our game plan to stay at Aqueduct [and run in the Wood],” said Dave Wilkenfeld, owner of Pick Six Racing. “We wanted to get a two-turn race and we thought the Jerome was a little quick [off his previous race], but the Withers was too close to the Gotham and the Wood, so we took a chance and ran back quickly. Then we wanted to take the time and work with him and give him the proper rest and let him mature.”

For an explanation of the Kentucky Derby points system and to follow all of the action on the 2013 Triple Crown Trail, click here.

Vyjack is owned by Pick Six Racing and trained by Rudy Rodriguez.

The Gotham win was the first time he had been paired with Rosario. Cornelio Velasquez had ridden the bay in all three of his previous starts. The gelding was bred by Machmer Hall and is out of the unraced mare Life Happened, who also produced graded stakes-placed Prime Cut. Life Happened is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner and sire Disco Rico and hails from the same family as Grade 2 winner Miss Slewpy.

Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Overanalyze stalked the pace as the 3-2 favorite but faded in the stretch and finished fifth.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.


Vyjack -Inside

Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese/NYRA

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