Into Mischief's top 3-year-old took another major step on his way to the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a powerful last-to-first rally to take the $400,000 Gotham S. (G3) Saturday at Aqueduct. The victory gave Vyjack 50 points in the new “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying system, which is almost certainly enough to put him in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 4.
After finishing third on the Freshman Sire list last year, Into Mischief has started off 2013 on a similarly strong note, currently ranking second on the Sophomore Sire list. Besides Vyjack, Into Mischief also has leading West Coast Derby contender Goldencents, winner of the Grade 3 Sham S. in January.
Vyjack broke without incident in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, but when several horses came together in close proximity going into the first turn, jockey Joel Rosario elected to take back to avoid any trouble. Rosario was content to sit well off the rail down the backstretch, moving up a couple of spots by the time he hit the far turn. Going very wide into the stretch, Vyjack really began to pick up the pace, storming by several foes around the furlong marker to strike the front full of run. He hit the wire 2 1/4-lengths the best, getting the distance in 1:44.09.
“He broke OK, and I didn’t want to get in a hurry,” said Rosario. “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 (pacesetter West Hills Giant), and then he just kept on going.”
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez and owner Dave Wilkenfeld of Pick Six Racing indicated the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6 at Aqueduct, would be the gelding’s final prep for the 1 ¼-mile Derby.
“That’s always been our game plan to stay at Aqueduct (and run in the Wood),” said Wilkenfeld of Vyjack, who won the Grade 2 Jerome on Jan. 5 last time out. “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.”
Vyjack earned $240,000 for Wilkenfeld, who paid $100,000 for him as a 2-year-old in May. After winning his debut at Aqueduct on Nov. 10, he returned a month later to win the Traskwood S. by 5 ¾ lengths before taking the Jerome in his first start of 2013.
“It’s amazing,” said Wilkenfeld. “Words can’t describe it. You buy a horse, you hope for this, but it’s not something you really think about.”