rudy rodriguez

Derby Dozen #3: Vyjack

(Into Mischief x Life Happened, by Stravinsky)

  • Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez (Agave Kiss, Temecula Creek, Flat Bold)
  • Jockey: Garrett Gomez (10th last year on Daddy Nose Best)
  • Owned by: Pick Six Racing
  • Record: 5:4-0-1
  • Earnings: $460,000
  • Best speed figures: 93 Beyer, 108 Equibase

Background: A curmedgeon of a colt, Vyjack became a gelding after being a bit too headstrong, and that fractious energy turned into speed when he began racing. Proving new dimensions and more ability seemingly with every start, Vyjack has become a crowd favorite in his journey to Churchill Downs and a shining first hope for his people: New York-based Rudy Rodriguez’s first Derby hopeful and the newly-formed Pick Six Racing’s first horse.

Prep Schedule: Raced entirely at Aqueduct, Vyjack beat out a tough crowd in his 6 ½ furlong-maiden debut including the likes of Orb and stakes winner Clawback before claiming his first stakes win in the Traskwood over Always in a Tiz covering 7 furlongs. He went a bit longer next out using the same near-the-lead tactics in the Jerome (II), where he was pressured late but still eked out a tough win by a head over Siete de Oros. He faced tougher company next out in the Gotham (III), where he showed a new dimension closing into a pretty soft pace from being 8th on the turn to clear victory by 2 ¼ lengths. He went wide in the Wood (I) to make a good case, but was just snuffed out late to be 3rd to lose by roughly 1 length.

Pedigree: A lot of winning has been done in Into Mischief’s family lately, and the stallion himself is a G1-winning son of Florida Derby (I) winner Harlan’s Holiday specializing in one-turns. Into Mischief is out of the stakes winner Leslie’s Lady (Tricky Creek), who is also the dam of G1-winning machine Beholder. Vyjack is a part of Into Mischief’s banner freshman crop which also includes Santa Anita Derby (I) winner Goldencents. Backing up to Vyjack’s distaff side, he is out of the unraced Life Happened, a daughter of sprinter Stravinsky, who has a lot of great names in her ancestry like Moccasin, Nureyev, Blushing Groom, and Round Table. Vyjack is one of the least inbred in the field. TrueNicks Rating: C, Variant 1.19

Running Style: Adaptable, near-the-pace

Pros: Possessing speed when it counts, Vyjack showed dimension as a horse who could show early speed around one-turn but then close into it down the stretch to win so he does not necessarily need a setup to win.

Cons: The biggest blight on Vyjack’s record is the possibility of scandal, as trainer Rodriguez has been under fire and subsequently suspended for recent doping positives. It is also questionable how well he can ship since he has yet to race outside of Aqueduct. There have also been sketchy rumors about the gelding’s current state of fitness.

Final Word: After hearing a lot of promising things about Vyjack’s recent post-Wood breezes, I think he’ll be fine to stay competitive in time for the Kentucky Derby. However, there is still that lingering question as to how effective he’ll be going 10 furlongs. We know he is a strong competitor from his stubborn duel with Siete de Oros and Gotham stretch drive. Garrett Gomez is going to be a plus, and doping case or not, Vyjack is an interesting addition to the field.