Vyjack remained unbeaten on his way to the Kentucky Derby, rallying to win by 2-1/4 lengths in the $400,000 Gotham Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Aqueduct.
The gelding trained by Rudy Rodriguez is now 4 for 4, all at Aqueduct. The Gotham victory was worth 50 qualifying points for the Derby.
"We thought maybe this horse could take us there," Rodriguez said. "So far, he’s proven he belongs with this kind. Hopefully, he can keep going."
Joel Rosario was aboard as the 2-1 second choice ran the 1-1/16 miles in 1 minute, 44.09. A $2 win bet returned $6.70.
West Hills Giant set the pace at 33-1 and held on for second. Elnaawi was third.
It appeared West Hills Giant would pull off a stunner at the top of the lane until Vyjack, far back most of the race, looped the field and stormed down the center of the track.
The tactics were surprising in that Vyjack raced close to the leaders in his three prior victories.
"I just let him do whatever he wanted to do," said Rosario, who was aboard for the first time. "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."
Owner David Wilkenfeld said Vyjack will make one more start before the Derby, Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial on April 6.
West Hills Giant survived a claim of foul by Channing Hill, the rider on third-place finisher Elnaawi.
The biggest disappointment was the fifth-place finish by Overanalyze, the 8-5 favorite. Making his first start since he won the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in November, Overanalyze raced close to the pace but lacked a finishing punch in the stretch.
"I was where I wanted to be, perfect position, nice pace," jockey John Velazquez said. "He didn’t come up with any run at all."
In the earlier stakes, Comma to the Top edged Saturday’s Charm by a nose in the $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap. Rosario was also aboard as he won two stakes on the day. Peter Miller trained the 5-year-old gelding who won for the 12th time in 28 races. The 2-1 favorite paid $6.30 to win. The time was 1:10.26 for six furlongs.
Summer Applause, the 6-5 favorite, beat Twice The Lady by 2-3/4 lengths in the Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares. Velazquez rode for trainer Chad Brown as the 4-year-old improved to 4 for 9 and returned $4.60 to win.