Vyjack outfinished longshot Siete de Oros after a grueling mano-a-mano stretch battle to take the win in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct.
Vyjack, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, was the even-money favorite of the Jerome, while Siete de Oros, ridden by Mario Remedio, was the seventh betting choice out of eight at 41-1 odds.
At the start of the race, Junior Alvarado sent Mudflats to take the lead from post six, and he was followed early on by Vegas No Show to his outside and Long River to his inside.
Vyjack took advantage of his inside post No. 2, and Velasquez moved him to take second place on the rail as they reached the first turn.
As they reached the backstretch, Vyjack had taken a clear lead by a length over Mudflats, Siete de Oros moved up to third down on the rail followed to the outside by Long River and Vegas No Show starting to track the leaders.
Midway through the final turn, Velasquez moved Vyjack to engage Mudflats and left a seam at the rail that allowed Siete de Oros to squeeze through and engage the leaders.
At this point, it looked like anybody's race as the first seven horses were bunched up, and there was no more than two lengths from first to seventh.
But as the field turned for home, Siete de Oros on the rail and Vyjack just to his outside started their stretch-long duel.
Vyjack and Siete de Oros were heads apart as they reached mid-stretch, but by the final furlong pole, Siete de Oros started to inch away upfront showing almost a head on the lead as they reached the one-sixteenth pole.
But Velasquez went to the whip to his right and powered Vyjack for one final push that took him to achieve that final surge and win by a head.
It was three lengths back to Amerigo Vespucci, who finish third, a half-length ahead of Long River. The remaining horses in the order of finish were Vegas No Show, Notacatbutallama, Mudflats and James Jingle.
The Jerome Stakes is not an official points race for the qualifying system for the Kentucky Derby, but it is New York's first Kentucky Derby prep race of 2013, and the connections used it as a possible stepping stone for the Withers next month.
The Withers is part of the Kentucky Derby trail, and right now you can make a strong case for Vyjack and Siete de Oros to join the trail moving forward.
Vyjack now remains unbeaten in three starts and came into the race after earning big Beyer figures from his previous efforts, including a field-high 96 on his last start. This race validates his form as a legitimate contender.
Siete de Oros had won twice in four starts but had not shown much prior to this race, indicative of his 41-1 odds. But apparently, the horse was focused, and he turned in the best race of his career.
Both should now be officially on the Derby trail.
The disappointment of the race had to be second betting choice Long River, who was behind the wall of horses during the final turn, and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. had to slightly check him. This probably cost him finishing closer to the winner.
He might get another chance to qualify for the Derby.
The next Derby prep race in New York—and first official points race—will be the Grade 3 Withers at 8.5 furlongs here in Aqueduct on February 2.
|Race Name: Jerome S. - Grade: 2|
|Age Restriction: Three Years Old|
|Distance: One Mile and 70 Yards on the Inner Track|
|Track Condition: Heavy|
|Winning Time: 1:40.67 Fractions: 24.14, 47.58, 1:12.04, 1:36.59|
|2||Vyjack||Cornelio H. Velasquez||4.30||3.30||2.90|
|1||Siete de Oros||Maria Remedio||23.00||11.00|
|4||Amerigo Vespucci||Erick D. Rodriguez||7.90|
|Also ran: 3 - Long River , 7 - Vegas No Show , 5 - Notacatbutallama , 6 - Mudflats , 8 - James Jingle|
|Wager Type||Winning Numbers||Payoff|
|$2 Pick 3||4-1-2 (3 correct)||156.00|
|$2 Daily Double||1-2||7.60|
|$2 Grand Slam||1/2/4/8-3/4/5-1/3/4-2 (4 correct)||12.40|