Haskin's Derby Trail: The Unlikely Story of Vyjack

The Kentucky Derby is like a mountain. It never changes and never withers with time. But in some ways it does change, as every year, new climbers gather on its slopes and attempt to reach the summit, disregarding the many perils along the way. There is no greater feeling an owner can have than to see his or her colors planted atop that mountain. There is no greater feeling a breeder can have than to have created something with the speed, strength, and heart to conquer the sport’s highest peak. And there is no greater feeling a trainer can have than to guide an equine athlete up such a rigorous path and emerge victorious.

If there is one thing you can count on each year on the Kentucky Derby trail it’s that you’re going to meet new people, experience new horses, and hear new stories, as you join the horses and their connections on their ascent up the mountain.

One of those stories unfolded at Aqueduct this past Saturday, about midway down the stretch of the Gotham Stakes.

If you were unable to see the number “7” on the saddleclotch of the streaking figure blowing by horses, there was no way you would have thought it was Vyjack.

In his three previous career starts, all victories, the son of Into Mischief – Life Happened, by Stravinsky had never been worse than third at any time and never farther back than two lengths, and that was in an overnight sprint stakes, in which they went a half in :46.20 in the slop. This was a 1 1/16-mile race, in which they went a half in :48.68, and the horse gobbling up ground with every giant stride was coming from 10th in an 11-horse field.

Then, as they passed the eighth pole, came the words of track announcer John Imbriale: “And on the far outside, here comes Vyjack! And Vyjack has stormed to the lead. Vyjack now drawing away in deep stretch.”

The final margin was 2 1/4 lengths, and just like that, the Derby trail had a new shining star, who had undergone a transformation unlike anything seen by a young 3-year-old in quite awhile.

And so, the fascinating journey of Vyjack continues. Here is a horse whose dam was bred to freshman sire Into Mischief only because breeders Sandy Willwerth and Carrie and Craig Brogden of Machmer Hall Farm in Kentucky had a live foal breeding contract to Bernstein, who stood at Castleton Lyons Farm at the time. On the day Life Happened needed to be bred to Bernstein, Carrie was informed that the stallion was completely booked that day. Not wanting to miss the mare’s cycle, she substituted another mare to breed to Bernstein at a later date, and now desperately needed a stallion for Life Happened that same day.
Brogden called Spendthrift Farm and asked stallion director Ken Wilkins, with whom she was friendly, what stallions were available to breed to that afternoon. She was told Into Mischief was open. She liked the fact he was a grade I-winning son of Harlan’s Holiday and decided on the spot to send Life Happened to him that afternoon. So, the mating of Vyjack came about strictly by accident…or perhaps a better word would be fate.

“Life Happened had had a beautiful Bernstein colt that sold for $475,000 as a yearling,” Carrie Brogden said. “We had been the underbidders on him as a weanling when he sold for $50,000, and that’s when we bought her, barren, in front of him for $4,500. We loved the Bernstein colt so much and saw that he had sold great, we booked the mare back to him.”

But it wasn’t to be, as all his slots were filled that day and there were no cancellations. So, it was off to Spendthrift and a date with Into Mischief. As it turned out, the Bernstein colt on which Carrie had been the underbidder, named Prime Cut, went on to place in the Peter Pan, Lexington, and Curlin Stakes. Carrie did breed Life Happened to Bernstein the following year and she had a beautiful filly that Carrie sold at the Saratoga yearling sale for $140,000.

On Feb. 11, 2010, Vyjack was born. What he was as a baby bore no resemblance to what he would become as a yearling.

“He was always a very uncomplicated horse,” Carrie said. “He was big and strong and was always a good doer. He vetted clean and had a great big throat. We decided to take him to the Kentucky July yearling sale. Some people gave me grief because he was so big and heavy, but the horse lived on air and water. I think that in the end, those kind do great at the track. The only major thing that changed with him is that when we got to the July sale, he discovered fillies. He had to have Vicks in his nose 24/7 and lived in a lip chain when he was being shown, because he was more interested in the fillies than anything else. We had never seen this before, because in our barns, the colts and fillies are completely separated and never see each other.

“Al Pike loved him and was interested in buying him. At the time, Into Mischief was just a ho hum stallion, retired too early in his career and not much in demand. I told Al that if he bought him we would stay in on the colt and then take him to the 2-year-old sale.. He did buy him for $45,000, and the following year we took him to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale at Timonium.

“He had a strong work and was scoped seven times as I recall. I was never there, but Al kept me filled in and did a great job with the colt. After his breeze show, Sobhy Sonbol (former racing manager for Zayat Stables) Facebooked me about the colt, saying he was looking for a new client and what did I think? Sobhy and I had developed a good relationship and he knew I would, like Al Pike, always tell him the truth. I told Sobhy that I had not seen the horse since we sold him as a yearling, but Al had always told me that he was sound without issues. I did mention that the only thing that Al had told me was that the horse loved the ladies and was a bit studdish.”

Enter Dave Wilkenfeld, not exactly the most likely person Brogden would expect to buy this colt. Wilkenfeld had grown up in Hewlett Harbor on Long Island and was playing the horses as a teenager, eventually going to Manhattan to bet at the OTB teletheaters, where he began using the Ragozin Sheets. In 2003, he and several friends teamed to hit a Pick-Six at Churchill Downs for $1.3 million. Five years later, in 2008, he was supposed to meet some friends at the Meadowlands to go in partnership on a Pick Six ticket at Santa Anita. The friends never showed, so Wilkenfeld put together a $4,320 ticket by himself and he not only wound up hitting it, but he held the only winning ticket, worth $3,3 million.

Through the years, he had gone in partnership on a few claimers, but nothing of note. Then, in 2012, he decided to buy his first horse at auction.

“I liked this horse’s three-furlong work,” Wilkenfeld said. “His female family was strong. I thought there would be some value there, because he was by a freshman sire. This was the horse we wanted. We had it narrowed down to six after vetting and watching videos and doing all the pedigree analysis, but this was the one who stood out to me and Sobhy, who was very instrumental in helping me with the whole process.”

Wilkenfeld, 55, bought the colt for $100,000 and named him after his parents Vivienne and Jack. “Theyre the most amazing parents and it’s a great honor and thrill to name my first horse after them,” he said.

After the sale, Pike told Carrie that the colt came into the back ring trying to breed any filly near him and that he had been afraid some of the interested buyers would have been scared off by his antics.

“He was always a massive horse with good bone and a killer body, so I can bet that he was dragging the handler around,” Carrie said. “Sobhy emailed me that they had bought him and how thrilled they were. I was thrilled, too, as I knew he was staying in the U.S. and would be in good hands.”

But about two months later. Sonbol called Carrie to tell her they were having trouble with the colt, who had been sent to Bruce Jackson at his Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center to get his early training. He was getting more aggressive and wanted no part of training.

“He was a good-looking horse and a lovely mover,” Jackson said. “David sent him to me right from Timonium with the idea of giving him some time and letting him recover from the 2-year-old sale. I knew Sobhy from when he worked for Mr. Zayat, so that’s how the horse came to be sent here. So, we gave the horse some time, but when he started back in training, he was very very difficult and very aggressive and studdish. He was not focused at all on what he was doing and didn’t want to train.

“We persevered for a while, but it became obvious he needed to be gelded to get the best out of him. I also spoke to the consignor (Al Pike) and he confirmed that the horse had been that way at the sale. So, after putting all that information together, David and Sobhy quite rightly decided to go ahead and have him gelded. It took a while, but we finally got him going forward and put him back in training. We did a lot of work with him away from the track. The fact that he didn’t want to train when he got on the racetrack, I decided it was best to totally remove that from his program, and we just trained him in the fields and hills and everywhere around Fair Hill for as long as we could. Then, I finally worked him back into the racetrack and he was fine. He turned around mentally and never looked back.”

As for his Gotham victory, Jackson said, “That was a big turnaround. That was special. He’s a lovely looking horse and he looks the part, he really does.”

The next task was to find him a trainer. Jackson had sent some difficult horses to Rudy Rodriguez in the past with good results.

“When David asked me what I thought of him, I told him I had sent him some horses with a similar mindset as Vyjack that he’s gone on and done very well with,” Jackspn said.

So, Wilkenfeld sent Vyjack to Rodriguez, who had been a part-time jockey for many years and who exercised horses for Bobby Frankel and more recently Rick Dutrow. He had also worked for Dutrow’s father, Dick, years ago.

“Rudy is really hard-working and he gets up on the horses in the morning,” Wilkenfeld said. “And I didn’t want to get lost in a big stable. I heard good things about him and spoke to Bruce Jackson.”

Rodriguez came to the U.S. from Mexico, and his first job was picking oranges and cucumbers in Florida. He feels privileged to have hooked up with Frankel and Dutrow and feels he he’s learned from the best.

“I was very blessed to work for Bobby,” he said. “I still miss him, that’s for sure. He was very good to me and always tried to teach me what was going on. If you paid attention you learned. Trainers like Bobby and Rick Dutrow are the kind of people you want to work for, as was Rick’s father.”

Following Vyjack’s head victory in the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 5, in which he was up close to the pace and had to fight back to eke out a head victory, Rodriguez began working with the gelding, teaching him to relax behind horses.

“We taught him to do pretty much what we wanted him to, and in these big races you don’t want a horse who has to go to the lead. He’s always been very aggressive and he still wants to play games sometimes and doesn’t want to train. You have to play with him and let him know you’re his friend. So far it’s working. I didn’t want him on the lead too soon, because he has a tendency to pull himself up. He reminds very much of Empire Maker (who he was around with Frankel). As soon as Empire Maker made the lead he would start fooling around. So we tried to teach this horse not to do that. There’s always somebody coming behind you and you don’t want your horse taken by surprise. You’re better off coming from behind and making that big move.”

That’s exactly what Vyjack did, as he roared by horses with huge, effortless strides and quickly drew clear under new rider Joel Rosario, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.09. West Hills Giant, with first-time blinkers, set all the pace and hung on well to be second, a half-length in front of Elnaawi. Overanalyze, who got good position after breaking from post 11, came up empty on the far turn and raced evenly to finish fifth.

“This was amazing,” said Wilkenfeld, who races under the name Pick Six Racing. “Words can’t describe it. The way he won today was just superb. You buy a horse and you hope for this, bit it’s not something you really think about. I was nervous when I saw him that far back. I’ve been watching the races all day and every winner was either first or second or right there. It was unbelievable the way he closed. I didn’t have time to process it, actually.”

It was a bold move by Wilkenfeld to take Cornelio Velasquez off Vyjack after winning all three of his starts.

“I made the decision to switch riders, and all I can say is, Joel is a great rider and he fit the horse well. He got him to relax, but it is what it is.”

With a Gotham victory comes visions of roses and mint juleps and Twin Spires. “The way he ran today, you definitely start thinking more seriously about the Derby,” Wilkenfeld said. “But I like to take one race at a time. I’ve been in the game long enough to know you can’t take anything for granted. But I think he showed today if he stays healthy he’s definitely a Derby horse.”

Carrie Brogden remains the horse’s biggest fan and keeps in contact with Wilkenfeld through Facebook, and he sends her videos of Vyjack’s workouts

Before the Gotham Carrie said, “Al did a tremendous job, and Sohby and Dave kept the faith and did what was right for the horse in managing him and picking the trainer…and here we are. I am keeping all fingers and toes crossed.”

Well, she did a lot more than that. When Vyjack won the Gotham, she admits she lost control and made a spectacle of herself at the Thoroughbred Club, which is located just outside Keeneland Race Course.

“You should have seen me,” she said. “I only made about the biggest buffoon out of myself. I literally was jumping and screaming from one side of the bar into the simulcast room and back. Thank God no one videotaped it. It was ridiculous. Once he crossed the finish line I could not help myself.  I have really long thick hair that I usually wear up but for some reason I had taken the hair band out of my hair and was chewing on it, probably from nerves.

“Well, they tell me that I jumped up and down like a jack rabbit and I was yelling and screaming with happiness. I went into the simulcast room that is a very warm place with about 10 tables in it, full of horse people, and was jumping and yelling.  I was told I looked like a heavy metal rocker on the stage, flinging my hair around. I stopped and turned to the crowd and blurted out: ‘I bred that horse and this is why I am a breeder!”  Cheers and applause resounded all around once everyone knew the reason for my crazy behavior. Needless to say, about 15 minutes later I was as embarrassed as hell for doing that. My phone was just blowing up with texts from well wishers. I’m getting goose bumps all over just thinking about it” 

If Carrie gets this excited winning the Gotham, imagine what she’ll be like if Vyjack should win the Kentucky Derby.

She realizes it’s still a long way to Churchill Downs, and all you can do is hope the horse stays sound and healthy. But for now, the thrill and excitement of winning a major Derby prep is more than enough, and there is always that one thought to keep the dream alive.

As the song Run for the Roses goes, “It’s the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.”

And Carrie keeps thinking,, “If Bernstein had not been full that day, this horse would not have existed. That is fate.”


Leave a Comment:


Terrific story. This might be the finest accidental mating in history if Vyjack continues to climb the heights. He seems like a very strong-willed horse, and that trait should serve him well down the line. I'm a fan after Saturday's impressive performance.

04 Mar 2013 4:59 PM

People actually think the gotham was anything? 93 beyer? wow!

04 Mar 2013 5:08 PM
tom mallios

ky vet.for those who believe in the beyers numbers,that is just the speed number.if you take into consideration the fact he was 4 wide the 1rst turn and 5 wide the 2nd turn.also he carried 123 lbs.he gave the majority of the field 7 lbs.the 123 lbs represents 8 lbs over scale weight.so taking into account all of these variaables,they are worth between 8 -12 additional pts.ergo genius,it makes his race anywhere from a 101 to a 105.but sour grape efficianados like you can't comprehend that

04 Mar 2013 6:56 PM

KY Vet I know what the final Beyer was for the Risen Star,Foy,and the Gotham and the way I rank them is FOy,Gotham and Risen Star.The numbers are not scientific in case you didnt know they are based on final time comparisons with track records for that class of race.Find out what the raw figure was for the FOY and the Risen Star and you might be surprised how close the final Figures were.Beyer speed figures should be used as a guide not as gospel.Now if I see a horse get a 110 and he wins by more than 5 lengths then to me that is confirmation.In the Risen Star it looked like some races look like in deep stretch at Keenland on the AW track,whoever grabs hold of the track the best in the final 20 to 30 yards wins.

04 Mar 2013 7:23 PM


04 Mar 2013 7:51 PM

Love this story....the fairy tales are what makes this sport so special and fun. I really appreciated learning more about why he was gelded, which until I read your account, had seemed a little premature.  As it is, makes perfect sense. Each week from here on out, lots of changes in the line-up will no doubt occur. Hope for more of these "backstories"! Ann Maree

04 Mar 2013 7:58 PM
Paula Higgins

Count me as very impressed with that move Vyjack made in the Gotham. I think he showed what he is capable of for sure. Whether he does it every time the button is pushed remains to be seen, but the good news is that he has 2nd and 3rd geers.

04 Mar 2013 9:03 PM

Dr. D

No Vyjack??  You're not trying to be sexy are you???  


This is the kind of story that sounds like an improbable bet by an improbable owner against an established entity!


For you negative Nelson's out there, I will not soon forget what I THOUGHT was Steve's best analysis last year about a horse that won the Robert B Lewis Stakes whom we know ended up one race shy of the triple crown!  THAT was pretty early in the trail as I see it!

In 2013, the only chink in the Haskin armor is that we have more than a dozen compelling horses with compelling stories but none more than Vyjack!  

You have been served notice!  Any man, or horse for that matter, who's doing it for the girls, is being who they were supposed to be!!!

Go VJ!!!

04 Mar 2013 9:50 PM

Funny.....tom........tell me another story..........

04 Mar 2013 9:53 PM


Finer than Godolphin Barb x Lady Roxana?

Come to think of it, it's probably not true that that was an accidental mating; it just makes a better story.

04 Mar 2013 10:30 PM

This horse looks like a real racehorse, not the pretty, fragile horses that we sometimes see. Just my opinion:)

05 Mar 2013 12:44 AM

KY Vet, Steve crafted a wonderful story here about a horse's ascent up "the mountain" that we call the Derby Trail and the journey and joy the connections experienced along the way...and all you can comment on is the Beyer???

I'm guessing you didn't even bother reading the story.  That's your loss.

Great article, Steve!  You really have the skill of an artist when it comes to painting a picture with your words, and the time and effort you put into your work is something rarely seen in any form of journalism these days.  This is why I always take time to read what you write, and why I remain a horse racing fan.  Thank you for that.

05 Mar 2013 2:18 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Stones, I appreciate the kind words. Human interest stories like this are meant for people like yourself, not Ky Vet, who obviously has his own agenda. He can knock any horse he wants to as long as he doesnt become offensive to other readers.

05 Mar 2013 3:52 AM

Smart ponies do only as much as it takes to put their nose across the finish line first. They aren't thinking of impressing anyone with dramatic beyer figures. It's all about winning, and not killing the horse to do it. That's what counts in this game, getting into the winner's circle, nothing else. I've seen speed balls that turned out to be merely a flash in the pan. You shouldn't be so judgemental KY Vet. Horses folks tend to belittle often end up getting the last laugh.

05 Mar 2013 7:50 AM
lunar spook


05 Mar 2013 8:27 AM

Into Mischief bred 61 mares in 2009 and from the foal crop has emerged Vyjack  and Goldencents. Both colts big strong and fast.

Could Into Mischief emulate Birdstone with his two classic winners Mine That Bird  and Summer Bird from his 69 mares bred in 2006?

05 Mar 2013 8:58 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I really like Vyjack. He's good. Just not convinced of 10f yet. There could easily be 30 on any Derby Dozen list. In two weeks we'll know more, in 6 weeks we'll know a lot, in 8 weeks we'll know it all, but a few days before that our heads will be dizzy, dazed, and confused most likely.

05 Mar 2013 9:00 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Actually I think it's over 8 weeks to The Derby but you get the idea. The Derby is May 4th, so on the 5th we'll know more.

05 Mar 2013 9:10 AM


I agree with Stones.  Hardly a day goes by that I do not check your column.  And you do present your knowledge and opinions in the most touching manner, reminding me that the horse is why we are fans.  

Thanks Steve for your years of interest of knowledge distilled into these few words.  I wouldn't suffer Derby fever every year without you!

05 Mar 2013 10:26 AM
Abigail Anderson

Steve: From the opening sentence, you had me! I'm glad to know that Vyjack has a storied -- and fate-full--past. His win last weekend blew me away. I love that he's a solid-looking horse and that he can be put into a race from the lead or off the pace -- it tells me that he's a learner. And it seems to me that you need a colt who learns from each and every race on the Triple Crown trail. Thank you for another masterfully-told narrative. (And "Go Habs Go" right?)

05 Mar 2013 10:41 AM

He has two crosses of rough shod II ...   Via moccasin. The great brood mare . special threw Nureyev...   this is a very nice horse with plenty if distance in his pedigree ! Me like  !!

05 Mar 2013 10:47 AM
Pedigree Ann

I'm sorry, but by Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday over Tricky Creeky) out of Life Happened (Stravinsky over Apalachee) doesn't sound like a 10f horse. Miler lines over sprint lines. I have a mathematical brain, and this does not compute.

05 Mar 2013 11:13 AM
Karen in Texas

Thanks, Steve, for this wonderful backstory on how Vyjack came to be! I can imagine how Carrie Brogden must have felt while watching the Gotham. Could there be an account that more encompasses the definition of "serendipity"?

05 Mar 2013 11:34 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I really liked what I saw of Vyjack's looks, demeanor, and energy prior to the Gotham. He looks like he is enjoying himself and is obviously very competitive. He looks muscular and well balanced. He should have a very successful career. I'm looking forward to seeing him at 9f to try to make a determination about his chances at 10f.

05 Mar 2013 11:38 AM

It is nice to see "upstarts", new trainers, smaller stable trainers have success. It is refreshing in today's world that winning the Kentucky Derby is just one thing that cannot be bought. Just ask Sheik Mo...

05 Mar 2013 12:09 PM

After April 13th (less than 6 weeks away} we'll all basically know all we need to know about all the horses that will run in the Derby. On April 13th the last two MAJOR Derby Prep races will be run, the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes.Only two other minor prep races are scheduled after that and I don't believe any of those races will produce any new Derby entrants let alone major contenders.

  Great article Steve and let me add Rudy Rodriguez has had phenomical success as a rookie trainer in NY and I predict he'll be among the top trainers in the country in the not too distant future.

05 Mar 2013 1:17 PM
Love 'em all

What a grrreat story, Mr. Haskin!  Loved reading every part of it from beginning to end ... and was chock-full of interesting and informative material.  Makes you believe Vyjack is in very good hands .... and has been since day one.  Wish this talented horse the very best ... and all his connections.  

Love those geldings!

Thank you.  

05 Mar 2013 1:41 PM
steve from st louis

What I enjoy so much is that anytime someone drops a jewel in Haskin's lap, he can sure polish it like no one else! Thanks for another great thoroughbred interest story.

Other than wishing Vyjack was  still a colt, I won't mind at all if he sweeps past my Revolutionary at the 1/16th pole in May.

05 Mar 2013 2:02 PM


Vyjack sounds like another Shackleford.  How do they compare physically?

05 Mar 2013 2:54 PM

Ky Vet the what is called raw Beyer, for the Foy was 114 a lot higher than the Risen Star.I dont know that stat for the Gotham but I would like to.As humans we make mistakes, and the adjustments they make to the figures are extremely subjective.I still rank the 3 preps run thus far for 50 points 1FOY 2Gotham 3Risen Star,I am making my OWN adjustments mentally from what I saw and other information that is inate.

05 Mar 2013 4:21 PM
tom mallios

pedigree ann

one of my closest friends owns vyjack.respectfully you and every other reader are entitled to their opinions on distance .you mention milers.remember no one ever thought a distorted humor would win the derby.after all he was a miler.as far as you having a mathematical mind.thank god that when rudy trains him on a daily basis,he trains him to be a racehorse and not to add, subtract and multiply.you want to do the math.in the 1rst futures pool vyjack closed 47-1 in the 2nd pool i bekieve he closed 14-1.that is hard cold mathematical facts by the public and their opinion if he can get the distance.to let you in on a little in house secret.rudy rodriguez loved this horse from the minute he got on him.before he told us he was talented.he said he would  RUN ALL DAY .i believe his opinion holds slightly a little more than your mathematical equations

05 Mar 2013 4:38 PM
Steve Haskin

And no one thought a Boundary or an Elusive Quality could win the Derby. Heck, no one thought a Bold Ruler could win the Derby. It was Nureyev who gave Big Brown the heart capacity to easily get the mile and a quarter, and Vyjack has Nureyev in the place, only one generation removed. Vyjack's tail-female family does trace to Triple Crown winners Count Fleet and War Admiral. In this day and age, you dont need a ton of stamina to win the Derby if you have the talent and the heart capacity. I'm not saying his pedigree is ideal for stamina, far  from it, but it's not wise to overlook a horse's other attributes that can compensate for speed influences. Remember, Ghostzapper's brother was City Zip, a pure 6f sprinter.

05 Mar 2013 5:11 PM

Great Story, Steve!  Thanks for doing all the hard work of researching it so thoroughly and then bringing it to life with your wonderful writing style!  Donna B~

05 Mar 2013 6:24 PM

Steve, you weave a magical tapestry when you write, and I always feel as though I'm on a magic carpet ride when I read your words.

I've been a fan of Vyjack for a while, and he's always stood out from the crowd.  It's a beautiful story, and I'm happy Vyjack is finally recognized as a legitimate contender.

I wish nothing but the best for his connections, and I'm hopeful that Vyjack will have a strong career.

How can you not love a ladies' man like that?  He sure is handsome!

05 Mar 2013 6:39 PM

Perspective.......93 beyer...mdns run that.....dont like beyers? Then go with 2nd 3rd 4th horses.....How good were they? Not good at all!....i didnt need to look at the beyer to know it was slow......any horse may improve. but this one will have to.....

05 Mar 2013 8:30 PM

Funny.....i'm the rude one.........yet people think so highly about themselves,as to post a comment that i dont care about horses............i own 2 horses....my older horse injured himself, it prob. would be cheaper to get rid of him, but i told trainer i'll bring him back, pay the bills over the winter....he has more wins at this track, than any current horse, with a chance at the record.........he is back, training well.....................forgive me if i dont cry at the stories written by the judge.........the judge cares more about horses than anything........................lets just all hug each other, not disagree when people say things that are not true.............everything is a rainbow.......

05 Mar 2013 8:40 PM
Greg R

Talk about eye-opening.  Vyjack's Gotham showed one of the most abrupt and successful changes in a horse's style that I 've ever seen.  Maybe some knew, but I hadn't heard that the trainer had been working on changing V's running style.  At first, I thought it had something to do with the traffic crunch that happened at the start and that it had been a lucky break for V that he was forced into a different type of trip and then learned he could win from behind horses.  Evidently, though, this was the plan.  Congratulations on a great teaching job.  Proves it can be done, even with a strong-willed horse.  Trainers are often afraid to try, because they are always brow-beaten with lines such as, "Don't take away a horse's best weapon (speed)."  Sometimes the cliche is true, but sometimes it is just a excuse for never bothering to give a horse another way to win.

I agree that his race looked stronger than the Beyer.

05 Mar 2013 10:33 PM

Red Smith once said to Joe Palmer how he wished Joe would write something average every now and then....I believe you are just as incapable as Mr. Palmer at ever writing anything average...We are all very fortunate for your gift

05 Mar 2013 11:05 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

We need more stories like this.  WHY OH WHY do we not get them in the racing press?????????  

06 Mar 2013 1:00 AM


I absolute love your work you provide us year in and year out.  I rarely post in forums or blogs because of the immature content that shows up.  But this type of article is what's missing from this game for others to have more of an interest than wagering. I love to wager and do very well at it.  But I love more aspects of this passion now than Beyers figure and so on.  I think you ought too publish the article on Mucho Macho Man you wrote about him 2 years back on his birth and survival.  Every time I see that colt run I replay that article in my mind.  I was at the FG for his races and that article gave me a connection to him!!!  I would love to meet you one day if you ever attend the Fairgrounds for the La. Derby.  Keep up the great work I look forward to each and everyday I get up!!!!

Regards, Kenny Schmitt

06 Mar 2013 1:10 AM
Steve Haskin

I appreciate all the kind words, thank you. Some of your comments were very special to me.

There is nothing I enjoy more than discovering and sharing these back stories, whether it's the current horses or the horses of the past.

Kenny, I was at Fair Grounds for opening day. We were down there for Thanksgiving, and we had a wonderful time. I hadnt been there since the fire, so everything was new. They put on a great show.

06 Mar 2013 6:56 AM

KY Vet Beyer is in the BUSINESS of making the figures,he and his staff wont shed any tears if their figure on a race that you base all you KD bets was way off.I remeber Beyer telling me on a blog that Pioneer of the Nile wouldnt be anywhere near the front after the Derby and I told him he could win and I continued back and forth with him until the close of the chat.He had an issue with AW tracks and the horses prepping on them.His BUSINESS was behind and didnt have any history on the California AW tracks.He had an issue with the AW tracks and since he is human that issue clouded his reasoning concerning the same.Well guess what the colt that beat Pioneer of The Nile did the majority of prepping on the Allweather track in Canada at Woodbine.Always go with what YOU believe never be easily misled by anyone, nobody and I mean nobody knows what will happen,including the well regarded Beyer himself.BTW after my exchange with Beyer I bet $500 on the Derby using Pioneer of The Nile and nearly doubled my money,and I made a large profit in Derby futures.

06 Mar 2013 8:55 AM
Love 'em all

fbwinners -

Here's the link to Steve's Mucho Macho Man (story of survival) that you mentioned.  I, too, love that story!  [laughing]


Love his John Henry stories, too!  Steve's the best.  

06 Mar 2013 9:38 AM
tom mallios

ky vet

in my response to your comments,i never once said you did not care about horses.if anyone else did ,you know what they can do with themselves.you are passionate and have what every other person on this earth has. AN OPINION.i am passionate and biased about vyjack.my close friend owns him.that is not the entire reason.people keep questioning the wrong things about him.the beyers or the distance limitations.what has he done wrong in his 4 races so far?nothing,so if and when he fails.people will have ample time to trash him.we are not knocking the competition,it is not fair to their connections.we are just enjoying the ride.personally i use sheets not beyer figures.the number he ran in the gotham is good enough to have been in the picture in last years derby. we all know everything is subjective and not a science.so let us agree to dis agree.but,never take it on a personal attack of your charecter.whoever attacks someone without knowing them,is not worth acknowledging

06 Mar 2013 9:53 AM
Pedigree Ann

I specifically mentioned the female side of Vyjack because the female side can overpower or at least stiffen the male miler side. But Stravinsky over Apalachee..., sprint/miler sires both. Yes, they each had the odd distance winner, but each was a case of the mare being the dominant partner in the mating.

Most of the time, you get what you breed for. That's why such a large fraction of Derby winners have what are considered less than gilt-edged pedigrees, on one side or both.

06 Mar 2013 11:09 AM

I would love to own a 3 yr old that runs a 93 beyer........We are talking the derby.....People seem to always say, "nobody knows" or "anything can happen"........People seem to think you dont have to be fast to win the derby.........ITS THE DERBY!.................its hard to improve 8 lengths...........mine that bird did.......hard to count on....

06 Mar 2013 1:36 PM
Derby Lover

ky vet,

So what, if the Beyer numbers were low. You know as well as everyone else on this blog that those numbers don’t mean squat.  Baltimore wasn't supposed to win the Super bowl, but they did. All the numbers pointed towards the 49ers. Stuff happens. I have been reading Steve’s stories for the last year and I always see your negative comments. It is so bad that all you had to say was “People actually think the gotham was anything? 93 beyer? wow!” Then all hell broke loose with the responses. What I'm saying is when someone makes a comment to go along with Steve's just let it go and no one will jump on your back for it. If you have something important to add then add it. Why do you always have to write negative stuff? Why don’t you write your own articles for Blood Horse and let us critique them.  

In the end, we all know horses don't always run to their numbers anyway. They wake up on the wrong side of the stall and run poorly and we all say “what happened?”,  and all the numbers just went out the window!

06 Mar 2013 4:06 PM

I don't believe the Derby is comparable to any other prestigious race in this country. 20 horses going full throttle means speed is only part of the equation, luck being the other. The pony shooting from the right hole to get a good trip has a leg up on any talented horse with speed who isn't so lucky on the first Saturday in May. That's why the "best" horse doesn't always end up in the winner's circle. That being said, regardless who the horse is, the derby winner deserves respect, they earned it. I don't subscribe to the fluke theory. There is a difference between luck and a fluke.

07 Mar 2013 4:18 AM
tom mallios

not only for vyjack,but for every other racehorse i tell you the following.i was in the buisiness for a short time for a very,very high profiled racing out fit.the vet we used(will go unnamed) taught me one thing when buying and rating horses.they can have all the breeding in the world,they can have the greatest confirmation known to man.but using his words.unless they have the throat,pass on the sale.the air waves of the horse is so important,yet i have never heard or read to many people write about it.they are so stuck up on crosses and other variables.it is like you are talking about an area in midtown manhattan.there avenues cross with streets.as far as vyjack goes,sprinters are short and sloped.i am sure you have not seen him in person close up. i am 6 ft 6. vyjack is one of the few horses i can not see over.he is that tall.his hind legs are muscular and powerful.i respect all of the breeding tidbits. but to compare it to something else.you are playing fantasy sports.look at the physical evidence first.

07 Mar 2013 9:43 AM
Bill Two

Serendipity is the word for this fortunate happenstance.  Good luck and mey we all suffer such good fortune.

07 Mar 2013 2:33 PM
lunar spook

Tom mallios - you make a very interesting point , i have studied pictures of secretariat an noticed his neck was huge ! i dont know if this meant he had a large airwave or not as im no vet , but something fueled him for sure , that 22 lb heart didnt hurt either !

07 Mar 2013 4:33 PM

Thanks for the great article Steve. A pure pleasure to read.  

Sad, some people seem in a quandry over the article.  I sure wasn't!

Vyjack is learning, and proving he is a race horse. Bummer they simply had to cut him, before he ended up hurting someone.

Lunar Spook, I was thinking the same thing about Secretariat's heart weighing 22 lbs., while I read the article.  I wonder how much Vyjack's weighs.  He simply may have a big motor too, like Secretariat and Phar Lap. He does go back to Princequillo, who had a big heart.  

07 Mar 2013 9:37 PM
Pedigree Ann


They ALL go back to Princequillo (or at least, most of them do) and nobody knows how big his heart was because nobody measured it. Haun's thesis wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

08 Mar 2013 12:28 PM
tom mallios

pedigree ann.i am sure you are well versed in breeding.but can you  just play nice with the other bloggers when they raise a breeding issue.you do not need to shoot down all of their opinions.so if no one knows the size of the princes heart.why are you so quick with the trigger to trash the notion.

09 Mar 2013 9:58 PM
Old Old Cat

Another great story.  A horse that likes the fillies gets cut so that he can be handled at the track.  Like Kelso.  The irony is if he wins enough to warrant becoming an expensive stud, he can't do it...  Like Kelso.

12 Mar 2013 8:02 PM

Come on, Tom, it's not kindergarten. I'm sure many of us are willing to be enlightened even by means of a debate.

Of course, "Is NOT. Nyeh, nyeh, nyeh," does not constitute debate.

This is just mindless meandering. What are "THEY" who all go back to PQ? Certainly not Derby winners. Only subset I can think of is "horses with *quillo in their names."

P.A. may be having a bad day. She also said earlier something like: you get what you breed for which is why Derby winners have bad pedigrees.

Figure that one out.

13 Mar 2013 4:50 AM

An example of what might be useful comment on Haun's X-Factor theory: all runners in all species have enlarged hearts. It's a training effect. Secretariat's other muscles were enlarged, why not his heart? Greyhounds' hearts are bigger than average dogs' hearts.

But there is definitely something going on with broodmare sires like Gay Crusader and Secretariat and with Princequillo mares. Not only did a PQ mare produce a Bold Ruler that won a classic or three, which, as Steve notes, most of the racing fraternity thought was impossible, another one produced a Northern Dancer that wired a field in the Sunset Hcp. over two miles running the final quarter in 23 and 1. Northern Dancer "stout"?

Trying to figure out what genes are being expressed when we observe such phenomena may go off the rails, but is not an endeavour to be sneered at.

13 Mar 2013 5:25 AM

Vyjack has really piqued my interest.  What stands out for me is Vyjack was (as far as I can tell) completely under a hand ride.  That in itself is impressive.

15 Mar 2013 10:05 AM
The Seer

I am as big a believer in Beyer figures as anyone, especially when it comes to handicapping the Derby. However, in Vyjack's case, I'm willing to overlook the 93. What interests me the most is the way he inhaled the field coming from behind in a race that had no pace. You don't see that every day. It's one thing to come from the clouds when they're going :22, :45 and 1:09, but what Vyjack did was remarkable. Plus, he ran against the track bias and against his preferred running style.

Count me in. I hope he runs a good second or third in the Wood. Gimme 10-1 on Derby Day and I'm all over him.

26 Mar 2013 1:37 AM

some people have no clue what a pedigree is.... go to chefderace and learn a bit before saying  hes a miler sorry to rain on your uneducated brain parade but this horse vyjack should and  can go 1 1/2 says hes numbers thats that.look into the pedigree on the female side any breeder of livestock wil tell you its all about the females.

15 Apr 2013 12:37 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs