LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Taking a page from the old-school book of training, Rudy Rodriguez guided Grade III winner Vyjack through a three-furlong blowout at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning, two days before the Into Mischief gelding is scheduled to start in the Kentucky Derby.
With Rodriguez — a former jockey — in the irons, Vyjack worked three furlongs in 37 seconds flat following the renovation break. Vyjack had breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 last Friday but Rodriguez said he wanted another lung opener.
“He went the way I expected him to go, nice and easy and comfortable,” Rodriguez said. “This was what I was looking for. Since we got here we just let him tell us when he was ready and he got us here the way he is now. I don’t need to change anything.”
Rodriguez worked under 2008 Derby-winning trainer Rick Dutrow before going out on his own and Dutrow himself regularly used short work to get his horses race ready.
“I didn’t want to go too fast,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to sharpen him up a little bit … the Derby is so hard and everything has to go perfect. This is the way my schedule was supposed to work.”
Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion had a blowout of his own Thursday, but of an unplanned nature. The runner-up in the Grade I Wood Memorial ran off with exercise rider Javier Herrera for about three furlongs during his slated 1 1/2 -mile gallop, but trainer Chad Brown downplayed any concerns.
“He ended his gallop a little quick, but I’m OK with that,” Brown said. “That’s him, he’s really sharp right now.”
• European invader Lines of Battle, winner of the UAE Derby on March 30, arrived from Ireland on Wednesday and is scheduled to visit the track for the first time Friday. Trainer Aidan O’Brien is not expected to attend the Kentucky Derby.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who will ride undefeated Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby, returned to competition Thursday afternoon at Belmont Park, finishing seventh on his first mount since April 7.
Velazquez, who sustained injuries to his right wrist and ribs one day after piloting Verrazano to a three-quarter-length win in the Wood Memorial, said he was physically ready for the Derby.
“I feel very, very good,” said the 41-year-old rider, who won the 2011 Derby aboard Animal Kingdom. “I wish my horse had run better [Thursday], but I had no problem getting back into the swing of things. I don’t think the time off will affect me at all.”
Rood and Riddle’s noted equine surgeon Dr. Larry Br amlage was transported to University Hospital in Louisville for observation Thursday afternoon after falling from a golf cart while on the Churchill Downs backstretch and hitting his head.
Bramlage, who is slated to be the American Association of Equine Practitioners on-call veterinarian for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, was briefly knocked unconscious but was reported to be “conscious and alert,” according to Churchill Downs officials.