Vekoma, a winner of three of his four career starts, which include two stakes victories, is a logical Kentucky Derby contender. You would not believe this if you saw him run. Vekoma runs like his front leg lead is trying to take a swing at someone, circling around with every stride. His gait is so abnormal it’s hard to imagine he’s not injured. If his accomplishments are any measure though, Vekoma is a very healthy individual and has been a formidable KY Derby contender from the moment the latches sprung in his very first start last year as a two year old.
A very impressive juvenile, unbeaten in two starts, culminating in the G3 Nashua at Aqueduct in the fall; he was correctly sent off as a 3:1 shot first off bench in a contentious running of the Fountain of Youth in march. He was a mediocre third at Gulfstream, but didn’t have the best of setups for his suited running style, that of a push-button stalker with positional speed. Last out, he delivered on expectations, taking the Blue Grass at Keeneland, with an easy trip, over inferior foes (though one may argue that second place finisher and will-be Derby longshot Win Win Win ran just as well).
A May foal, Vekoma is a bit of a tough read. We’ve always wanted to like him as a division leader this year because he ran so well as a juvenile, but he was just average in the Fountain of Youth. If you’re willing to throw out that race as we are, you’re left with an uninspiring win last out win in the Blue Grass, where he didn’t beat much aside from Win Win Win, who will be a Derby longshot, and was as much of a disappointment as a three and a half length winner can ever be. Over a Keeneland surface that was kind to speed throughout the day, against inferior foes, and aided by an easy pace flow, we would have liked Vekoma to have posted a big speed fig. Those combined factors should have produced a real ‘top’ from Vekoma, but instead his 94 beyer fig is just one of many in that same ballpark this year. After running a 97 last year at a mile, one may believe that he’s already proven that he’s fast enough, but that’s yet to be seen this year. If backing him, you’re going to need him to improve next out in the Derby, now third off the bench, but stretching out against a much tougher field.
Don’t let us talk you off of Vekoma if you’re a fan. He’s got quality tactical speed, appears to have enough of a pedigree and stamina to get the mile and a quarter distance, and has that strong back class. George Weaver is a plenty capable trainer and may have Vekoma to run his best race yet.
Vekoma may very well be a solid Kentucky Derby pick, but he’s a scary proposition. He didn’t run particularly well at Gulfstream. He didn’t like the track at Keeneland. His form outside of NYRA this year is just not the same. Does Vekoma need a certain type of course to be at his best? In the one race where Vekoma faced adversity, with such a miniscule amount of racing, which came in the Fountain of Youth when he was forced to chase a fast pace from off of the lead, he folded up early. Vekoma may end up the most talented miler of his generation, and should be the 2020 favorite for the Met Mile. While he’s a mild defensive use for us on very thin tickets, Vekoma wouldn’t surprise us in the least if named Derby champion.
Here are our trip notes for Vekoma:
4th career start: April 6th, Keeneland, G2 Blue Grass, one mile and an eighth
Vekoma is #2
Good speed, settled just off inside pacesetter Somelikeithotbrown (finished 4th), went by early on far turn after withstanding an average pace, opened up into the stretch, drifted some, finally straightened out and finished better late while never in doubt. Vekoma ran to expectations winning this Blue Grass over a weaker field. He did what he had to do and appeared to struggle with the surface in the stretch.
3rd career start: March 2nd, Gulfstream, G2 Fountain of Youth, one mile and a sixteenth
Vekoma is #5
Broke sharp, outside while paired with eventual winner Code of Honor in midpack behind blazing pace, went up a length and a half ahead of that one into the far turn, mild rally, completely with the flow of the race rounding into the stretch before faltering at the top of the stretch, tired to wire. In his first race off the bench, this was a tough ask from of Vekoma to chase this fast pace and finish like a closer, which isn’t his preferred running style. However, he ended up pulling a very nice trip. Probably an effort best to toss from his record.
2nd career start: November 4th, Aqueduct, G2 Nashua, one mile
Vekoma is #5
Bobbled out of the gate to no consequence, settled outside in 2nd tier behind contested pace set by Factor It In, easily went up to take over from the leaders rounding into the stretch, finally completely disposed Call Paul in midstretch, held Network Effect at bay. An easy, much the best win from Vekoma.
1st career start: September 23th, Belmont, maiden special weight, six furlongs
Tracked Shuddawuddacudda/U R Not So Bad (finished 7th/6th respectively) setting average pace, glided up to them mid-turn, took over a dime into the stretch with others from the back becoming interested, opened up, finished up very nicely holding Epic Dreamer completely at bay. A very impressive effort at first asking in a quality field.
Image courtesy of NYRA