05/15/2012 3:52PM

2012 Preakness: Matz still haunted by Union Rags's slow start

Barbara D. Livingston
As the horses passed the finish line the first time in the Kentucky Derby, Union Rags was already in trouble, sitting 18th of 20 horses.

ELKTON, Md. – The question didn’t have to be asked. Just listening to Michael Matz talk about the seventh-place finish by Union Rags in the Kentucky Derby it was easy to tell the trainer hasn’t gotten over the disappointment yet.

Tuesday morning, with showers alternating between heavy and heavier at the Fair Hill Training Center where he is based, Matz discussed the frustrations over having a horse primed and ready for the biggest race of his life only to have it lost two jumps out of the gate.

For Union Rags, the Derby was over at the start. Under Julien Leparoux, Union Rags broke a step to the right, was bumped hard by Dullahan and was pinched back. Coming under the wire the first time, Union Rags was 18th in the 20-horse field. He ultimately rallied to finish seventh, beaten 7 1/2 lengths by I’ll Have Another. Union Rags was the 5-1 second choice.

“I woke up the next day and I thought it was a nightmare,” Matz said. “I couldn’t have been feeling that I had the horse [better] prepared . . . Everything went in order except the last two minutes.”

Matz and owner Phyllis Wyeth decided almost immediately not to run Union Rags back in Saturday’s 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. Matz will still have a runner in the race in longshot Teeth of the Dog for owner Jose Singer.

Meanwhile, Union Rags will be pointed to the June 9 Belmont Stakes, where he almost certainly will be the first or second choice. When things have gone right, Union Rags has displayed brilliance, such as in last fall’s Champagne and the Fountain of Youth in February.

Regarding the Derby, Matz tried not to be overly critical of Leparoux, but said he and his assistant, Peter Brette, emphasized the necessity to get out of the gate well from post 4.

“Who am I to tell Julien Leparoux how to ride horses? Maybe Peter [can] because Peter’s ridden races, but we both stressed you’ve got to get out of there,” Matz said. “He outbroke Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby . . . I would have thought he could outbreak Dullahan. Whether the horse was flat- footed, maybe he didn’t have him ready, I don’t know what the situation was.”

Matz said he and Wyeth will wait until after Saturday’s Preakness is run to decide whether to make a rider change on Union Rags for the Belmont. There is no shortage of wannabe replacements.

Matz said he has heard from “seven or eight” agents, including Matt Muzikar, who represents Javier Castellano, who rode Union Rags as a 2-year-old but who chose Algorithms over Union Rags for the Fountain of Youth in February. Algorithms was scratched the morning of the race, while Union Rags romped to a four-length victory under Leparoux.

What frustrates Matz the most about the Kentucky Derby and the Florida Derby – in which Union Rags finished third behind Take Charge Indy – was that his horse never had “a fair chance to let him show what kind of horse he really is.”

Matz hopes that the Belmont and the summer races like the Travers will allow for that to happen.

“I just hope he can rebound and have a good year,” Matz said.

Meanwhile, Matz has spent the last 10 days preparing Teeth of the Dog for the Preakness. On Tuesday, with rain turning the Fair Hill main track into a sealed, sloppy mess, Teeth of the Dog galloped 1 1/4 miles over the Tapeta surface.

After winning a maiden race at Gulfstream on Feb. 4 – in which he beat Went the Day Well – Teeth of the Dog finished third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial behind Gemologist and Alpha.

Matz said if it were up to him, he would have run Teeth of the Dog in last Saturday’s Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont.

“But I don’t feel it’s wrong what he’s doing,” Matz said of owner Jose Singer’s decision to run in the Preakness. “He wants to go there. I think if he’s improved from his last one I think he could be right there and if he is right there then I would have made the wrong move.”

With Teeth of the Dog, Matz wonders if his horse is “good enough” to compete with I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, the one-two finishers from the Derby. The horse Matz knows is good enough will be in the barn on Saturday awaiting his day for redemption.

“I just think our plan didn’t work with what we wanted for him,” Matz said. “Now we have to make the next best plan for the long run.”

In other Preakness developments:

◗ Also at Fair Hill, Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Went the Day Well galloped 1 1/2 miles over the Tapeta surface. Though Went the Day Well won the Spiral Stakes over Turfway’s synthetic surface, he had never trained over the Tapeta, a surface over which he looked quite comfortable.

Trainer Graham Motion continues to be amazed at how Went the Day Well is doing considering his hard race in the Derby.

“I don’t know how he’s going to run on Saturday but to me he’s given me every indication that he’s great,” Motion said.

Due to the wet weather conditions, Motion elected to keep Went the Day Well at Fair Hill one more day rather than ship to Pimlico on Tuesday as originally scheduled.

◗ Trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed Tuesday that Daddy Nose Best, 10th in the Kentucky Derby, would run in the Preakness.

Asmussen said he would reunited with Leparoux, who guided Daddy Nose Best to victories in the El Camino Real and Sunland Park derbies. Garrett Gomez rode Daddy Nose Best in the Derby.

◗ With rain pounding this area throughout Tuesday morning, Doug O’Neill chose to keep I’ll Have Another under his Pimlico shed row, having the Derby winner hand-walked for some 30 minutes around the barn at about 7 a.m. O’Neill has been extremely pleased with the colt’s looks and his training since they arrived here two days after the colt won the Kentucky Derby, and the trainer said skipping a day of racetrack work was no big deal at all.

“He’s so fit, he’s doing so well, I just decided to walk all the horses this morning,” he said. “I’m glad I did. We all enjoy a day off from time to time.”

I’ll Have Another had been putting in very strong gallops daily, and O’Neill said he intended to resume that routine Wednesday.

◗ Pretension was confirmed as a starter for the Preakness early Tuesday by trainer Chris Grove, one of the perennial leading trainers on the Maryland circuit. Grove said he is satisfied with how Pretension, a New York-bred based at the Bowie training center, had trained since posting an 8-1 victory in the May 5 Canonero II Stakes at Pimlico.

Pretension is owned by the Kidwells Petite Stable of Irving Kidwell and is one of two local horses set to go in the Preakness. Kidwell, 87, has been experiencing medical issues and was hospitalized earlier in the week.

“I think the delay in the decision came down to that [Kidwell] didn’t want to run if he wasn’t going to be there,” said Grove.

The other local horse in the Preakness is Tiger Walk, owned by Sagamore Farm and trained by Ignacio Correas IV.

◗ Bob Baffert, who already has Bodemeister as the Preakness favorite, declared Liaison from consideration from the Preakness on Monday afternoon after consulting with owner Arnold Zetcher. Baffert said he has the Belmont Stakes or the Californian at Betfair Hollywood Park in mind for Liaison, who was sixth in the Derby.

◗ Optimizer arrived at Pimlico late Tuesday afternoon by van for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

– additional reporting by Marty McGee and Byron King




. More than 1 year ago
Javier Castellano to ride UNION RAGS!
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Its funny to read peoples comments when they dont have a clue WHY DECISINS are made . For those that are so Negative reguarding ( Matz / Brette / Leparoux ) ! There decision was already made the DAY of the Derby : that night believe it or not . Matz was waiting for No-One in reguards of Whom was moving onto the Preakness after the Derby . Its so amazing how people are bashing Matz / Brette / Leparoux ! Do you seriously think they really care about what you think - I highly dought it . In fact I know they dont . Yes , its mind crazy why such a fresh colt that has hardly raced hard in his last 2 races , why Unon Rags connections would be sitting out the Preakness ! TRUST ME : They know they have a SOLID 3 yr old Colt . They would rather WIN the Belmont Stakes than the Preakness , thats for sure . But thats hardly the reason nor answer either . B E L M O N T WINNER BY 7 PULLING AWAY
mrm More than 1 year ago
I'm sure they tell you all of the inside stuff so that you can blog about it in the DRF.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
I visit alot of places thru the year . Im a very loyal friend to many in the thoroughbred acing industry . From farms , jockeys , owners , trainers . I worked for Charlie Whittingham for many years . C W taught me alot . I have loved the inside of the sport more than the racing its-self . There is nothing ( in my opinion ) any heavenly than being around thoroughbred farms early in the morning and just breath in the warmth of the business . I have been good friends with Brette for awhile now , and I dont really thin im saying ANYTHING that ( SOME PEOPLE ) already know . The Media sure knows the truth , thats for sure . So actually M M , your comment doesnt afend me at all . I happen to love my life that I live . I do what I actually enjoy . I retired at the age of 42 . And I am just trying to live the lfe that C W had always told me about . If you ever get the chance IF YOURIN THE AREA , you ought to ( ask to tak a tour ) of the FAIR HILL Training center . It could change your thinking - fast .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
According to my source, Javier Castellano to ride UNION RAGS!
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Hey guys I really don't care what you think. "Im going to stay off twitter tonight BUT to all the ones that say that I sucked, I will prove you wrong..."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horse never beyered over 95 and people babble about him being some beast. Belmont by 7? Yeah he may lose it by 7 and then welll hear more excuses. Haha
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
In the past 20 years, these highly regarded Derby also-rans came back to win the Preakness: Lookin at Lucky, Curlin, Afleet Alex, Point Given, Timber Country, Prairie Bayou, Pine Bluff, Tabasco Cat. That's 40% compared to 35% or 7 Derby/Preakness doubles. So why did the connection for Union Rags choose to skip the Preakness, especially when he had only run 2 races in 6 weeks and they claimed that he only got to run for less than half a mile total? My guess is Julien chose to ride Daddy Nose Best in the Preakness, and it would be too embarrassing for the connection of Union Rags to run him. I would have done the same thing. Michael Matz and I think alike here.
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
Hahaha..... Yeah I'm sure JL chose Daddy Nose Best over UR!!! That's smart.......NOT. JL had nothing to do with the decision to skip the Preakness.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Just so you know the truth : Matz / Brette / Leparoux Agent and Leparoux , all talked about the Preakness . Leparoux is going No-Where away from Union Rags . They are totally confident that the Belmont Stakes will be the place to regroup and pop the Champagne !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Leparoux got the OK to go else-where for the Preakness - ( with the understanding ) UNION RAGS - LEPAROUX in the Belmont Stakes , even if Daddy Nose Best happens to Win the Preakness by 50 HA HA HAAAAAAA you know what I mean , just playn .
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
You and Matz ( THINK NOTHING ALIKE ) ! Matz will be the first to say , Brette makes the Call Whom is best suited to Ride Union Rags . Brette is the man in full control of getting Rags fit . And what so sad is , Since the jockey agent FORCED JC to go with Pletcher for the Derby , that was not at all what JC really wantd . That was WHY in the Florida Derby , after the race , Pletcher and the owner of El P JUMPED ALL OVER JC for rough riding - not staying focused on the race - worried too much about keeping Leparoux boxed in with no-where to go thru-out most of the race . Then , Leparoux gets ( HATE MAIL ) because of the ride he gave Union Rags in the Florid Derby ! Just plain FOOLISHNESS by people . Its so easy to judge someone , when IF Your ever put in that Spot-light , im sure YOU would have won the race huh ! Leparoux sould have been ready for that , and had plan B ready , but like he said , Leparoux knew he was n the best colt and thought he would just bide his time till turning for home , then Plan B didnt work because he found himself still trapped along the rail . THE GRASS SURE SEEMS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
I used to do stand-up comedy and sketches. This is one instance where 50% of the audience would boo, 20% laugh and 30% don't know what to think of it, and I would look at one who laughed and nod.
mrm More than 1 year ago
Who would win in a match race betweeb Union Rags and Creative Cause?
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Either way there will be excuses. Matz: tough trip. He only got to run in the last furlong..... Harrington: I thought the concentration problem went away with the blinkers....
mrm More than 1 year ago
Jean Luc Samyn
mrm More than 1 year ago
Give the mount to Jan Luc Samyn
Jack More than 1 year ago
Ask Big Mouth Bobby Baffert if you can use MARTIN GARCIA the best rider that FOOL will employ...
Monty Fisher More than 1 year ago
Union Rags, over rated from the get go! No more excuses,. just a good horse, nothing special ! GO Mario & "Ill Have Another" ! 7/2 ?
Gregory Johnson More than 1 year ago
Did not have Union Rags in the top 4 of the derby at any rate.
morton erskine More than 1 year ago
union ragbreeeding and below average beyers.. wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!s?.....the horse may have to go in an optional claimer for a win. cheap
JeanK More than 1 year ago
see you at the windows!
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Union Rags is a New Yorker like It's Tricky. Formidable in NY, very good everywhere else.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
So, Morton - - - You're offering track odds, right?