05/23/2012 3:21PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Matz hoping Union Rags has 'clear chance to run'

Barbara D. Livingston
From left: Trainer Michael Matz, assistant Peter Brette and jockey Julien Leparoux commiserate after Union Rags finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby. John Velazquez rides the colt in the Belmont Stakes.

It is with a mixture of frustration, hope, and envy that Michael Matz prepares Union Rags to take on I’ll Have Another in the 144th Belmont Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park.

Frustration because of the terrible trip Union Rags had in the Kentucky Derby on May 5. Hope that Union Rags can show his best in the Belmont. And envy that another horse is going for the Triple Crown.

“I thought this horse could win the Triple Crown,” Matz said of Union Rags during a national teleconference Wednesday. “But you have to let it go, because it’s not going to come back.”

Matz admits, though, that he has had a tough time letting it go. He won the Derby with Barbaro in 2006, and thought he had a chance to do it again with Union Rags.

“It’s very disappointing,” Matz said, the frustration evident in his voice. “Everything went absolutely perfect until the last two minutes.

“How many times,” Matz added, “do you have one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby?”

Julien Leparoux rode Union Rags in his last three races. He was aboard for a runaway victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes to start the 2012 campaign, but Union Rags had troubled trips in both the Florida Derby and then the Kentucky Derby.

“I didn’t think after the Florida Derby it could happen again,” Matz said. “It was worse. I thought he was sitting on a big race the last two races.”

As a result, John Velazquez will replace Leparoux in the Belmont.

“I don’t know whose fault it is,” Matz said. “Maybe it’s the jockey’s fault. Maybe it’s the horse’s fault. Maybe it’s the trainer’s fault. Maybe we won’t have a better result. But we have to try something.”

Union Rags already has run, and run well, at Belmont Park, the site of his eye-catching victory last fall in the Champagne Stakes. But, like every other horse in the Belmont, his aptitude at 1 1/2 miles is unknown.

“Whether he can get a mile and a half, I don’t know,” Matz said. “He’s a big horse. The bigger turns help.”

What Matz is most desirous of is a clean trip, one where Union Rags can, as he put it, “use his stride.” Regardless of the result, Matz at least wants the satisfaction of knowing Union Rags had a fair chance to show his best.

“I just hope, in this race, he gets a clear chance to run,” Matz said. “I’d like him to get a clean trip, so he can show what he can do. He never had a chance to run his last two races.

“I expect him to come in in top form,” Matz added. “If he’s good enough, you’ll see the true Union Rags.”

Union Rags has been at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland since the Derby, and he will remain there until Belmont week. He is scheduled to have a workout late this week, Matz said, and another at the end of next week, both at Fair Hill. Matz said Union Rags had a “two-minute lick” last Friday, but it was not a workout that made the tab.

While Matz has great respect for what I’ll Have Another has accomplished so far, he said he “wouldn’t be going in there if we didn’t think we could beat him.”

To best accomplish that goal, Matz decided to give Union Rags five weeks between the Derby and Belmont and bypass the Preakness. That is a schedule that has proven effective in the last decade for Belmont winners like Summer Bird (2009), Jazil (2006), and Triple Crown spoilers Birdstone (2004) and Empire Maker (2003).

Matz said he decided to skip the Preakness because “I didn’t see any sense in coming back in two weeks.”

“It’s a long year,” he said. “And he couldn’t win the Triple Crown.”

◗ I’ll Have Another, the Derby and Preakness winner, went to the track at Belmont Park on Wednesday morning for a training session after merely walking the last three days following his Preakness win Saturday. He arrived Sunday at Belmont Park, where he had never previously set foot. I’ll Have Another is only expected to gallop the rest of the week and will not have any serious training until at least next week, when his trainer, Doug O’Neill, returns from his base in California.

◗ Rosie Napravnik will ride Five Sixteen in the Belmont, according to her agent, Matt Muzikar. Julie Krone, in the 1993 Belmont aboard Colonial Affair, is the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race.

pedro More than 1 year ago
I have followed racing for many years and i know the belmont stakes is the hardest to win . I do believe that it takes a horse with good stamina and a good stretch kick to win the belmont. So there is no beating dullahan, nothing can touch this horse.Come on now boys , do u really think union rags can beat dullhan? This horse is kicking ass at belmont and look who is riding..omg..pump that fist castellano!!!!
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
One simple question? You have two daughters and feel one is destined for greatness, the other just OK. How might you name them? A: Kate & Pippa Now let's make an analogy: Two racehorses to name. One is destined for greatness, you feel, the other not. How would you name them? A: Secreteriat & I'll Have Another.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Matz / Brette ........ Look at the bright side of things - if there is a rainbow : For anyone that has been around thoroughbreds , nd I mean actually being involved at the stables - I dont think anyone can honestly say that UNION RAGS has been totally over-rated . Watch the movie ( Oh God ) with John Denver - George Burns . Did people believe their relly was ever a God ! Weird things started to happen , then people slowly started to believe . I have visited with Matz / Brette many many many times since the Champagne Stakes last year . And when 2012 came rolling around , Matz / Brette was very excited about the Triple Crown . As I see it as now - the Belmont Stakes will be a ( C A K E - W A L K ) for UNION RAGS , and the connections will not just try to win by a little margin " OH - NO " They will want the whole world to see UNION RAGS ! All this HYPE - TALK about we hope we can get the ( Mile n Half ) Ha Ha Haaaaaaaaaaaaa Peter Brette : hey buddy - come on now ! Tell it like it is now , you say that NOTHING WILL TOUGH UNION RAGS IN THE BELMONT STAKES ................................ and I Totally agree ! This race ( SHOULD ) look just like the POINT GIVEN Belmont Stakes ROMPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP ! You Can Bank On It !
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Kentucky Derby is By Far the toughest race to win . Being ready , believing you have the colt ready , thnking everything looks tuned and ready for best ..................... 75% of the time - all else fails . The best colt rarely WINS the Derby . But whos to really say at that pont-in-time whom the best colt really is . Its purely a guess , wait and see . Sure , its easy to determine whom the populaity colt may be , but when there are 20 colts in the first Saturday in May taking a stand in the Derby , we as people hardly ever see Greatness till after the math . Back in late fall 2011 " who was " Ill Have Another ! In the very early Spring of 2012 " who was " Ill Have Another ! Track Analysis BRAD FREE was catching on to this colt rather quickly , and was Absolutely correct . My hat goes off to Brad , even though Brad always leans towards the West for his Derby pick . I myself , am a huge UNION RAGS believer . I have known Peter Brette for many years , I have 100% faith in what he thinks and believes . Brette knows UNION RAGS like No-One else . Brette says that UNION RAGS ( Can Not Be Touched ) in the Belmont Stakes , and I am totally convinced as well .......................................... The Kentucky Derby : IS THE TOUGHEST - HARDEST race to Win in the United States . ( IF YOU HAVE THE COLT FOR THE COURSE ) the Belmont Stakes " can be a cake walk "
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Belmont is the hardest of all of them to win - we all know that - 9 horses have come there in the past 34 years with the Derby & Preakness in their pockets and could not close the deal OK! I Will Have Another is now the 10th horse to do the same and Super Mario is just not that Super - given his lack of experience riding at Belmont - which is a tricky track to ride on - that is a huge minus !! Union Rags was 18-1 to win the Triple Crown - which is really a stupid bet at best - any horse should be 100-1 to do that at this point...that said Johnny V knows Belmont pretty well and if he has the Union Rags of the past - it could upset the apple cart. IWH is 3/5 - PLEASE!! those odds are not real , he is not a cinch - no horse is - go for a price is what I say - no matter who you bet!!
Matthew More than 1 year ago
No...The Derby is the hardest one to win.
Kathie Roller-Stell More than 1 year ago
Pardon, astute commenter above, I don't recall a horse named I Will Have Another (IWH)??????? at any price. People gamble on horses racing because ANY horse, ANY day can win.....or lose. And it doesn't necessarily have to be because of error. Tell me there haven't been days you felt like Charles Atlas, and days the energy was more Minnie Mouse.... My wish is that all involved come out healthy!
Ian Fick More than 1 year ago
As wide and long as this track is, if UR doesnt run his race here, he wont have any excuses left....LOL
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
AMEN to that ! I am not the type that likes any excuses for getting beat . Plain and Simple . I have been soo high on Union Rags since his Debut race . Peter Brette has done a First-Class job with this colt . I have made Only 4 Huge wager Bets over the last 10 years , and I have been planning on this time to be another as well . I have absolutely No Worries what-so-ever reguarding the distance . UNION RAGS will handle it like a CHAMPION ! If by chance UNION RAGS gets defeated coming out of the race SOUND - then There Is No More Hope . Belmont Stakes is ALL or nothing . I am so confident in what ive seen in UNION RAGS training in Maryland at Fair Hills : That Putting $20,000 to WIN is a very Safe wager I do believe . I have mentioned to Matz and Brette how much I believe : and it means nothing to me that others Dont ! Some-one has to lose . As long as I know Brette is 100% Satified in this Colt , and what I hve been seeing myself - I WILL PUT MY MONEY WHERE MY MOUTH HAS BEEN SINCE THE DERBY , where I lost $1,026 by WHEELING what I thought was the ( BEST COLT ) for the Triple Crown Series 1st , 2nd , 3rd Trifecta Wheel with the fiel . And as we all know , ( NO-EXCUSE ) ! Came running strongly at the end to take 7th Place . Thats all that really needs to be said . The Belmont Stakes WINNER is for CHAMPIONS , not so much the Derby . As we all know that . But of course its nice to own the Braging Rights of Winning the Derby . I Like the fact as well , that UNION RAGS ran huge in the Champagne Stakes as well . I CAN NOT WAIT TILL JUNE 9th . I will be Posting My ( $20,000 WIN TICKET ) up on my drutherford24@hotmail.com for my own keep-sake . I did the same when I wager on 2007 ( RAGS TO RICHES ) 2005 ( AFLEET ALEX ) 2003 ( EMPIRE MAKER ) 2001 ( POINT GIVEN ) ................................... I will make Absolutely NO EXCUSE for UNION RAGS ! This colt is ( BY FAR ) the Best in my opinion .
denali1 More than 1 year ago
lol man oh man some of you on here are full of bs. I know you cant be serious get off the pipe dude.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Sorry : I have never been on drugs , nor been a drinker . Just an ole" laid back Kentucky boy . I have done very well for myself THANK YOU : I take my wagering on races very seriously . I might play a Total of 75 races thru-out the whole year . When I do wager , I rather Win big , or I go out in Flames . But either way , I have always been in the Green at the end of the year , normally Big-Time . There is No BS on my part . I normally always Post what my wager is , then Post it on my own email address for my friends to view . To Me : this is Fun and a Retirement enjoyment . I dont pay attention to what other people bet - wager . I do plenty of my own travel thru-out the country visiting stables , farms , peole . Istay close to many horsemen . I even help out time to time for old-sake days which is fun . I like the fact that ( LAVA MAN - ILL HAVE ANOTHER ) have been together . That shows class . Thats nice for the fans - sport . I dont really even care about all the BS reguarding O"Neill with the Milk-Shake story . Our Sport needs to grow up , and STOP the garbage ( REGUARDING THE TIMING OF THE STORY ) ! Since 2010 , NOW they want to make a story - big issue out of this . Its BS Timing . And Only make our sport look bad , worse than what it is . This could have WAITED till AFTER the Belmont Stakes . Any-ways , denali 1 - not everyone BS ! I have Always SHOWED MY PROOF . ( UNION RAGS ) will not even be Close to 8 - 1 . TRUST ME ! 3 - 1 Maybe ...................................
denali1 More than 1 year ago
Douglas if i offended you i apologize but at times some ppl are just so ridiculous when it comes to racing. I dont bet like that but hey i love UR in this race myself. Some say he cant get the distance because of his breeding. I say ya gotta be kidding this horse has such a long stride and can stay close to the pace 2 big factors at 11/2 race at Belmont especially when theres no real pace in here. I agree theres no way and hell he goes off at 8-1. If he does better for all his backings. Anyways i wish you the best!!
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
Douglas, I don't agree with you about your Belmont pick on UR, I just think you should save your $20,000 for other occations, maybe on UR or others in the future. He'll be way overbet to about 5/2 since J Velasqez is on him. However, I like the way you approach this game, that is play the game sparingly and heavy. That's the method I have been employing for a long time and it works for me very well as well. Regarding the Belmont, if feel that strong about UR, then go for it, but I jsut think you should bypass it and there are plenty of opportunities down the road. lol!!!
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
denali1 : your cool ! no need to apologize . I agree with what you said about so much BS on these sites . A very good friend of mine - Kenny Mayne once asked me ( WHY ) do I post my Picks on my email sight . Well , because I have many friends that are alwys wanting to INCLUDE my pick into their own picks . So , as for fun , that is why . And they can al see that what I wagered , I was being honestly totally Up-Front in what I believed in liking . I have never been afraid of being wrong . I have always faced losing like a man , with very little excuses . A man that I had worked for - for nearly 12 years once told me ( A GREAT COLT FINDS A WAY TO WIN ) and that was Charlie Whittingham . Well , as many times I have gone back and viewed the last few races of UNION RAGS - Maybe - just maybe UNIN RAGS isnt a great colt . But as much as I have been around this colt , and Brette / Matz , its so hard to go in any other direction for the Belmont . I never have been a ods player . 3 / 5 or 8 - 1 ! If I like a colt , I BEST REALLY LIKE THE COLT , because I normally go all out . That has always been me - how I wager . It doesnt matter if its a $2 WIN BET - $200 IN BET - $2000 WIN BET .................... Charlie Whittingham said it best in so many ways . He would say ( ONLY BET WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE ) at the end of the day , ya still go home Satified .
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Paul Tuon : you would have ben surprised how many people were saying that to me when I wager the same afew years back on ( RAGS TO RICHES ) ! I honesty listen to No-One on these sights . No dis-respect . I am around many of these colts on a daily basis here and there . Mornings mainly . I also have many Ears that travel thru-out the stable areas . Believing in your people wih-in your circle helps alot . Word can travel faster than lightning at times . But so much doesnt get talked about either . DONT FEEL SORRY FOR ME : When You Believe That Your Right - Then To You , It Will Always Be The Truth ( in your eyes ) ............................ Dont Take My Word - Reguarding UNION RAGS . Anyone that bets on horses , MUST BELIEVE IN THEM-SELF . I NEVER CHANGED MY MIND ON RAGS TO RICHES , and I Actually like UNION RAGS more than I liked Riches . So , with the rcing Gods looking down , HOPEFULLY WE DO NOT SEE A TRIPLE CROWN WINNER THIS YEAR ! Sorry fans , but I am a very loyal person , and I was totally convinced reguarding UNION RAGS in the Kentucky Derby - I am not looking for anything LESS
Harry's ghost More than 1 year ago
excellent blog here. i am probably too late to join in the fun but for what it is worth, as a life-long gambler, there are many reasons why the last 11 triple crown hopefuls failed in their attempts at glory. lack of stamina, poor training, rider error and just plain hard luck. bottom line is in this era of horse racing it is increasingly difficult to win all 3 jewels. The fresh horse angle has worked well over the past decade and is in play once again with UR and Dull. This Belmont will be awesome baby! Go IHA!
denali1 More than 1 year ago
Wow whats Rickey Martin smokin with comments that IHA is underrated and over hyped. Dude are you serious this horse won the Derby, Preakness, S.A derby please man get your facts straight. IHA must of took all your coins pal. Although i see UR as the main danger to IHA triple crown feat. YOU must give respect where respect is due!!
Melvin Boone More than 1 year ago
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
With J. R. Velasquez replacing the highly highly overrated J. R. Leperaux the race will be decided within 30 yards of the finish line with Dullahan possibly ahead of Union Rags by a whisker. Or the reverse, Union Rags wins, Dullahan places. Third to any horse EXCEPT I'll Have Another. That horse is overhyped and undertalented. Without a Nasal Strip and whatever on Belmont Day he WON'T HIT THE BOARD! You heard it here first. If you can access Betfair abroad due to your having British relatives, wire transfer funds to your relatives and have them LAY the odds AGAINST I'll Have Another. I congratulate the stewards of the NYRA for prohibiting O'Neill, et. al. from using Nasal Strips on IHA in the running of the Belmont Stakes June 9th. I intend to bet against a Triple Crown winner "for my lungs" as they say in Horse Degenis parlance.
Roy Sankar More than 1 year ago
i definitely agree with you ...there is hidden medication in those nasal strips ...no horse can magically win just like that ...personally i see it as union rags ...street talk.....dullahan...and then ill have another and alpha in a photo for 4th the best horse will win the belmont ...the horse who should of won the kentucky derby
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Wow! I'll Have Another has another chance to prove that he was best in the Kentucky Derby. Everything is on the line. This horse will be the great Triple Crown winner if he wins the Belmont Stakes because he had to win 5 races: the regular 3 races, plus he had to beat Bodemeister dramatically to validate his Derby win, and now to beat Union Rags convincingly to double veryfy his Derby win - I hope Roy didn't mean that he has to finish first to Union Rags 2nd, Street Life 3rd, and Dullahan 4th in order to win the Triple Crown. I'll Have Another has to win the Belmont Stakes and hit the superfecta in order to win the crown, he shall become the greatest ever if he completes this task.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
No hidden meds.. they would test post race. but they are alow level performance enhancer because they help clear mucous and open up capilaries. And not to diminish IHA's accomplishments...but go watch the replays from Bev Lewis where he began the use of the flairs.... hmmmmmmmm