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Updated on 05/25/2012 11:52AM
Belmont Stakes 2012: Velazquez to replace Leparoux aboard Union Rags
By Jay Privman
John Velazquez has picked up the mount on Union Rags, trainer Michael Matz said Tuesday.
The switch was not a surprise. The connections of Union Rags were not happy with how things unfolded for Union Rags in his last two starts, both with Julien Leparoux. And Velazquez was considered one of the top contenders to replace him.
Leparoux had ridden Union Rags in the Kentucky Derby, in which Union Rags finished seventh after a troubled trip. Leparoux also rode Union Rags in the Florida Derby, in which he finished third.
“We felt we had to make a change,” said Matz, who trains Union Rags for Phyllis Wyeth. “What happened before, in the last two races, it can happen to any one of them. He doesn’t look like he’s difficult to ride. He does have a big, long stride, and you need to let him use that stride.”
Matz said several riders were considered, including Ramon Dominguez and Joel Rosario.
“This is what we came up with. I hope we made the right decision,” said Matz, who said Velazquez and his agent, Angel Cordero Jr., made a multi-race commitment to Union Rags. “We wanted somebody that was up in New York.”
Union Rags is at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. Matz said Union Rags is scheduled to work there later this week. He will have another work there next week, with Velazquez scheduled to work him that day. Matz said Union Rags would not arrive at Belmont Park until just days before the Belmont Stakes.
Matz said he informed Leparoux on Sunday that he was going to be replaced, but said he would use Leparoux on other horses.
“He understands,” Matz said. “There’s a lot of money at stake. Whether it was his fault or the horse’s fault, it just didn’t work out.”
– additional reporting by David Grening
Does it still hold true that NO horse has won the Belmont without racing there beforehand?
Smart move by Matz. Leparoux is a good jockey but JV is at the top and well easier to communicate to.
Great horses show their talent when it matters. Even after the derby i believed union rags was the best three year old in the country and lost due to the poor race riding of julien. His european style just doesn't fit this colt. Putting john on union rags only makes sense. He's the best rider in the country and knows belmont inside out and backwards. everyone concentrates on pedigree and surface excuses in these races when it really comes down to training and heart. its true you cannot make a sprinter into a router or vice versa. but i believe given a chance to really run union rags has the raw ability to get any distance on any surface. he's a huge colt with an even bigger stride. the problem is that when a colt of his size has to check repeatedly in a race it costs them precious time. large horses take time to get going and poor riding in tight quarters inhibits their ability. is rags a better colt? i have my doubts after watching the courage of IHA in his preakness victory. running down a front runner of bode's talent where he was allowed to relax was enormous. showed his heart and desire to win. belmont lokks like his proving ground. Matz will have no more excuses. John vs. Mario... come on its horse vs. horse now. trainer vs. trainer. love ya rags. hope you can overcome your show cicuit connections and run to your full ability win or lose. you deserve that much.
I just don't understand Matz's thinking here. Why even run UR when his pedigree and his running style are telling you he will not get a 1 1/2. Find an appropriate race for him that suits his style and run there. He is more a miler than anything else kinda like Quality Road was and that was another mistake trying to run him in the Classic.
If Matz had any hope after the derby of UR getting 3-year old of the year, he can forget it now. Should have run in him in the Preakness. UR would have to win Belmont, Travers, JC Gold Cup, and BC Classic to get 3 year old of the year, over IHA's SA Derby, K Derby Preakness. IHA by winning the Belmont and triple crown will lock up 3 year old and horse of the year eclipse awards. UR missed getting 2 year old and 3 year old awards.
Jockey's fault?!?! Horse's fault!??! Come on mike get your head on straight. Stop playing the blame game (especially with the media). Point the finger of justice back at yourself and finally accept Union rags is NOT Barbaro!
I have never witnessed a jockey carrying a horse through the FINISH-LINE! “Union Rags and Dullahan come to mind that are going to be extremely tough and they’re fresh-legged and ready to go, but we’re pumped,” O’Neill said. “Our horse came out of this race in great shape and as long as he stays injury-free, we got a big, big chance.” After watching and winning with I'll Have Another, I will have to stay with this BEAST, especially @ 1 1/2 mile distance. In in his BLOOD! Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/trainer-doug-o-neill-ready-shot-winning-triple-crown-june-9-belmont-stakes-article-1.1081717#ixzz1viFLSsRQ
Imagine owning Optimizer and Lukas is feeeding you the BS telling you he belongs in these races? All the while they're wasting starts and money in races where he has NO SHOT!! This horse should be given a break and then brought back in a first level allowance on the grass then go from there. Hopefully he hasn't botttomed him out already beyond repair. LUKAS it's OK to miss one TC race!!!
The jockey change could make all the difference in Union Rags as he'll be put into the right place adn won't get stopped, but, can someone explain someting to me about 2 3 year olds off the tripple crown trail. Why don't Hanson and Trinnenberg run in the Met Mile especially Hanson. You get good breeding credentials and make money there as a 3 year old if you look at the race they get 13 pounds from what they're handicapped at plus if they win they get a distinction of beating older horses. It seems to me more and more trainers are trying to find the easy way out rather than do what's best for the horse and owners.
Agree with jockey change. If UR doesn't go good, then blame the horse.
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