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Gulfstream: If the Fountain of Youth was a prep, what can Union Rags really do?
By Mike Welsch
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Michael Matz has said all along that he was using Sunday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth as a prep for Union Rags, just the first step on the road to having him ready to peak on Kentucky Derby Day. And in light of his performance in his 3-year-old debut, one can only imagine what Union Rags might be ready to accomplish when he’s completely fit and at his best.
Union Rags made a shambles of the mile and one-sixteenth Fountain of Youth, drawing off to an extremely impressive four-length victory over News Pending that was even easier than the final margin might suggest. The performance clearly establishes Union Rags, who had not started since suffering his only setback in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile nearly four months earlier, as the current Kentucky Derby favorite.
The Fountain of Youth had been billed as a match between the two leading Derby contenders, Union Rags and the undefeated Algorithms. Unfortunately that meeting never took place. Algorithms had to be scratched from the race after being diagnosed with a splint injury earlier in the day.
Union Rags was ridden for the first time on Sunday by Julien Leparoux. He replaced Javier Castellano, who earlier this month opted to keep his regular seat aboard Algorithms in the Fountain of Youth.
Union Rags broke alertly and settled in perfect position off the early pace of the 4-5 favorite and previously undefeated Discreet Dancer, who was pressed by News Pending through fractions of 24.50 seconds and 48.11 for the opening quarter- and half-mile. Union Rags readily overtook the leaders while racing three wide leaving the quarter pole, quickly drew off, and was never extended through the final furlong.
News Pending rushed up outside horses to join for command entering the backstretch and held on willingly once displaced by the winner, finishing 2 1/4 lengths clear of Discreet Dancer who raced in what appeared to be the deeper going on Sunday along the rail. Neck ‘n Neck rallied to finish fourth after steadying sharply on the opening bend. Fort Loudon, Csaba, and Casual Trick completed the order of finish.
Union Rags is owned by Phyllis Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable. He completed the distance in 1:42.68 over the fast track and returned $4.40.
“I’m just so happy right now,” Matz said immediately after the race. “Julien said he didn’t even touch him with the whip. He did everything on his own. And when he said it was ‘time to go’ he [Union Rags] said okay and just went beautifully. He’s such a smart horse, so easy on himself for such a big horse. I didn’t know after four months if he could do this. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Matz said the next stop for Union Rags, as has been the plan all winter, will be the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles here on March 31.
Union Rags is a great miler and met some overmatched horses in the FOY. Congratulations to his connections who shoud enjoy the moment. I am predicting that if he doesn't go lame, he will not be in the first two in the Kentucky Derby. His breeding on the dam side certainly doesn't suggest stamina and watch his swerving action in his two route races! At this point, for the Derby I like Creative Cause and El Padrino who appear to be true stayers. There are others lurking too!
While the race was visually impressive...especially given the short GP stretch UR needs to find some real competition which he might have had except for a scratch. And remember he could run two more great preps and then draw the "death" rail in the Derby !
I think Union Rags is a nice horse, but the Risen Star at the FG looked and graded out very well. El Padrino and Mark Valeski look for real.
For all the horse people expresing their opinions, my turn Delaware Park has put alot of very good horses out there in the past ten years...Fair hill training center deserves a few props as well..Not sure if it luck or what however it just the facts...Congrats Mike, another job well done...
Union Rags is not bred to go 10 furlongs. The damside is all sprinters, lots of 'em. Winning an 8.5f race in February doesn't have a lot of bearing on his Derby potential. His fans should enjoy today. But that field wasn't much.
Only a fool would deny Union Rags his props after today's facile victory in the FOY. Since I'm no fool, well you guys and gals know the rest. This doesn't guarantee him victory come the first Saturday in May given the history of runner-ups in the previous year's BC Juvy i.e. Easy Goer, Point Given, but you CANNOT make anybody else the favorite as of today. Redemption for Leparoux given the 2011 Dialed In TC flop? Time will tell ya'll.
The Derby is run in Kentucky not Florida
nice job matt !!!! way to go !!!! pure genius !!!!
This is a Barbaro! Hopefully, he stays healthy!
Nick Carroway.....WAKE UP... This horse, off almost a 4 month layoff samshed the field, with no encouragement and came a few ticks of the track recoed...and Matz said he is no wheres near 100%..... Mike Matz has another Barbaro type beast here, and the only hore that can beat him in Kentucky in MAY IS HIMSELF....RAGS IS A BEAST
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