02/26/2012 6:51PM

Gulfstream: If the Fountain of Youth was a prep, what can Union Rags really do?


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.


Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
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 !
Bill More than 1 year ago
Respect the trainer, unreal horsemen....when he says he has a monster horse he has a monster horse.Matz is a very hands on trainer unlike the pletchers and bafferts..His resume speaks for itself... Its time for a monster to stay sound and dominate, the industry needs 1...Go Rags get er dun...
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
or he could b on the cover of Sports Illustrated *the Kiss of Death* VQ
Darren More than 1 year ago
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.
Bill More than 1 year ago
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...
robert More than 1 year ago
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.
Mine thatbird More than 1 year ago
Terpsichorist, his second Dam, won the Sheapshead Bay Handicap 1 1/4 over turf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was referring to his dam and her siblings: among the dam and her other seven foals to race in North America, only one foal has won at a route. They've made very few route attempts - just nine starts - despite all being by respectable middle distance sires. Collectively lots of sprint success though: 19 wins in 84 starts. Dixie Union on top doesn't help matters for Union Rags long term.
Mine thatbird More than 1 year ago
Good points and I do agree with the original comment regarding 8.5f in February. As of now I still like Alpha if he makes the starting gate.
Edward More than 1 year ago
Lol u havent been watching this guys races then. He wants more distance and give this guy another furlong and hed be a perfect horse in his career. His style is derby style to a T and even bigger he ran on the churchill dirt and lvoed it. Ill say it again if theres a horse thats gnna beat this guy we havent seen him yet.. Cal...
Bradford Solomon More than 1 year ago
Still a long way to go but he has to be the clear favorite for now. He just cruised in 1:42
Vincent Silos More than 1 year ago
Hopefully the unknown Fed Biz. Loved his allowance win last month
Thiggy More than 1 year ago
No Horse is bred to go 10 furlongs on dirt anymore in the US. It's all speed, speed, speed.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
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.
Junior Jimenez More than 1 year ago
The Derby is run in Kentucky not Florida
Tinaz Omar More than 1 year ago
yeah ,ok...but he won in kentucky in the BC...maybe not technically,but he was much the best horse in the BC race....churchill will not b a problem..he is all grown up now..
Jeremy Porter More than 1 year ago
Tinaz he was not the best horse in the BC race, the best horse won in the BC. Hanson wired em on the rail in which the rail was alot deeper than the outside as it was all day that day. Union Rags had the better trip on the outside and got beat. Plain and simple!!! Hanson's loss came on an off track he clearly did not like and broke very poorly rushed up for lead and couldnt hold on after troubled trip. I still take hanson over union rags.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Are you kidding?!?!? Hansen is better?!?!? That horse is a miler at best who managed to hang on with a ground saving rail trip! Rags was clearly the best @BC having run 47 more feet than Hansen and overcoming whatever was going on down the stretch. Rags may have been green that day but he's all grown up now....
juliuso More than 1 year ago
One cannot ever judge a second placed horse as better when they were beaten by the best horse on the day. A race is not a judgment of style or potential, it is a plain and simple contest and the best horse wins every time.
Jimee63 More than 1 year ago
I seem to remember a Derby winner named Big Brown who made his mark in Florida and then destroyed his Derby field. Also, the change to Leparoux is outstanding. U.R. had a terrible trip in the B.C. racing wide the entire way.
Rob Tyler More than 1 year ago
nice job matt !!!! way to go !!!! pure genius !!!!
Janice Palmer More than 1 year ago
This is a Barbaro! Hopefully, he stays healthy!
Michael Cozzi More than 1 year ago
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
Virgin Queen More than 1 year ago
glad u feel that that way hope u and all the other UR fans *ship it in on him come derby time* cus he's a bet against in my book 4 the simple reason he doesn't pass muster when it comes 2 *BBBFFF1'S* good horse but willing 2 take a stand against in the derby VQ