02/13/2012 2:09PM

Gulfstream: Leparoux gets familiar with Union Rags prior to Fountain of Youth

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Tom Keyser
Union Rags, ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux, works five furlongs in 1:03.03 Monday at Palm Meadows.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Union Rags, Algorithms, and Discreet Dancer, the three leading contenders for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth here at Gulfsream Park a week from Sunday, all turned in their penultimate works for the race on a very chilly Monday morning at Palm Meadows.

Union Rags, with his new rider Julien Leparoux aboard, worked an easy five-eighths in 1:03.08, according to track clocker Bryan Walls, much to the delight of trainer Michael Matz. Union Rags has not started since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Leparoux will replace Union Rags’s regular rider, Javier Castellano, in the Fountain of Youth after Gulfstream Park’s leading jockey and his agent Matt Muzikar announced their decision on Sunday to keep their regular seat on trainer Todd Pletcher’s undefeated Algorithms. Castellano is also the regular rider for the unbeaten Discreet Dancer, who will be ridden in the Fountain of Youth by John Velazquez.

“Javier rides five top Derby prospects, four of which are with one trainer,” Muzikar said when announcing Castellano’s choice of Fountain of Youth mounts on Sunday. “This was a very tough decision but Javier and I thought it was the right decision. Both of us have the utmost respect for both Michael Matz and Mrs. [Phyllis] Wyeth. They are both very classy people and we wish all the connections of Union Rags the best.”

Union Rags, who is owned by Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable, posted splits of 38.3 and 51.1 seconds while going in hand and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.40 under Leparoux, who was aboard the Grade 1 winner for the first time on Monday. Union Rags worked in company with stablemate Rihanna.

“I thought he went real nice. It wasn’t real fast but he sat behind another horse and when they hit the wire he just pulled away,” said Matz. “They actually two-minute licked from the three-quarter pole so it was a nice long work and he did it very easily. I think we’re right on schedule for the Fountain of Youth.”

Pletcher was equally pleased with both Algorithms and Discreet Dancer on Monday. Algorithms breezed an easy half -mile in 49.20 before galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.20 while Discreet Dancer, who missed a scheduled work last week due to a slight temperature, went five furlongs in 1:00.90 in company with stablemate Alma D’Oro.

“Algorithms just had a nice, steady maintenance kind of work and galloped out strong. He’s very fit, we don’t need to do much more with him,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “I thought Discreet Dancer worked extra good this morning. He looked full of run and galloped out strong. We made up some ground from what we lost last week and I’m very happy where we are with him at the moment.”

Racing secretary Dan Bork said he expects a small field, likely no more than six or seven 3-year-olds, for the Fountain of Youth.