01/19/2012 3:15PM

Gulfstream: Union Rags could face Hansen again in Fountain of Youth

Barbara D. Livingston
Union Rags is targeting the Feb. 26 Fountain of Youth for his first start in 2012. He could be rematched with champion 2-year-old Hansen.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Union Rags got closer to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, missing by a head despite a somewhat eventful trip, than he did in the Eclipse Award voting for last year’s 2-year-old champion. The result surprised many, including Michael Matz, the trainer of Union Rags.

“To be honest, I was surprised it was such a landslide,” said Matz, who did not attend Monday evening’s Eclipse Award ceremonies in California. “If winning the Breeders’ Cup is the criterion for winning the Eclipse Award than that’s the way it is. It would have been nice to have won the award but it is what it is and it’s over now. It’s not the end of the world. And I’m pretty sure of one thing, there will be a rematch.”

That rematch could come as early as Feb. 26 at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. That’s the race Matz continues to target for Union Rags’s first start since his hard-luck defeat as the favorite in the Juvenile. Union Rags, a son of Dixie Union, had won each of his three previous outings to open his 2-year-old campaign, including both the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 2 Saratoga Special.

Hansen is scheduled to launch his 3-year-old campaign in the Grade 3 Holy Bull going a mile here next Sunday.

Union Rags continues to progress nicely towards his return, working four furlongs from the three- eighths pole to the mile pole in 49.63 seconds and galloping out five-eighths in 1:02 Wednesday morning at Palm Meadows under regular exercise rider Peter Brett.

“He worked real well,” said Matz. “He broke off nicely and kind of picked it up each eighth of a mile, galloped out real good, and came out of it well, Peter said it was nothing for him to do it.”

Matz said he will likely move Union Rags up to a six-day work schedule for a while.

“I’d like to bring him back next Tuesday, probably go another half and out five eighths, and get him on a six-day schedule until I can have him on a weekend series for his final works leading up to the Fountain of Youth.”