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Kentucky Derby 2012: Matz calls Union Rags’s race a disaster
By Mike Welsch
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On the morning of Feb. 27, less than 24 hours after Union Rags’s triumphant 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth, trainer Michael Matz stood beaming outside his barn at the Palm Meadows training center, secure and confident in the knowledge that he had the horse to beat in the Kentucky Derby.
On Sunday, less than 24 hours after Union Rags’s troubled seventh-place finish under Julien Leparoux in the Derby, Matz stood outside his barn at Churchill Downs disconsolate and frustrated while recounting the eventful trip that denied his horse any chance of giving the trainer his second Derby win.
“When I saw him come by the stands for the first time, I knew we were in big trouble,” Matz said. “The way the track was playing, you had to be closer than 18th. They just weren’t closing like that. We talked about it with Julien and we wanted to be third or fourth coming out of the first turn. There’s a big difference between third and 18th. It seemed like everything Julien tried put him in the wrong situation. I guess he just couldn’t get it done.”
Union Rags broke a step slowly and was squeezed between Take Charge Indy and Dullahan immediately after the start of the Derby. He then steadied several times while racing along the rail near the rear of the pack, almost 20 lengths behind pacesetter Bodemeister in the run down the backstretch. Union Rags did surge late, once finally clear, but was left with too much to do, finishing 7 1/2 lengths behind the winner, I’ll Have Another.
“I came back to the barn after the race and asked Peter, ‘What did I miss?’” Matz said, referring to his assistant and Union Rag’s regular exercise rider, Peter Brette. “I thought I had him primed to run a really big one yesterday. But the only two minutes I couldn’t control were a disaster.
Matz said Union Rags “just went through the motions” in the Kentucky Derby and in his third-place finish in the Florida Derby.
“I was really disappointed in his last two races,” he said. “I don’t mind getting beat, I just don’t like getting beat the way he did in both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. He never got a chance to run or really show his true ability.”
From all indications, Union Rags came out of the Derby in good order, Matz said.
“Julien said he heard a pop at the three-eighths pole, but we jogged him last night and I didn’t see anything,” Matz said. “There was no heat or anything like that.”
Union Rags was scheduled to ship back to Fair Hill on Sunday evening, after which Matz will have two decisions to make – whether to run back in the Preakness or await the Belmont, and who will ride Union Rags in his next start.
“My first thought now is to say we won’t go to the Preakness,” Matz said. “It’s a long year and waiting for the Belmont makes more sense. I don’t think distance has ever been a question for this horse. In his last two races, we never got a chance to see his full stride. He probably didn’t get the opportunity to run a half-mile in the two races combined.”
Matz said as bad as he felt for himself after the Derby, he felt even worse for Union Rags’s owner-breeder, Phyllis Wyeth.
“It’s just such a big disappointment, especially for Phyllis,” Matz said. “You don’t get many chances to run in the Derby, especially with one of the favorites. It’s not like you can come back and do it again next week.”
Matz said he would discuss the jockey situation with the horse’s owners and Brette.
Rags to Belmont...
I wish people would just totally get away from BEYER Figure of each Derby up to date . STEROIDS killed the Beter Figure . Now that so many drugs are not being taken now - of course the Beyer Figures are going to be lower than the norm . 101 for this years Derby was like running a 109 four five years ago . Trainers know what im saying !
UNION RAGS will romp in the Belmont!!! You heard it here. Take it to the bank!!!
Next jock should be....Chop Chop. Great gate rider. Has won many big time races including KD. He is aggressive.
sometimes it's the jock, sometimes it's the horse just refusing to respond. this was hardly historically the greatest training job. U.R. has been described as a lazy horse. How do u train the lazy one's?
OK Matz - I've been one of your biggest supporters but you gotta stop with all this indecision. Just announce into the Preakness and work toward it. You must know they will be going fast early again - and backing up - again. Your competition is the Derby winner and Grahams' Colt (and others) BUT you gotta be closer than 16 out of it at the top of the stretch. Please just put a Race Rider on Rags who will let him roll. You can declare before entry time but MAKE UP MY MIND!!! All your hand-wringing is making ME nervous and I'm not even in your shedrow.
Absolutely right! Desormeau came over and hammered him on purpose. He's known for dirty riding and he knew the favourite was dangerous and took his chance to squeeze him. PLEASE!!!! take Leparoux off this horse!!!!! This horse needs a strong jockey that isn't afraid to mix it up. Leparoux is to timid and is doing this horse a disfavour.
Mr. Matz, My wife and I are of the opinion that UNION MATZ and Julien were intentionally squeezed by the Cajun jockeys to their right and left. Perhaps that is permissible in the rarely-enforced rules of jockey behaviors. We believe their was collusion - look at the extent Dullah came in on UNION RAGS and why would TAKE CHARGE INDY verve to his right when Borel is rail rider. Kinda makes you think, huh? Furthermore, Cajuns are not fond of Frenchmen. Considering tha Julian is French, that might have been another motive. Lastly, watch that interview of Kent Desormeaux before the race. He said if he did not win he hope another Cajun jockey would win. To whom was he referring? On a personal note, I'LL HAVE ANOTHER was my derby horse; not UNION RAGS so this is not sour grapes. These are the observations and opinions of horseplayers who hate to see dirty riding in any horse race!
PETER BRETTE / MICHAEL MATZ : Bodemeister is not going on to the Preakness . Baffert wants to rest his Colt . Trinnberg will be coming to the Preakness . NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO BRING UNION RAGS TO THE PREAKNESS AND TRY TO BECOME THE 3 YR OLD COLT OF THE YEAR . If that is your Goal , you can not Win that award if you Duck the Preakness . Now , since UNION RAGS has only ran hard for maybe 4 furlongs between the Forida - Kentucky Derby - then I BELIEVE IF UNION RAGS IS THE BEST - YOU MUST DISPLAY IT and bring it on , on National TV ! I BELIEVE ! DO YOU BELIEVE
KENTUCKY DERBY ( BEYER ONLY GOT A 101 ) WOWWWWW ! THATS SAD
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