05/06/2012 12:51PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: Matz calls Union Rags’s race a disaster

Barbara D. Livingston
Union Rags, with Julien Leparoux riding, finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby.

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.

chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Rags to Belmont...
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
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 !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Douglas,I came upon your comments by accident and of all the blogs and articles (Crist,Haskin,Brown,Watchmaker, Beyer et all) You are the only ONLY who really makes sense as to why the speed figs are so low in the past 5 years or so (Steroid Era) and puts a figure on it ---"101 today= 109 five years ago" I use a lot of different methods in my Derby analysis eg love the Champagne @ Belmont as a pointer ( rem Sea Hero and Union Rags last year) and other less orthodox things eg. like O'Brien was at Newmarket and not Churchill for the first leg of the English Triple Crown which he won @ la Lucas(Charismatic) with his 3rd choice-at least betting wise-who happened to win our Juvenile Breeder's Cup Turf last year. (not to mention while he has won quite a lot on turf here but is 1 for like 34 on dirt) I am convinced he and the Shielk will eventually win the Kentucky Derby they so much covet--------and I am equally convinced I will not be on them! LOL------n.b. if the Shielk really thought he had a K.D. winner in Alpha ,he AND Dettori would have been here! I have been lucky enough to attend the last two Triple Crown wins in the seventies ( and many" close but no cigar" efforts--------------I am a great believer in The Racing Gods not letting an unworthy horse win the Triple Crown,so the idea of a 101 winning was heresy to me even tho this year's Derby winner/owner,jockey/trainer combo are deserving and would be great for the game.I spend hours and days and weeks handicapping the Derby and usually end up going for the horse i think will win the triple crown. This year I went for Bode and Union .I threw out Bobe for Pace reasons (tho when he went three up he looked the part----- and he held on( with such courage) to screw my Pool 2 reverse exacta).I Having had a Heart Attack myself I am honestly convinced that" last chance" thinking and wanting to win for his son may have adversely effected Baffert's judgement------leading in 1.09-----------hello!------ If Trinnenberg not been in the race !!!!!! I honesty thought based on his form, looks etc. and a genuine affection I have, like you, for Union Rags that he was a mortal lock and bet so accordingly including a hefty Matz/Oaks/Derby double gamble. Your comments make my picture a lot clearer and I look forward to Union's next race,which I hope is the Preakness, and which I intend to support him to the max! Enjoyed you sharing your thoughts with us and look forward to both you and Union Rags next outing.
Irish More than 1 year ago
Douglas,sorry for bad spelling,grammar etc and being posted as 'anonymous" which I did not mean to happen. This is my first blog ( your comments effected me so!) and it kinda got away from me and posted on it's own before I could fix it.
. More than 1 year ago
UNION RAGS is going to the Belmont http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/horse_racing/150859255.html
Abner Aballe More than 1 year ago
UNION RAGS will romp in the Belmont!!! You heard it here. Take it to the bank!!!
mrm More than 1 year ago
Next jock should be....Chop Chop. Great gate rider. Has won many big time races including KD. He is aggressive.
Frank More than 1 year ago
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?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
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.
Abner Aballe More than 1 year ago
To be honest now, I don't think UR is that great. Yeah, he made up ground in the KD, but that was just plain circumstance. Maybe UR hasn't really improved from 2 to 3 and all this hype was really just making him overrated.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Well, he's getting rid of that human anchor. Who would you ride?
Craig More than 1 year ago
Chad,Eddie Castro game over.Put him on Rags he will be no further back than 5 lengths.And when the hole opens up Castro will muscle that 1200 pound 17 hand beast right through it.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Ok by me Craig... Now What... I'd be happy with the former Rider of Daddys' Hobby but I can't make the call.
Abner Aballe More than 1 year ago
Does Matz use Castro often?
Abner Aballe More than 1 year ago
Put Castellano back on.
Abner Aballe More than 1 year ago
he was 3 for 3
Abner Aballe More than 1 year ago
Correction, Castellano was 2 wins on 3 races, with a 2nd coming the BCJ, a wide journey in which Trakkus says UR traveled 3 lengths farther than Hansen. Put Castellano back on, a post drawn to the outside and we're good. I'll say this, if UR runs in the Belmont, he will romp. Matz says the longer he goes and gets into stride, the better he gets. Bring him back in the Belmont and let him romp by open lengths.
Derek Getty More than 1 year ago
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.
John Burton More than 1 year ago
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!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Mr Burton please know the Take Charge Indy came out with a bone chip in his ankle and NO body can say if that occurred on the first jump or what. Now if you believe any jock is gonna mebbe start a wreck that HE might get crushed in - then you justa nut! Now beyond that you are free to write a letter to the Stewards at Churchill and demand an investigation. If dat doan work you could drop in Cooter Browns and start up with Cajun Rider this and Cajun Rider that... I can't recommend the last. Good Luck at The Preakness.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
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
Craig More than 1 year ago
I agree Douglas,Time to wheel him right back with a new pilot.He is sound as can be and dead fit.Seeing how Frenchy screwed everything up I think he could go out today and kick some ass.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
I have spoken to Brette afew times since the Derby , and its sounding more and more like Matz / Brette want to wait out the PREAKNESS and go onto the BELMONT to face BODEMEISTER and ILL HAVE ANOTHER . Why for the delay and wait , to me is FOOLISH IF YOUR COLT IS THIS SOUND and FRESH YET . But they get paid the Big Bucks , and we are just a voice in the air . I Sure Hope They Have Second Thoughts ! UNION RAGS is too good to keep on the shelf . Thanks for your kindness in replies . And GOOD LUCK
Craig More than 1 year ago
Douglas,Very cool that your close to the situation.I agree,five weeks to long to wait for redemption.Need to see Rags in the gate at Pimlico.
Tom Hua More than 1 year ago
Yes, I strongly agree with your analysis. If Union Rag enters Preakness or Belmont, he will be my top pick. Union Rags with all. Thanks for your inputs.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Its was so amazing to see UNION RAGS thru-out being at Churchill Downs . I was there at track-side each morning from April 25th thru-out May 7th . Its been awhile since I was so excited about betting the Derby based on what I was witnessing on the track . UNION RAGS looked so promising . But this just goes to show Anyone , its horse racing ! And anything can happen . I could not believe how bad UNION RAGS looked . I honestly dont blame Leparoux , because we have been good friends for nearly 4 years now and I know Leparoux wanted this Derby so much . UNION RAGS just didnt break alertly . I myself - would keep Leparoux aboard , at least one more time . I dont believe this is the same matter as LOOKIN AT LUCKY and Gomez . I would be totally shocked IF Matz / Brette doesnt go on to the PREAKNESS . ( MY HONEST OPINION ) IF UNION RAGS is what they say he is , then there is No Dought UNION RAGS is Fit n Fresh . Should be able to handle the PREAKNESS and BELMONT both ! So if they do not go on to the PREAKNESS - I would say that they are SCARED and that would be very depressing to me after how well UNION RAGS has looked thru-out this Spring . I WOULD WHEEL UNION RAGS AGAIN , BUT ONLY FOR THE ( WIN ) TRIFECTA WHEEL . Now , its all or nothing thru-out his 3 year old career .
john More than 1 year ago
Eddie S More than 1 year ago
Doug, I loved the Rag as well. I do believe though that the jockey is a poor match for this horse. Thought so after the Fla. race. I want a jockey aggressive to get position. The Rag would have ate them up at the quarter pole if he had position. I too lost a lot on the Rag and singled only him because of his acceleration talents. What a shame. Reminded me a little of Easy Goer and his bad trips. I hope Matz goes to Preakness with a new jockey.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Well , Honestly to say Julien and I have been KENTUCKY BUDS since he arrived to Kentucky . We had become good friends really fast . So I will not Bash Julien . I will admit that sometimes Jockeys just dont fit a certain Colt , and the same goes fr the Colt vs the Jockey . It does seem like a ( LOOKING AT LUCKY - GOMEZ ) all over gain . Julien has been RIGHT ON when he really likes a Colt when he tells me so . And Julien Leparoux has said to me afew times How Good UNION RAGS is . So , in my opinion , IF I HAD TO MAKE THE DECISION for Brette / Matz : I Would Say , Julien : This will be your final try on UNION RAGS ! I know how bad Julien feels . And to be HONEST - The next time IF Julien rides UNION RAGS , Julien will run them over if he has to ...................... Well You All Know What I Mean . I know Julien wants to ride UNION RAGS and WIN ! So , I would put everything else aside , and roll the dice . By the way it sounded after the Derby when I was talking to Brette / Matz : omg I never seen the two so upset , so mad , so embarassed , so up tight when UNION RAGS came back to the stable . It was not too pleasing , though they both acted very professional towards the media and guest . At that time , I believe the two wanted to send Julien back to France : but things have Calmed Down some . Brette really has the call eguarding this matter . Matz is leaving this matter up to Brette . Brette has done a Super job getting UNION RAGS ready : I HAVE TO SAY , When UNION RAGS does run next , I WILL PUT HIM ON ( TOP ) AND WOULDNT THINK TWICE ABOUT IT
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago