Updated on 04/12/2012 2:21PM

Kentucky Derby: Union Rags puts in final Florida work; heading to Kentucky this weekend

Tom Keyser
Union Rags will ship to Keeneland on Saturday evening.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – Union Rags had the first of his final three works leading up to the Kentucky Derby, and his last before departing his winter home at Palm Meadows, when breezing an easy but visually impressive half-mile in 48.32 seconds shortly after dawn Thursday.

With regular exercise rider Peter Brette aboard, Union Rags appeared to be a bit of a handful as he entered the backstretch but settled in nicely once leaving the half-mile pole. Union Rags, who finished a troubled third as the heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Florida Derby 12 days earlier, posted splits of 12:51, 24.51, and 36.53 for the opening three furlongs before completing his final eighth in 11.79 and galloping out five furlongs in a solid 1:01.59 over a track that was not playing extremely fast Thursday.

“Peter said he was very happy with the way he went, that he really couldn’t have gone any better,” said trainer Michael Matz who was at Keeneland on Thursday. “He said he just really let him gallop out only another eighth of a mile, he didn’t want to let him do too much in his first work back since the race.”

Union Rags is scheduled to board a van for Lexington on Saturday evening and arrive at Keeneland the following morning. He will have two more works in Kentucky prior to the Derby, although, at the moment, Matz said he is uncertain if both those works will come at Churchill Downs or the first at Keeneland sometime next weekend.

“I was originally planning on working him Friday, but Peter said ‘Do you know it’s the 13th?’ I guess he’s a little superstitious,” Matz said with a laugh. “But moving his work up a day to this morning is fine, because now he can walk on Friday then jog Saturday before getting on the van later in the day.”

Matz said he’ll play things day by day before deciding upon where or when Union Rags would work next.

“It will be sometime next weekend, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, depending upon several factors including the weather,” Matz said. “His next one will be a longer version of today’s maintenance breeze. I’ll put a little more speed into him at Churchill Downs in his final work prior to the Derby.”

Union Rags, who many figure will still go postward the favorite in the Derby, was followed about 20 minutes later by the likely favorite in this year’s Kentucky Oaks, Grace Hall, who also turned in an easy half-mile maintenance breeze over the nearly deserted racetrack.

With regular exercise rider Carol Fisher aboard, Grace Hall was timed in 12.76 and  24.60 for her opening two furlongs then completed her final quarter in 24.26 while never extended before galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.19.

Unlike Union Rags, Grace Hall will continue to train at Palm Meadows, where she’ll have her final two preps for the Oaks before departing for Churchill Downs on May 1.

“Carol said she couldn’t have been happier with the way the filly went this morning,” trainer Tony Dutrow said by phone from New York. “She’ll stay down there for her final two works then fly to Kentucky with Todd Pletcher’s arsenal. She’s been doing so well at Palm Meadows, I don’t want to touch it and change anything right now.”

Joining Union Rags and Grace Hall on the track shortly after 7 a.m. were three other potential Kentucky Derby starters – Wood winner Gemologist, Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, and Risen Star winner El Padrino, all of whom were out for routine gallops.

El Padrino, currently 23rd on the graded earnings list, will work Sunday trainer Pletcher confirmed.

“We’ll know a lot more about his status for the Derby after Saturday’s races,” Pletcher said. “At the moment, we’re going to continue to train him as if he’s going to run in the Derby. If he doesn’t make it in, he’ll run in the Preakness.”

evan lehr More than 1 year ago
put mike smith on him and he will win by five
Brent Neikirk More than 1 year ago
Gemologist pulls a Barbaro and goes 6 for 6 with his Derby win! CC will run a close 2nd. Side Note: A "rematch" of the '00 BC Classic at CD, in terms of their sires, Tiznow and Giant's Causeway. My other top Derby contenders are Alpha, U Rags and DNB.
mrm More than 1 year ago
The top riders consistently put their horse in a position to win. The rest is up to the horse. JL is not one of those riders that come to mind. Also, I get the feeling that UR will be the Derby choice for the legion of Barbaro fans which will drop his odds considerably.
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
The FD was just a long work for UR---they didn't need the earnings---they needed a wwork in the trenches and got exactly that---he made a dramatic move in the last eighth and that was all he needed to show MM----he is getting primed and will be ready to show us the second coming of barbaro
D More than 1 year ago
Union Rags has not improved one inch from last season. That may be good enough to still win but thinking this horse is better now then he was last season as a 2 year old is just plain crazy.
Mike Barker More than 1 year ago
Obviously you have no idea what your saying, go ahead leave him off your tickets you will be sorry. Just sayin
D More than 1 year ago
Not about leaving him off my tickets its about him not progressing from 2 to 3. The numbers are not there simple as that. It doesnt mean he can not win the race his 2 year old form stacks up well vs what I have seen so he can still win the race but my statement is true just look with a clear mind and you will see it. I think he is a wonderful horse and personally I like him as well as his connections but I do not see the improvement that usually is needed to win the KY Derby. Dont handicap with your heart handicap with your head.
Mike Barker More than 1 year ago
He will prove how good he is, he could of won the Florida derby in a hand ride but Julien waited days to go.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
MIKE WATCHMAKER : You said all that really needs to be said about this years Crop ! The Breeders Cup Juvenile race ( A T T R A C T S THE GENERATIONS BEST ) IS SUPPOSE TO BE A KEY RACE ..................... and it will come MAY 5th ! This year is one of the Best turn out with Colts coming to the Derby off that race . And it is TIME to really start displaying how really important that race ought to be and mean . IF YA DIDNT RUN IN LAST YEARS B.C.J. , THEN IM SORRY ! This year has already been spoken for , and for those that didnt belong then - are way too far behind time now to Win the Derby . ( HANSEN ) I HOPE DRAWS THE RAIL FOR THE KENTUCKY DERBY , ( UNION RAGS ) I HOPE DRAWS POST 2 ( CREATIVE CAUSE ) I HOPE DRAWS POST 3 ( DULLAHAN ) I HOPE DRAWS POST 4 ( TAKE CHARGE INDY ) I HOPE DRAWS POST 5 ................ I Have No Dought , No - Matter What The Post ......................... This Year The Cream Will Rise To The Top ( ANY ONE OF THE 2011 JUVENILE COLTS HAVE A CLEAR CUT ADVANTAGE ) .
Dan Cronin More than 1 year ago
Union Rags dont scare me what scares me is Julien "The Strangler" Leproux. He is the worst big race rider in the nation. He gets so many horses in deep trouble. When the money is on the line Julien is behind a wall of horses. UR ....I feel sorry for you on derby day 5-1 and will have to be pounds the best to win with The Strangler.
Bud Pettingill More than 1 year ago
Funny you should mention, "If he draws the rail ...!!!!" These days, from the 1-hole Secretariat would be 15-1. Luck-of-the-draw nitwits! Why doesn't CD wake-up and make post position draw according to graded earnings? Duh?
Kathleen More than 1 year ago
I agree; post position according to earnings, and dirt earnings should count more than those on turf and polytrack. We would probably then experience some truly spectacularly exciting Derbies. The way I would envision it is that the trainer whose colt or filly had the most dirt earnings (or overall earnings) would choose a post position, then the trainer of the horse with the second most earnings would choose a post position, etc. At least that would be fair, and get the best horses into position to 'do their thing.'
nysteve27 More than 1 year ago
Time for UR to strut his stuff in Louisville, see ya Palm Meadows, thanks for the winter hospitality but it's time to get down to business!!! Go Union Rags!
Jim More than 1 year ago
I can only hope "bettors" keep jumping off of UR. This horse is being tuned like a instrument for May 5th. This "breeze" by the way is Union Rags fastest "work" THIS YEAR. The works prior to FL Derby were basically maintenance, not "I need earnings or else.ala TCI" or "I need to win Florida Derby"
Mike Barker More than 1 year ago
Finally someone who understands whats going on. Well said Jim. He's gonna be 3rd time back off the layoff, and I expect him to run out of his skin.
Janice Palmer More than 1 year ago
Ditto! Michael didn't want to take any chances off of the FOY win that UR would waste one of his peak performances in the Fl. Derby. ;-)
Sharon Boyd Kidman More than 1 year ago
I agree with all...... :O) Can't wait to see his other works! Michael & team know what they're doing! :O)
Kany Levine More than 1 year ago
I agree, but the big issue is keeping this beast out of trouble in the Derby. He finds trouble, and that's not a good thing with the Cavalry charge in the Derby. They need to get him outside, away from other horses. If he draws the rail . . .
Kathleen More than 1 year ago
I, too, wish someone other than Julian were riding UR. But since Julian is on him, I just hope that UR breaks cleanly, finds a good stalking position and then is poised to make a big move BEFORE the middle of the homestretch. Julian has to keep him from getting boxed in behind a wall of horses, which is easier said than done in a stampede like the KD has become these days.