Updated on 04/30/2012 2:42PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Union Rags finishes strongly in five-furlong drill

Barbara D. Livingston
Union Rags works five furlongs under Julien Leparoux in 59.97 seconds at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After a relatively quiet week, activity picked up to a frenetic pace at Churchill Downs on Saturday morning with four Kentucky Derby hopefuls working within a five-minute span immediately after the renovation break. Overall, seven of the prospective 20-horse Derby field breezed around the country on Saturday, including Hansen at the nearby Trackside training center, Alpha at Belmont Park, and Done Talking at Laurel Park. Two other horses, Gemologist and El Padrino, had their scheduled works postponed Saturday at least one day due to a sloppy track at the Palm Meadows training facility in south Florida.    

KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Latest updates, Mike Welsch’s video reports

There was no such problem with the weather at Churchill Downs despite predictions for rain late Friday and early Saturday morning. That threat may have been, in part, responsible for the racetrack being somewhat on the “cuppy” and slower side during training hours on Saturday, an observation validated by several trainers and jockeys, including Bob Baffert and Julien Leparoux.

Work of the day

Union Rags (five furlongs in 59.97 seconds; all workouts timed by Daily Racing Form unless otherwise noted): Leparoux dropped Union Rags down on the rail approaching the five-furlong pole, easing him into a work which officially began at the half-mile pole. Moving effortlessly and with long, efficient strides, Union Rags completed his opening quarter in 23.37, switched leads on cue at the head of the stretch, and just cruised to the wire in 47.27 without need of urging and while holding a straight and true course throughout. After switching back to his left lead right at the wire, Union Rags continued very willingly into the bend with Leparoux remaining motionless in the saddle, completing his drill at the seven-eighths pole before galloping out an impressive six furlongs in 1:13.34.

“I’m glad we went immediately after the break because the track was on the slow side this morning,” Leparoux said afterwards. “Both previous times I’d breezed him, we went easily. Today, Michael wanted a more serious work and when I asked him at the eighth pole, he responded very well.”

After making an awesome appearance on Friday, Union Rags followed with easily the most impressive workout  I have witnessed here this past week, suggesting he has been brought along in a manner that should result in a peak performance on Derby Day.

Other workouts

Prospective (five furlongs in 1:01.08): Prospective was eager to go long before arriving at the five-furlong pole to begin his drill in company with stablemate Moon Traveler, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan having his hands full getting the Tampa Bay Derby winner to finally settle a length behind his partner approaching the end of the backstretch.  But once able to relax, Prospective looked very sharp, drawing even with his mate in early stretch then readily drawing three lengths clear after completing his final quarter in 24.19 without even a hint of urging from his rider. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.02.

“I told Shaun to go in 1:01 and he hit it right on the money,” said trainer Mark Casse. “Shaun said he had to slow him down the first part or he was going to go way too fast.”

Prospective has made a nice impression all week and his work Saturday was an extension of what  I have been seeing here in recent mornings. 

Dullahan (five furlongs in 1:00.99): With Tammy Fox aboard, Dullahan breezed through his opening quarter in 23.95 and while never really asked down the lane, he did not appear to level off or finish up nearly as strong as he did in his final, brilliant work over the artificial surface at Keeneland before the Blue Grass Stakes. He also shut down a little quick once passing the wire, galloping out six furlongs in just a tick less than 1:16.

Dullahan has trained well, for the most part, all week although Saturday’s work was somewhat reminiscent of his breezes earlier this winter at Gulfstream Park and re-enforces the notion that he may just be a better horse on synthetics and grass than over dirt.

Went the Day Well (five furlongs in 1:00.80): Equipped with blinkers for the first time in a work, and with regular rider John Velazquez up, Went the Day Well began about a length behind his regular partner, Crimson China. The pair entered the stretch on even terms while floating about four paths off the inner rail. Went the Day Well appeared to lean in just a bit on Crimson China while urged slightly by Velazquez nearing midstretch, eventually edging three lengths clear at the wire under some mild pressure. Went the Day Well galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.42.

Saturday’s work was a major improvement over a similar move, without blinkers, last Saturday at Keeneland when Went the Day Well struggled a bit to match strides with Crimson China coming to the wire. His gallop out was also much improved.

“This was the first time he’s kicked on from another horse like that,” said trainer Graham Motion. “He waited on the same horse in their work last week.”

Hansen (five furlongs in 1:01.20 according to clocker at the Trackside training center): Hansen appeared a bit headstrong breaking off alone at the half-mile pole over the six-furlong Trackside training center strip. He posted early fractions of 12.20, 24.60 and 36.40 before joining up with stablemate Derby Kitten at the eighth pole while hugging the inner rail. Hansen completed his final quarter, under what appeared to be some mild urging, in 24.80 and reportedly galloped out three-quarters of a mile in 1:15.20.

As he has shown in the past, Hansen was headstrong right from the start although it’s a little difficult to accurately assess the work from a video and over an unfamiliar training surface. I am anxious to see if Hansen shows the same high energy level he displayed in the days leading up to the Breeders’ Cup when shipping to Churchill Downs during the middle of the week.

Done Talking (five furlongs in 1:01 according to clocker Tim Geraghty at Laurel Park): In Maryland, Done Talking, the Illinois Derby winner, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:01 and galloped out six panels in 1:14.60 with jockey Sheldon Russell aboard. "I told Sheldon to go in a minute and change, and he almost hit it on the number," said trainer Hamilton Smith. "I wanted him to gallop out strong. He wasn't tired when he got back to the barn, and we're ready to go." Done Talking is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Sunday morning. 

– additional reporting by Byron King     



Michael D More than 1 year ago
I have said it before i have always loved Rags since Castellano got off horse after a work and said it was the best horse he ever worked, he rode Bernardini and probably one of the fastest horses of all time Ghostzapper, whom Frankel has said he thought was the best horse ever if he didnt get hurt. I am sticking with Rags big time and the derby is one of the hardest races to win with all the problems of so many horses and i also know how high Baffert is on Bode. This is the time i hopefully make some money of Rags it is his race to win or lose and with clear sailing thing it will be very very hard to beat him. But it is horse racing and favorite close to 5 to 1 very nice :-)
Vinnie Flauto More than 1 year ago
I agree mike, Rags is the real deal! Mike Matz had a plan with Barbaro and this is the new improved plan. ever since his breeders cup race he has been groomed for a three race run, his races have been nothing but public workouts!Think of this as his first race back[ not his third]with a ton of bottom and stamina. His training hasn't just targeted a peak in the derby, he has been training for all three races.He is building the horses stamina in the correct progression,there should be a huge figure jump for him!! can't wait!
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
The pace is going to be hot. Trinninberg is not getting much of a chance. But what if he stays? He is a very impressive horse and I think is going to the lead and looking to wire the field. He may hang on for super.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Question with Rags is will he finally blow up in the lane. Seems like he wants to but never hits that extra gear when tested. I give him the benefit of the doubt. Leporaux gave up a strong mount for Rags.
S. Jamal More than 1 year ago
If any of you had ever ran Track, you would know that if the pace is slowed to 23+ and held down until the final 3-4 furlongs, then when the sprinting starts and Hansen is anywhere near third or fourth and fires, is his race and no closer will get there. Best scenario is to wait until the late runners come and then GO!
Ronnie G More than 1 year ago
the most important thing about handicapping is taking beyers and throw them out. they are the most worthless tool, i have ever seen. if beyer hasnt had a derby winner in forever then why are u using his system?? bodemeister ran his peak race in ark derby and its hard to break and 130 year trend with him also. union rags and hansen should be the 2 who fight it out.
Mr 6 More than 1 year ago
union rags will be second
kenneth More than 1 year ago
Second...to none!
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Union Rags is a lock to be in the exacta. I repeat, A LOCK!!!!
Joe momma More than 1 year ago
Ignore him if you like....but on May 6th remember these words "who's ur Daddt...Asmussen..Gomez...Done!!
GREGORY E More than 1 year ago
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
I like him too alot. But why have two others passed on him? Especially Julian. He rode both him and Rags and chooses Rags. That has to count for something.
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
Bodemeister is the best horse, that being said I never saw this much speed in the Derby. So I will leave Bode off all tri tickets and maybe even superfecta tickets. All closers in the Derby for me. Rags will be one of them, Hoping number 21 draws in. And no i'm not gonna play a 5 horse box
Jim More than 1 year ago
When did Andy Beyer last predict a Derby winner,or Derby exacta??? Do not give me Big Brown either. Beyer Speed figs for Derby conversation should be used after, oh I don't know 10 other things to handicap the race have been exhausted. It is a tool to use, equivalent to scissors to mow a lawn. I read Andy's books, and love his columns, but just get tired of every article or discussion, using Beyer speed figs to make or break a point. Mike Welsh, your eyes, and interviews, book ended Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, in our Superfecta, and made for a great post derby party in 2011. That is how u handicap a Derby in 2012, with the people watching and observing these 3yo, growing by the minute from the trenches (thx twitter/social media)...... not "what was his Beyer"
david smith More than 1 year ago
Andy like the favorites
Vinnie Flauto More than 1 year ago
Awesome point!!! just use them as a tool for your handicapping, not as a rule.