05/02/2012 4:01PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Union Rags relaxes without tongue tie

Barbara D. Livingston
Unwilling to fully stride out while filled with a tongue tie for the first time on Tuesday, Union Rags looked much more comfortable when he galloped Wednesday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky – No official workouts to report but still plenty to see on a balmy Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs, where 18 of the 21 horses entered for the Kentucky Derby visited the racetrack.

Most of the activity, as usual, came after the renovation break and featured the first local appearances of trainer Todd Pletcher’s undefeated Gemologist and El Padrino, along with Take Charge Indy, all three of whom shipped in from Florida the previous day. My Adonis, the first horse ever to become an also-eligible entrant for the Derby, also went to the track for the first time, doing so well before dawn.

[KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Latest updates, Mike Welsch's video reports]

Union Rags was the center of attention for many observers who felt he just did not look comfortable on the racetrack when equipped with a tongue tie for the first time the previous morning. Trainer Michael Matz removed the tongue tie for today’s session and the difference in his demeanor and performance became evident almost immediately.

Union Rags paid a visit to the starting gate before breaking off into a very strong gallop, giving exercise rider Peter Brette all he could handle while sustaining nearly a two-minute clip for the final mile of an excellent training session. Union Rags got a little hot, as he’s prone to do, but overall made a re-assuring appearance to his legion of supporters.

Afterwards, Brette explained the decision to first try and then quickly abandon the tongue tie.

“It’s something Michael and I have been talking about for a while since he’s prone to play with his tongue a lot in the morning,” said Brette. “He’s such a big, strong horse that when he does that, at times, I don’t have the control I’d like. But he just wasn’t happy galloping with the tongue tie on Tuesday, he didn’t feel the same underneath me and wasn’t stretching out like he usually does. He wasn’t his normal self. So we took it off today and he’s happy now.”

Gemologist made an extremely favorable impression galloping an easy 1 1/4 miles in his first local appearance, travelling smoothly but effortlessly over a racetrack he has already proven to handle well. The undefeated Wood Memorial winner may have been flying a little under the radar, having been out of sight and out of mind, by getting in the majority of his Derby preparations in south Florida, but after this morning’s outstanding session he’s certainly out of mind no more.

El Padrino also looks well and appeared to handle the track nicely enough while now clearly training in the shadow of his more fancied stablemate.

It’s extremely rare for a jockey to also gallop his Derby mount in the morning but not so for Calvin Borel, who put Take Charge Indy through his paces after the break. Take Charge Indy also made a great appearance while turning in a very easy morning’s work, Borel standing straight up in the saddle as he passed by the grandstand just for show. Take Charge Indy remained on his left lead through the stretch but trainer Pat Byrne said that was merely a function of him traveling at such a relatively slow pace.

“I asked Calvin if he wanted to get on the horse this morning and he said yes,” said Byrne. “He’ll probably gallop him right into the race. We’ll do a little more with him tomorrow.”

Dullahan did a little more than most of his fellow Derby hopefuls, open galloping through the stretch and around the clubhouse turn to conclude his morning’s work. Dullahan covered his final quarter-mile, from the wire around to the six-furlong pole, in 26.13 seconds before easing up three-eighths midway down the backstretch in 39 and change.

Trinniberg went out earlier than usual, at 6:30 a.m., and made his best appearance by far since arriving from Calder last week, galloping a strong two miles while really picking up the pace ala Dullahan down the stretch.

Creative Cause was conspicuous by his absence, walking the shed row for the second consecutive morning after breezing a relatively easy half-mile on Monday.

James Mcrae More than 1 year ago
he plays with his tounge because hes bored he needs to get goin on saturday and he can play the hero
denali1 More than 1 year ago
tongue tie is no big deal ....if the horse tries to play with his tongue some its worth a try to tie the tongue. its old school kinda thing and has no forbearance on what this horse is capable of doing on Saturday. why try it...the ? is why not try it. have fun fellows enjoy this week
Eric More than 1 year ago
Why even try a Tongue Tie 4 days before the Derby???
SINNtilator More than 1 year ago
Totally agree, I was saying pretty much the same thing as you just did Eric, with a few expletives sprinkled in LOL
William Pettingill More than 1 year ago
Never witnessed any problems with that at Keeneland, still the one to beat.
Rob Beaudoin More than 1 year ago
It's something that takes 30 seconds to take in and out. The real question would be why not sooner? Not like it's a medication or something that's going to take a few days to rebound from....Irrelevant!!.
Bob Rose More than 1 year ago
100% correct Rob, irrelevant!! Personally, I'm glad they tried it, and just as happy they recognized that he resented it. Mr. Matz is a reminder to this ole time horseman that the art of training horses is not dead. Rare as hell, but still existists in a few true 'horseman' trainers out there.
Bill Conklin More than 1 year ago
BS. No horse ever wears a tongue tie that doesn't need one.
mrm More than 1 year ago
I'm suprised they did not try this long before the week leading up to the derby. Whatever UR did to make them try a tongur tie, it probably wasn't the first occurence. The one thing I've learned in my 20 years of horse ownership is that whenever a racehorse acts differently,no matter how slight, it's usually not a good thing.
Willian J. Brune More than 1 year ago
Eric, I think Matz is capable of training a colt for the Derby.