05/02/2012 4:01PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Union Rags relaxes without tongue tie

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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.