07/11/2012 12:35PM

Union Rags should recover fully, but his racing future has yet to be decided

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Barbara D. Livingston
Union Rags has a "small lesion”of his high suspensory ligament in his left foreleg, according to his veterinarian.

While Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags won’t race again this year due to an injured suspensory ligament, the prognosis for a return to the races in 2013 is favorable should his connections choose to bring him back.

“The prognosis for a full return to racing is excellent,” Kathleen Anderson, the Maryland-based veterinarian who examined Union Rags, said in a press release issued Wednesday.

Michael Matz, trainer of Union Rags, said the horse would need four to six months off before being able to resume training. Under that scenario, Union Rags could return to the races in the first quarter of 2013, if owner Phyllis Wyeth wants to run him again.

“I think there’s plenty more races in this horse,” Matz said Wednesday. “He’s a big, strong horse; he’ll be even bigger and stronger as a 4-year-old. I hope he gets the chance to do it.”

The decision to bring Union Rags back will rest with Wyeth, her husband Jamie, the famed artist; and their racing manager, Russell Jones.

On Tuesday, Jones said that there is no rush to make that decision.

“I don’t know what the Wyeths are going to do,” Jones said. “This is a time for reflection and to evaluate what we want to do. We don’t have to make up our minds for a while.”

Union Rags on Tuesday was diagnosed with “a small lesion” of his high suspensory ligament in his left foreleg, according to Anderson.

In her release, Anderson said that Union Rags had some filling his left forelimb after returning to training following a July 6 workout at Fair Hill in which Union Rags went five furlongs in 1:00.60.

Noting that the lesion was “brand new,” Anderson deduced that “the injury likely occurred during his last work.”

Anderson said that Union Rags was scheduled to undergo treatment and therapy immediately. Matz said Wednesday that the leg already showed signs of improvement.

“If you looked at his leg this morning, you’d say ‘What were you ever worried about?’ ” he said.

Wyeth bred Union Rags before selling him as a yearling. After experiencing seller’s remorse, Wyeth had Jones buy the horse back as a 2-year-old for $390,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old in training auction in Florida.

At 2, Union Rags won his first three starts, including the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 1 Champagne before falling a head short to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

At 3, Union Rags won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream before finishing a troubled third in the Florida Derby. Sent off as the 5-1 second choice in the Kentucky Derby, Union Rags could never recover from a poor start and finished seventh, 7 1/2 lengths behind I’ll Have Another.

After skipping the Preakness, Union Rags rallied to nip Paynter by a neck in the Belmont Stakes. He was preparing for a start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 29.

Union Rags, a son of Dixie Union, has a record of 5-1-1 from eight starts and earnings of $1,798,800.