07/11/2012 12:35PM

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

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.

t More than 1 year ago
Who cares about Union Rags? he won a slow slow slow belmont,,, Bode-IHA would have easily won that race. Its good to know Union Rags will fully recover don't get me wrong, but UR is a horse, I feel more for the speedy recovery of Johnny V
redboy More than 1 year ago
All hail the All Mighty $$Dollar$$ Win a Grade 1 Retire To stud Make Millions Recently retired as 3yos UNcle Mo Ill Have Another more than likely Union Rags 4yo Calebs Posse
t More than 1 year ago
This really isn't a newflash, redboy,, probably already been the last 25 years of horse racing with horses retiring way early for breeding,,, Its not like the almost mighty dollar just is raising up in 2012 how about candy ride has the prime example of win a grade 1 and go the breeding shed
John Burton More than 1 year ago
I am saddened again to hear that we have lost, albeit temporarily - maybe, another great 3-year old in this very talented crop of three year olds! Another big disappointment for avid fans who have thoroughly enjoyed this year's Run for the Roses and Pursuit of the Crown - only to have been disappointed at key points, i.e., IHA withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes, IHA being sold to Japan breeding operations, and now the injury to UNION RAGS and his withdrawal from the Haskell Invitational. Maybe we should not bother running the Haskell Invitational and forfeit the race to BODEMEISTER. It will not be a race; it will be a parade - and a boring one at that!
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Paynter Wins the Travers, Teeth of the Dog comes off the bench for Matz to be second
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
would it be hypocritical to complain about the mistreatment of racehorses (no doubt true) while eating a hamburger?
Sean Ali More than 1 year ago
Only if you knew that the cow was mistreated and approved of it.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Is the burger from Mickey D's?
Sean Ali More than 1 year ago
I think he's talking about real meat.
PeterG More than 1 year ago
This horse will never race again. Probably a fabricated injury anyway. Just an excuse to get the horse in the breeding shed and start making money. Good bye Union Rags.
Brenda Flinn More than 1 year ago
Thanks for this excellent article on Union Rags. I'll print and save this bio-sketch and hope to hear good news of him in the future. Any leg injury is always worrisome.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
I'm going to miss Caleb's Posse. He's a horse with great heart, I admired his pluck. What a thrilling challenge CP put in in the Met Mile. Racing loses another talented champion.
B More than 1 year ago
Oh, please. He'll never be seen again in a race.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
There are a lot of underlying issues which result in the breakdowns of horses. A lot of them are due to poor monitoring of the horses by these trainers. Too many races are geared towards two and three year olds. At these points horses are still growing and developing and being trained rigorously. It's a recipe for disaster. On top of this we have over breeding and flooding of racetracks with new horses every season as a result of this. Trainers have 50 or so horses at two or three or more tracks. It's impossible to monitor the health and safety of all. Even if one has top notch assistants, the huslte to get every horse to the track each day to train is insane. Also many tracks surface change on daily basis from deep or cuppy to fast to sloppy to muddy etc. etc. So besides keeping a close watch on the horses in their care and traineing them trainers also have to deal with varying surfaces even when based at one venue. The greed of these people is whats causing this problem. Just because a person wins the top races doesn't mean they are the top horsemen. Its a myth that wealthy clients buy into. Many great quality animals are ruined because of the current system. Until it is remodeled from top to botoom and breeding system gets a grip we are going to see much more of these tragedies. Its a sad fact. Wish Union Rags all the best whether he returns or not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is a fact. About a year ago, I had a horse with many problems once in my care. Vet asked if I wanted "something stronger" before his next race. He said "it will show up on the vet bill as a routine med." Used it, horse ran great. If you looked at vet record and vet bill you would of never knew that it was dermorphin (which proud vet later told me all about after horse won). Yep, true story. My guess is that is what O'neil and his vet were using and found out that the horse would now test positive. The reason horses don't stay sound anymore is that with the capricious use of medications (including blood doping) horse are now able to run faster longer, but their joints and tendons can't hold up to the extra stress. It is as simple as that, soundness issues are not nearly as much to do with breeding as they are to do with medication abuse. Fatigue used to protect the horse, but the wave of super trainers have taken that natural protection away from the horse. It is also because of the over dependence on meds that horses are only able to run about once a month (they sure can work fast off just a weeks rest), otherwise they would test positive for all the "therapeutic" meds they receive between races (another fact). Sad to see another horse injured, but until the vets and trainers (hate to call them that as many really know very little about actually "training" a racehorse) are regulated closer not much will change. Yeah, dermorphin is going away, but some of the wiseguy vets practicing at the tracks will just find an alternative that won't test. That is another fact.
Sean Ali More than 1 year ago
That insight was much appreciated. Thanks.
Nick Arden More than 1 year ago
So Dr. Bramlage is a liar then.
Sean Ali More than 1 year ago
He simply fired back at a biased comment with one of his own. He is a typical MD - 'Got An Ill?...Pop A Pill ! - The philosophy of today's society. Did you ever know a Doc that ever had anything bad to say about meds? Here's an interesting & unbiased comment made by someone in the know. Decide for yourself what Bramlage's objective was: " No, I wouldn't call Ibuprofen a powerful painkiller. But Bute is NOT ibuprofen. Nor is it what vets love to call it on TV - just like aspirin. They do make horse aspirin. I started with racehorses when I was 15. I am now 61. Though I have not been in the racing industry even the majority of that time, I have had horses. I have raced horses, I operate a horse rescue, and have horses in training now to run in the fall. I have SEEN how powerful Bute is. In 2002, I rescued a horse at auction. I knew there was something wrong with his stifle, as a note was on his pen stating so. He was however "racing sound", in that he as eating well, walked and trotted well, etc. For 3 days. Until his Bute wore off. I took him to CSU (Colorado State University) to find out what the issue actually was. They anesthetized him and x-rayed the stifle while he was out. Because of the condition of that stifle, they wanted his body for research, so they charged me only for the drugs they had used. The condition of the stifle? No cartilage left whatsoever. Bone on bone. That is not the only horse I've seen with issues that Bute completely masks. There is a reason Bute is in use, and it's not because it's "just like aspirin". So yes, I think a drug that can make a horse go sound with a bone on bone stifle with no cartilage left, is a powerful pain killer. As a country we are gullible. Marketers use the words "All Natural" and we think something is safe. Arsenic is all natural, curare is all natural, blow fish are all natural. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's safe. And just because we have become accustomed to hearing about NSAID's, doesn't mean they are all created equal. Notice Ibuprofen is not a prescription drug. Bute is. Also, many horses have knee problems, and treated with Bute, they race. However, the equine knee is the equivalent (anatomically) of the human wrist. Imagine balancing on your wrist with all your weight. Then imagine you have a twinge of pain, or your balance shifts. Boom. Collapse. If you're a racehorse, death. If you were to talk to any honest vet or any truly honest trainer they would tell you that Bute IS a powerful pain med. If it wasn't it wouldn't be in use.