03/24/2012 11:00AM

Union Rags tops Florida Derby work tab

Barbara D. Livingston
Union Rags turned in a nice workout Saturday at Palm Meadows for next weekend's Florida Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Five of the seven prospective starters for next Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby worked at three different venues on Saturday morning, including division leader Union Rags, who went an easy but visually impressive half-mile in 49.10 seconds shortly after sunrise at Palm Meadows.

Joining Union Rags on the Palm Meadows work tab was Take Charge Indy who went five-eighths in 1:01.63 for trainer Pat Byrne. At Calder, Reveron worked five furlongs in 1:00.90 and Fort Loudon a slow half in 51. At Gulfstream Park, Fountain of Youth runner-up News Pending breezed an easy half-mile in 49.20.

Union Rags, runaway winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in his 3-year-old debut, was sent out in company on Saturday by trainer Michael Matz. With regular exercise rider Peter Brette aboard, Union Rags broke three to four lengths behind his targets but drew even approaching the stretch after completing his opening quarter in 25.07. Once settling into the stretch, Union Rags began to accelerate, pulling away with authority through the final furlong while never asked by Brette. Union Rags completed his final eighth in 11 1/5 seconds, finishing eight lengths in front of his two stablemates before galloping out a very strong five furlongs in 1:01.61.

“I was very happy with the way he went,” Matz said while Union Rags was being bathed back at the barn. “Whatever you want to ask him, he will do. I let him sit behind a set this morning because he loves to eye one up and run at it. Peter said he just sat him behind those other two and just waited. He’s got a super mind. Last week with Julien [Leparoux] he went five eighths in 1:04 but he could go in 59 without company if you wanted.”

Take Charge Indy broke off at the half mile pole and worked around to the mile pole, posting splits of 23.64, 36.38 and 48.70 before galloping out six panels in 1:17 while under pressure to the wire and to finish into the turn.

“That was his usual five-eighths, nothing exciting,” said trainer Pat Byrne. “I think he got a little bored out there going by himself but basically it was just a maintenance move. If I gave him a target he could go in 59 and change but we’re just seven days out and he doesn’t need that. He got a little puff out of this and he doesn’t need a whole lot, he’s fit and plenty ready to go.

Take Charge Indy has not started since finishing second behind El Padrino in an allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 29. Take Charge Indy was entered to run in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 but after drawing post position 10, Byrne opted to scratch and await the Florida Derby.

* Alpha, winner of the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers earlier this winter, also worked Saturday at Palm Meadows going five furlongs in 1:00.80 after the renovation break. Alpha is currently being pointed for the Grade 1 Wood on April 7 although trainer Kiaran McLaughlin hasn’t completely ruled out the Florida Derby as a possible option.