07/06/2012 1:15PM

Union Rags works five furlongs as Matz points him to Haskell

Tom Keyser
Union Rags is on target for the Haskell but his rider, John Velazquez, is sidelined by a broken collarbone.

Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 Friday morning at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland and barring an unforeseen change of heart, he will make his next start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 29, trainer Michael Matz said.

Matz said the Haskell and the $1 million Travers on Aug. 25 at Saratoga – the last two Grade 1 dirt route races in the division – are the next two objectives for Union Rags as he attempts to unseat retired Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another from his throne atop the 3-year-old division.

“Those are the races you sort of have to do unless you’re willing to concede [a championship], and I’m not ready to do that yet,” said Matz, who trains Union Rags for owner Phyllis Wyeth.

By running in the Haskell, Union Rags will be facing Bodemeister, who finished second to I’ll Have Another in both the Derby and Preakness after setting the pace in both races.

“I think he’s going to have more [pace] pressure on him going a mile and an eighth than he is going a mile and a quarter,” Matz said. “If [Union Rags] is good enough, he’s good enough; if he’s not good enough, he’s not good enough.”

On Friday, Union Rags worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 by himself under exercise rider Peter Brette.

“He went real nice,” Matz said. “Galloped out in [1:13], did it real easy. He came back, went into the paddock and had a roll. He’s real low key.”

Matz said he has not made plans to replace injured jockey John Velazquez for the Haskell. Velazquez, who suffered a fractured collarbone in a spill at Churchill on June 16, is hoping to be back in the saddle by Haskell Day, and Matz said Friday he will wait to see if he is ready to ride by then.

“It’s only fair to see how Johnny feels,” Matz said. “He knows he’s not going to lose the mount. If we get somebody else, it would be for the one race.”

One potential replacement could be Joel Rosario, who has ridden the Matz-trained Teeth of the Dog to a pair of stakes victories, including the Grade 2 Dwyer last weekend at Belmont. Matz said Teeth of the Dog would make his next start in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 4 at Mountaineer. Matz said since Teeth of the Dog ran three times in six weeks, he would benefit from having an extra week as opposed to running in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28.