Former Olympic equestrian rider Michael Matz, who trained 2006 Derby winner Barbaro, will seek his second Run for the Roses title tomorrow evening at the Kentucky Derby when his colt, Union Rags, jumps from Gate 4 at the legendary Churchill Downs race track. The Dixie Union sired bay is expected (currently going off at 9 to 2 odds) to be a major contender in tomorrow’s 138th Kentucky Derby. Union Rags is also viewed as a possible Triple Crown candidate, drawing 11 to 1 odds to become the first horse to complete the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont trifecta since Affirmed did it in 1978.
Union Rags, a heavy favorite in its final prep race, the Grade 1 Florida Derby, suffered the worst finish of its six race career in the 1 1/8 miles event. The colt still finished in the money, taking third place, but most pundits were surprised to see the Triple Crown threat bested by Take Charge Indy and non-Derby runner Reveron.
Despite that unexpected finish, Union Rags backers remain optimistic that it will bounce back at Churchill Downs tomorrow evening (6:24pm EST post time –NBC Sports Network). Certainly the colt’s previous race history, as well as its pedigree, would suggest a rebound is in order.
The Matz’ trained colt, which has never raced on anything but a dirt surface, took first at Grade 2 events in the Saratoga Special Stakes and Fountain of Youth Stakes. It also reeled in a win at the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes last October before placing second at November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Union Rags pedigree points toward both speed and stamina as its sire, Dixie Union, won Grade 1 events at distances of seven furlongs and 1 1/8 miles. Bloodlines on it sire’s side include Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew while its dam’s lineage (Tempo) features the great Secretariat.
Riding Union Rags in tomorrow’s Derby will be French born jockey Julien Leparoux. Leparoux, a former Eclipse Award winner, has never won a Triple Crown event, but he does own five Breeders’ Cup victories. "Union Rags" Odds - Kentucky Derby Contenders 2012 - Free Picks Handicapping: Pregame.com Pro Marco D'Angelo and Dave Tuley from ViewFromVegas.com and the Daily Racing Form discuss "Union Rags" in the 2012 Kentucky Derby - including odds, post postions, handicapping tips, favorites, and long shots.