Union Rags has been the favorite for the 2012 Kentucky Derby since the Triple Crown season began. If Union Rags wins the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park, he will march to Churchill Downs in Louisville as the one to beat. Kentucky Derby Tours looks forward to seeing a Florida Derby winner each year and everyone will be buzzing about ending a Triple Crown drought that has lasted 33 years.
Trainer Michael Matz last won the Florida Derby in 2006 with Barbaro, who also went on to triumph in the Kentucky Derby. He could not be any more confident in Union Rags, whose only blemish came by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs. The colt is 4 wins and 1 second in five lifetime starts. He has earnings of $1,098,800.
“Just to see the way he (won the Fountain of Youth), with such ease, we couldn’t have written it any better,” Matz said. “When he came back I asked Julien if there was anything he could tell me, and he said, ‘No, when I asked him to wait he waited, and when I asked him to go he went. It was just a nice easy ride.’ I think he should take a step forward from that. It didn’t look like he had to give everything he had. I would hope that having a race under his belt would help him for the Florida Derby.”
Union Rags will meet News Pending, Take Charge Indy, Fort Loudon, Neck ‘n Neck, Z Camelot, Bartolome, Reveron and Risen Star Stakes winner El Padrino.
A runaway leader of the Gulfstream trainer standings, trainer Todd Pletcher will have the 2-1 second betting choice with El Padrino. The son of Pulpit (who will be bred to Zenyatta) already has a two-turn win at Gulfstream this meet. He punched his 2012 Kentucky Derby ticket in winning his next start on February 25 – Risen Star Stakes.
“We certainly could have gone other places where it probably would have been a little easier, but we felt it was more a case of managing our horse the way we want to as opposed to handicapping the race,” said Pletcher. “It takes out the shipping factor and things like that, but the Florida Derby is a significant race, a grade I with a big purse. The Florida Derby is here. We felt it was not only the best next start for him but also the best way to go to Churchill, hopefully. It’s a daunting task running against Union Rags, who looked awesome the other day, but we feel like the Florida Derby is the right spot for our horse.”
NBC Sports Network will televise the race live on Saturday, March 31 from 5-6 PM.
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Fort Loudon (FL), L Jurado, S Gold
2. News Pending (KY), R Maragh, D Romans
3. Take Charge Indy (KY), C Borel, P Byrne
4. Neck ‘n Neck (KY), E Prado, I Wilkes
5. Z Camelot (KY), J Bravo, D Romans
6. Union Rags (KY), J Leparoux, M Matz
7. Bartolome (KY), J Castanon, J Garoffalo
8. El Padrino (KY), J Castellano, T Pletcher
9. Reveron (KY), E Trujillo, A Bezara
Tags: 2012 Florida Derby, 2012 Kentucky Derby tickets, Bartolome, Churchill Downs, El Padrino, Fort Loudon, Gulfstream Park, horse racing, jockey, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky derby prep, Kentucky Derby Tours, Kentucky Derby winners, Michael Matz, Neck ‘n Neck, News Pending, Reveron, Take Charge Indy, Todd Pletcher, Union Rags, Z Camelot