HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Trainer Michael Matz had two objectives when sending his Kentucky Derby prospect Union Rags out to work early Monday morning at Palm Meadows -- beat the rain and give his Grade 1 winner the opportunity to get a little bit of a blow from what otherwise would have been a routine half-mile breeze.
And in the end, Matz was able to accomplish both his goals.
With regular exercise rider Peter Brette aboard, Union Rags came by the finish line the first time in an open gallop, going at better than a two-minute lick around to the half-mile pole. At that point, he broke off to work four furlongs in 48.69 seconds, completing his final quarter in 23.83 without need of any urging. Union Rags, who won the Grade 1 Champagne and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at 2, galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.86 before pulling up six furlongs in 1:17.
"I do that sometimes, let them two-minute lick before a work," Matz said. "It allows him stretch out a little bit and get a pretty good blow. He went five furlongs the last two times, and I just wanted to let him do something different this week. He went easily, galloped out well. Next week, I'll put him with another horse. We've got two more works to go before his race. Unless we get sidetracked, we're right where we want to be with him now."
If all goes well, Union Rags will make two starts prior to the Kentucky Derby -- the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26 and the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31.