Posts Tagged ‘Garrett Gomez’

Can Union Rags Beat I’ll Have Another in the Belmont Stakes?

Union Rags has not improved since turning three. He always finds trouble. He is not bred to run a mile and a half. He is overrated. Are any of these statements true? Are all of them true? I have been reading similar comments about Union Rags on HorseRacingNation.com and it is time to find out if he is the real McCoy or a paper tiger.

Union Rags

Is Union Rags a Belmont Stakes contender or pretender? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Did Union Rags peak as a juvenile?

I agree that Union Rags has not moved forward from a speed figure standpoint but circumstances have prevented him from running fast.

It is difficult to earn a high speed rating in races without much pace. Just ask I’ll Have Another. He did not earn flashy numbers in the Robert Lewis Stakes and SA Derby because those two races had below par early fractions.

Union Rags cruised in the paceless Fountain of Youth and finished a troubled 3rd behind wire job winner Take Charge Indy in the similarly slow-paced Florida Derby. He was only beaten a bit more than a length in his better than looked final Derby prep and appeared to be sitting on the race of his life on the first Saturday in May.

Unfortunately, his Kentucky Derby hopes were dashed before they started. He was shuffled back to 19th early and ended up a respectable 7th after getting eliminated at the break. So long, Julien Leparoux!

Is Union Rags trouble-prone?

Union Rags is not trouble-prone but jockey Julien Leparoux sure found plenty of it in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. His situation reminds me of Lookin At Lucky in 2010.

Jockey Garrett Gomez could do nothing right aboard Lookin At Lucky in the SA Derby and Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert reached out to Martin Garcia and Lookin At Lucky won the Preakness, Haskell, and Indiana Derby.

Union Rags exits back-to-back miserable trips and the rider switch to John Velazquez comes at the perfect time. Johnny V knows Belmont Park like the back of his hand and won the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard Rags To Riches.

Does Union Rags have the breeding to handle twelve furlongs?

His late sire Dixie Union won the G1 Haskell in 2000, defeating Captain Steve and Milwaukee Brew. He sired 39 stakes winners from his first eight crops. Dixie Union’s sire was Dixieland Band (by Northern Dancer), a Maryland-bred horse I remember when I first started following racing in the early 1980′s. Dixieland Band ran in the 1983 Belmont Stakes and finished 14th.  Dixie Union’s offspring are usually effective up to a mile and an eighth.

His dam Tempo raced three times, winning her first two starts at six furlongs and finishing 2nd at a flat mile in her career finale for trainer Bill Mott. Tempo’s sire Gone West (by Mr. Prospector) was on the Triple Crown trail in 1987, making waves in the Hutcheson (2nd), Fountain of Youth (3rd), Gotham (1st),  Wood Memorial (2nd), Withers (1st), and Peter Pan (2nd), before finishing 6th in the Belmont Stakes. The late Gone West sired his 100th stakes winner earlier this year.

If Union Rags is going to find added stamina, it will most likely come from Tempo’s mother Terpsichorist (by Nijinsky II). Virginia-bred Terpsichorist was a long distance turf specialist in the late 1970′s, winning races like New York’s Long Island and Sheepshead Bay Handicaps.

Although his pedigree is less than ideal for twelve furlongs, Union Rags has the right running style and proper energy distribution to handle the Test of Champions. He earned strong Late Pace Ratings in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby and quality conditioner Michael Matz should have him primed for his best effort at Belmont Park on June 9.

Is Union Rags the best 3yo in the country?

Union Rags has been my top ranked Triple Crown trail colt since last November and I still think he is the most talented sophomore in the land. I thought he had the raw talent to make a run at the Triple Crown but it was not meant to be.

His best career race was a facile victory at Belmont Park in last year’s G1 Champagne Stakes and he could play the Triple Crown spoiler if he handles the trip and gets to stretch his legs around the sweeping turns. I predict a preferred outside stalk and pounce trip under new pilot Johnny V…may the best horse win!

Kentucky Derby 2012 Aftermath: What Happened to Union Rags?

The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby went according to script from a pace standpoint and I’ll Have Another ran down Bodemeister after sitting the perfect outside stalking trip.

Post position was critical in the outcome of Kentucky Derby 2012 and the key was the draw of the speed horses. Bodemeister (post 6) drew inside the other pace players and hit the ground running under Mike Smith.

I'll Have Another

Will I’ll Have Another win the Preakness? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

I’ll Have Another was comfortably drawn outside the other speedsters in post 19 and his young rider Mario Gutierrez did a great job angling him in early and positioning him within striking range throughout.

I’ll Have Another is better than recent Derby winners Mine That Bird and Super Saver but probably not as good as Animal Kingdom. He was in the right spot to take advantage of a strung out field on the first Saturday in May and I want him to go out and prove it again at Pimlico.

Bodemeister ran a winning race but was forced to expend too much early energy and could not hold off I’ll Have Another. He wires the field if speedy sprinter Trinniberg is not entered.

Union Rags lost the race at the start and my troubled Derby tops have been down this road before (Lookin At Lucky, Point Given, Hansel, Risen Star). He reminds me of Lookin At Lucky the most. My 2010 Derby top experienced troubled trips in the SA Derby and Ky Derby that year under Garrett Gomez. Baffert made the switch to Martin Garcia and he proceeded to win the Preakness, Haskell, and Indiana Derby.

Julien Leparoux has gotten Union Rags into trouble in back-to-back races and it is time for a change. Just like ‘Lucky and Gomez, the karma is not there for some reason. Who would I like to see on Union Rags? I am thinking Rosie Napravnik. She always seems to put her horses in the right spot and gives them every chance to succeed.

Also, rewind your mind to the Gulf this winter when Javier Castellano ditched Union Rags for a plethora of Pletcher runners including Algorithms. Maybe Michael Matz gives him a second chance.

Let’s recap the entire field…

1st – I’ll Have Another: Post 19 was perfect because he drew outside the other speed horses and was able to keep Bodemeister in his sights throughout. I have never been on his bandwagon and am not about to hop aboard now but you gotta love his positional speed and winning spirit.

2nd Bodemeister: Ran great considering Trinniberg forced him to go too fast early. He has accomplished so much in a short time this year and I would like to see him get a well-deserved break. Preakness remains a possibility but that would be three races in five weeks and he could bounce to the moon following his grueling Derby run.

3rdDullahan: Not surprised that the Keeneland specialist clunked up for a minor award because he did the same thing in the BC Juvenile. He handles any footing but clearly does his best work in Lexington.

4th Went The Day Well: Nice late run to garner a minor award under the Twin Spires. He was one of my projected trifecta/superfecta contenders so he ran as I expected. He will prepare for the Preakness at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

5thCreative Cause: Made a wide run to get into 3rd but lost the show late when Dullahan and Went The Day Well shot past him. He beat Bodemeister in March and was a nose behind I’ll Have Another in April so he is right there with these on his best day and can make some noise in the Preakness.

6thLiaison: Ended up a better than expected 6th from post 20. He still has not won a race since last December.

Union Rags

Look for Union Rags to have a new rider in the near future – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

7thUnion Rags: A real shame that he did not get to strut his stuff in the Derby. I still think he is the best 3yo in the land and at this point it looks he might skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont Stakes. He probably wins the second jewel if he goes in that direction.

8thRousing Sermon: Decent CA-bred has not won since moving into open company last November. He packs a nice late kick and could resurface in the Belmont Stakes.

9th Hansen: Never looked like a ten furlong horse and faded under Twin Spires as expected. Juvenile champ is now 1-for-4 in 2012.

10thDaddy Nose Best: Split the field in a bit of disappointing run considering he was training well for the big dance. He handles dirt, synthetic, and turf so Asmussen has plenty of options in the coming months.

11thOptimizer: Not a terrible effort beating nine rivals from post two. He has now dropped seven straight on conventional dirt but Lukas will surely keep him on the Triple Crown trail. He is a decent turf/synthetic horse.

Alpha

I am expecting Alpha to make some noise later this year – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

12thAlpha: Missed a key Derby work after being diagnosed with a leg infection after the Wood Memorial. He reminds me of Stay Thirsty and I fully expect him to blossom later this year.

13th El Padrino: Had a slow start and a rough trip early. He passed a few rivals after sitting in last early and has not been the same since grueling nose victory in G2 Risen Star. I always had the feeling that he was better on wet footing.

14th Done Talking: Late runner passed a few tired foes and ran to expectations.

15thSabercat: Figured to finish near the bottom.

16thGemologist: Folded like a cheap suit when the real running began. Guess Pletcher’s plan to avoid Kentucky and train in Florida backfired.

17thTrinniberg: Seven furlong specialist cost Bodemeister the race and had no business running ten furlongs on the first Saturday in May. Connections are thinking Preakness if Bodemeister skips the second leg and he will finish up the track again if he ends up in that spot. A more logical placement would be the G2 Woody Stephens at seven panels on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

18thProspective: G2 Tampa Bay Derby hero is a few cuts below the best.

19thTake Charge Indy: Came out of the Derby with an ankle chip and is scheduled to go under the knife this week. He could return in the fall if everything goes well.

20thDaddy Long Legs: Not surprising the he did not take to conventional dirt since he finished 12th of 13 in last year’s BC Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

2011 Belmont Stakes Preview: Master of Hounds

International traveler Master of Hounds has been to Ireland, Great Britain, Dubai, and the United States (twice) in the past year and he will return to North America for the 2011 Belmont Stakes.

Master of Hounds

Belmont Stakes hopeful Master of Hounds - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Master of Hounds made four turf starts in Ireland last summer including a seven furlong maiden win at Tipperary in July. A three month layoff followed and he resurfaced in Great Britain with a show finish in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at a flat mile.

His first trip to the US was in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and he finished a troubled 6th to end his 2-year-old season.

The Aidan O’Brien trainee shipped to Dubai for his 3-year-old bow in March and he missed by a nose in the UAE Derby. That strong effort was enough for his connections to return to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

Master of Hounds weaved his way through traffic to finish a respectable 5th under the Twin Spires on May 7 and jockey Garrett Gomez urged his connections to return for the Belmont Stakes.

The son of Kingmambo, out of Sadler’s Wells mare Silk And Scarlet, has Belmont Stakes pedigree power but remains eligible for an entry level allowance spot and three trips to the US in seven months, along with journeys to/from Ireland, Great Britain, and Dubai, could leave him with a serious case of jet lag.

 

 

 

 

2011 Preakness Profile: Sway Away

Sway Away was 21st on the Kentucky Derby graded earnings list and just missed qualifying for that event. He will have no such problem in Baltimore and looms an interesting Preakness longshot.

The Jeff Bonde trainee has a long winded pedigree but sports the look of a late running sprinter. His short juvenile campaign consisted of a five furlong maiden win at Pleasanton and a place finish behind J P’s Gusto in the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar last summer.

2011 Preakness logo

He almost ran down The Factor in his San Vicente return and The Factor and Premier Pegasus both came out of that race to capture graded routes. Unfortunately for Sway Away, he lost a tooth in the Rebel Stakes and failed to get involved.

Sway Away fared better in the Arkansas Derby but he raced wide and moved too soon in a better than appears 4th place finish.

He turned in one of the fastest Derby week works with a six furlong bullet in 1:111.60 on the first Saturday in May and breezed the same distance in 1:13.60 on May 14.  He projects a mid-pack type trip under Garrett Gomez in the Preakness and is an interesting player if he can handle the added real estate.

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