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Mar 30, 2012

Union Rags and El Padrino lead Florida Derby


Hallandale Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Leading Kentucky Derby contender Union Rags and Risen Star winner El Padrino top a field of nine three-year- olds for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/8- mile race is an important prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Union Rags is considered the top sophomore thoroughbred in training and is first in the current NTRA Poll. Owned by Chadds Ford Stable, the colt is 6-5 in the program and will start from post six with Julien Leparoux again in the saddle.

Trained by Michael Matz, Union Rags is coming off a decisive victory last month in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. A winner in four of five career starts, the colt's only loss was to Hansen in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a head which gave Hansen the Eclipse Award.

"He ran a good race. Whether it was the horse's fault or the jockey's fault, it was just one of those things," Matz said about the Juvenile. "The positive things are that he came out of the race good and got experience. It wasn't like second in a $2 million race is bad. It was hard for me to understand that little bit, being beat by a head, made for such a landslide vote the other way (for Hansen). I didn't see that."

Union Rags won his first three career starts, including the Saratoga Special and Champagne Stakes and banked $1,98,800.

El Padrino, trained by Todd Pletcher, will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post eight. Set as the 2-1 second choice, the chestnut colt has won three of five career starts for owner Let's Go Stable.

"Physically, he's a big strong colt but has good acceleration and can be pretty tactical in his races," Pletcher said. "He's becoming more and more professional."

The colt won the Risen Star at Fair Grounds Race Course by a nose over Mark Valeski, the favorite in Sunday's Louisiana Derby. El Padrino began the year with an allowance win two months ago at Gulfstream. In November he was third as the 5-2 favorite in the Remsen Stakes.

"His allowance race here was an impressive race for a young horse," Pletcher noted, "sitting behind horses on the inside and having to wait for something to open and finishing up strongly against a horse that was kind of loose on the lead.

"Then, he went to Louisiana and showed he had some courage in a dogfight with a nice horse and was able to put his nose down at the wire. It's nice to know that he's capable of sitting behind horses and taking some dirt when he's down inside and that when he gets in a situation that he needs to find more, he can come up with it."

From the rail out here is the field for the Florida Derby: Fort Loudon, Jeffrey Sanchez, 20-1: News Pending, Rajiv Maragh, 8-1: Take Charge Indy, Calvin Borel, 5-1; Neck 'n Neck, Edgar Prado, 20-1: Z Camelot, Joe Bravo, 50-1; Union Rags, Julien Leparoux, 6-5: Bartolome, Jesus Castanon, 30-1; El Padrino, Javier Castellano, 2-1 and Reveron, Elvis Trujillo, 12-1.

Post-time is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. (ET) and the race will broadcast by NBC Sports Network.

Recent Florida Derby winners to go on and capture the Run for the Roses were Monarchos (2001), Barbaro (2006) and Big Brown (2008).

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