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Apr 06, 2012

Let's Be Frank: Union Rags still favored despite loss

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Was it the track bias? Was it a bad ride? Is Union Rags not as good as advertised? These are the questions that must be asked after Union Rags, the prohibitive 2-5 favorite, finished third behind Take Charge Indy and Reveron in this past Saturday's Florida Derby.

Horses within one length of the leader around the far turn won all seven dirt races on the card, so for Union Rags, who was three lengths off the lead after three-quarters was run in 1:12, the defeat might not have been all his fault.

Jockey Julien Leparoux rode the betting choice exactly the same way he did when the pair won the Fountain of Youth Stakes. In that race, Union Rags was 2 1/2 lengths behind the leaders after three-quarters went in the same 1:12. However, the track that day was nowhere near as fast as it was this past Saturday and the horses he faced were of inferior quality compared to the Florida Derby field.

Union Rags found himself trapped behind a wall of horses entering the stretch at Gulfstream Park. He appeared to have plenty of room down the lane, but failed to fire until the final sixteenth of a mile when the result basically was decided already. It is also interesting to note that Leparoux was the only jockey on the top four finishers who did not use his whip down the stretch.

The Florida Derby was almost an exact duplicate of the Champagne Stakes last October as Union Rags was bottled up heading into the homestretch in both races. Nonetheless, the final outcomes were totally different. In the Champagne, he blew away the field, winning by over five lengths despite trailing with a furlong to go. This time around, he didn't put it all together until it was too late.

So was it the track bias, a bad ride, or is Union Rags not a superstar 3-year- old? The answer is a little bit of all three.

One other thing to keep in mind about the Florida Derby is how poorly El Padrino ran. The fact that Reveron was able to hold on to second, ahead of both Union Rags and El Padrino, says more about how the track was playing rather than the abilities of the 31-1 long shot.

El Padrino, the clear second choice in the race, ran a dismal fourth, beaten three lengths by Take Charge Indy, a horse he defeated earlier this year. It was obvious jockey Javier Castellano paid more attention to Union Rags than to the horses in front of him since he had the favorite confined in between his mount and Neck 'n Neck down the entire backstretch. When it came time to concentrate on the race itself, El Padrino came up way short, finishing off- the-board for the first time in six career starts.

What makes the race a possible toss out is that the internal fractions of 1:12 and 1:35 4/5 pale in comparison to a couple of earlier races on the card in which the two winners posted much faster fractional times of 1:10 3/5 and 1:34 3/5 for six furlongs and one mile, respectively. Awesome Maria and Fort Larned finished their races in 1:48 1/5 (1 1/8 miles) and in 1:53 4/5 (1 3/16 miles). Take Charge Indy ran his 1 1/8 miles in a slower 1:48 3/5.

Note that all three races had very similar half-mile times ranging between 47 2/5 and 47 3/5 seconds, so it appears the Florida Derby front-runners were allowed to lope along at an unhurried pace. That made it more difficult for Union Rags and El Padrino to close the gap, especially on a surface that favored speed.

Given all that, it is not that surprising to see Union Rags favored in the third and final Future Wager pool. The 9-2 odds are slightly higher than the 4-1 he ended up at the close of Pool 2. The two big changes came with Take Charge Indy and El Padrino. The former wound up at 15-1 after closing Friday night at 73-1, while the latter drifted up to 24-1 after opening at 12-1 on the morning line.

A SHOCKER IN NEW ORLEANS

Hero of Order stunned the crowd at Fairgrounds when he held off the favored Mark Valeski by one-half length to win the Louisiana Derby, paying $220.80 in the process. The son of Sharp Humor, beaten six lengths by El Padrino and Mark Valeski in the Risen Star, ran second on the turf his last time out.

The final time of 1:50 was rather slow considering Nates Minshaft (1:47 3/5) broke the nine-furlong track record two races earlier. Hero of Order ran his final three-eighths in a dawdling 38 3/5. Don't expect any horse from the Louisiana Derby to win the Run for the Roses.

AIDEN O'BRIEN WILL SEND TWO TO CHURCHILL DOWNS

No winner of the UAE Derby has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Daddy Long Legs will be looking to end the streak. He has already been to North America finishing a disappointing 12th in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Making his first start since that effort, the son of Scat Daddy took care of business with an easy win in the $2 million UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Daddy Long Legs will more than likely be accompanied to Kentucky by his stablemate, Wrote. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner, who finished third in the UAE Derby, has never raced on conventional dirt. Once again, don't expect either colt to be a major factor in the Kentucky Derby.



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