Fountain of Youth: Union Rags Now Derby Favorite After Dominating Performance

Carlos TorresContributor IFebruary 26, 2012

Michael Matz's trainee Union Rags turned in a dominating performance and won the G2 $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes, establishing himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite.

The race was supposed to be a marquee showdown between two of the top Kentucky Derby contenders. But with Algorithms being scratched earlier in the morning by his trainer Todd Pletcher, Union Rags made a solo act of the race.

Union Rags closed as the 2-1 favorite and Todd Pletcher's other entry in the race, Discreet Dancer, closed as the second betting choice at 3-1 and was the only one expected to challenge him.

Discreet Dancer was sent to the lead by his jockey John Velazquez with Casual Trick and Union Rags following him close early.

News Pending broke slow in sixth place but was rushed by Kent Desormeaux to be just a half-length in second place at the quarter-mile pole. Discreet Dancer took the fractional in :24.50.

In the backstretch the order remained unchanged but News Pending was pressuring Discreet Dancer, who had to pick up the pace and passed the half-mile fractions in :48.11.

Union Rags was looping along in fourth place clear on the outside, waiting for the perfect time to strike.

That time came with three furlongs to go when Julien Leparoux put position on Union Rags and started his move to the front. Within half a furlong Union Rags was by the side of Discreet Dancer and News Pending ready to take them on.

By the final quarter-mile pole Union Rags was all stretched out and starting to pull away in the lead. As they were into the homestretch, Union Rags was two lengths in front and kept opening his lead under Leparoux's urging.

By the final 100 meters Leparoux just rode out Union Rags to the wire and the impressive final time of 1:42.68 for the 1-1/16-mile. That was just .33 seconds behind Endorsement's track record.

News Pending was clear in second place but was no match for Union Rags, while Discreet Dancer finished a weakened third just half a length in front of Neck 'n Neck.

Trainer Michael Matz had told that this was going to be just a prep race for Union Rags; the ultimate goal is to have him at his best then.

His best by the first Saturday of May?

Today Union Rags was just 1/5 of a second from the track record after a three-month layoff. If Leparoux would have kept his vigorous hand ride the final 100 meters, we might have a new track record holder for the distance.

It's scary for the competition to think we might not have seen the bottom of Union Rags.

There is still a long way to go before the Kentucky Derby, and anything can happen between now and then. If history serves us well, that is a big possibility.

For now, Union Rags' next race should be the G1 $1 million Florida Derby on March 31st at Gulfstream Park. It will be nice to see how much he scares the competition after this dominating performance.

As for Algorithms, trainer Todd Pletcher told that he is still assessing his condition and that it might be a few days before he knows the next steps to follow.

It's a big blow to Algorithms' momentum since he will have to be taken off training for the next few days, and there is a lot of uncertainty regarding his near future. Hopefully it will be something minor and we could see him back at his best soon.

With Algorithms out for the moment, and Hansen and Creative Cause losing, Union Rags moves right to the top of any Kentucky Derby contenders list. One to look for is El Padrino after his great win at the Risen Star Stakes yesterday, and wait for Gemologist's next race.

Right now, it's Union Rags time.


Fountain of Youth Stakes | Grade 2 | Purse: $400,000 | Gulfstream Park| Three-year-olds| 1-1/16-mile








Union Rags

Julien Leparoux





News Pending

Kent Desormeaux





Discreet Dancer

John Velazquez




Also ran: Neck 'n Neck, Fort Loudon, Csaba and Casual Trick.

Fractional Times: 24.50, :48.11, 1:12.05, 1:36.28
Final Time:



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