Union Rags Will Reportedly Skip 2012 Preakness to Focus on Belmont Stakes

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2012

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 03: Union Rags trains on the track in preparation for the 138th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

One of the favorites to win the Kentucky Derby will be sitting out the next leg of the Triple Crown circuit.

Philly.com is reporting that Union Rags will skip the Preakness Stakes on May 19 to better prepare for the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The team of owner Phyllis Wyeth, trainer Michael Matz and advisor Russell Jones were behind the decision.

Union Rags had 9-2 odds to win the Derby—behind only Bodemeister at 4-1—but a miserable beginning of the race sealed the colt's fate.

The race was over for Union Rags almost before it really began. He got a slow start, wasn’t aggressive and even looked to have bumped another competitor within the first quarter mile. He was 18th at that point, a whopping 15 lengths off the pace.

Photo via Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos (NYTimes)
Photo via Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos (NYTimes)

While Union Rags was able to finish in seventh, it was far too little, too late. His inability to distance himself from the traffic was a huge issue and something that needs to be adjusted.

The horse now has a month to figure it out. Clearly, the issue is getting out of the gate quickly, and that’s easier said than done. With the Triple Crown out of the picture, what’s the point in rushing Union Rags back if he still has some kinks to work out?

Premiere horses like Union Rags rarely, if ever, race consecutive races two weeks apart, aside from Triple Crown season.

The wide track at Belmont Park is tailor-made for Union Rags, unlike the shorter track at the Preakness that clearly favors a sprinter like Bodemeister.

Everyone in the Union Rags camp is clearly disappointed, and they want to make sure they salvage at least one big moment in the Triple Crown season.

Saving it all for the Belmont Stakes is the smart thing to do.