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RAGS TO ROSES

March 05, 2012
March 05, 2012

Table of Contents
March 5, 2012

LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
THE MARLINS
NFL DRAFT 2012
  • The combine kicked off two months of massive intrigue at football's most important position. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn—quarterbacks stand front and center as the draft and free agency seasons begin

PRO BASKETBALL
PRO HOCKEY
SPECIAL REPORT
  • AFTER THREE STRAIGHT TRIPS TO THE FINAL FOUR, BEN HOWLAND'S BRUINS UNEXPECTEDLY BEGAN TO STRUGGLE. FORMER PLAYERS AND STAFF MEMBERS TELL A CAUTIONARY TALE OF HOW DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS AND MISTAKES IN JUDGMENT CAN SABOTAGE EVEN A STORIED PROGRAM

Departments

RAGS TO ROSES

The Derby favorite's bold start

When mainstream sports fans last saw trainer Michael Matz, he was on the track at Pimlico after the 2006 Preakness, watching as his injured Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, was loaded into a horse ambulance. Eight months later, after a battle for survival that made him one of the most revered racehorses in history, Barbaro was euthanized. In the spring of '09 a bronze statue in the colt's honor was placed at Churchill Downs, which is where Matz appears headed this spring, with a chance to win another Derby.

This is an article from the March 5, 2012 issue

Union Rags, a 3-year-old bay colt bred and owned by Phyllis Wyeth (who married into the Wyeth family of artists more than four decades ago), convincingly won Sunday's Fountain of Youth Stakes, an important—albeit early—Derby prep race at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. Two months remain until the first Saturday in May, but Union Rags, who hadn't run since he finished second to Hansen in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, will race only once more, in the March 31 Florida Derby, before shipping to Louisville.

The Fountain of Youth was to have been a matchup between Union Rags and übertrainer Todd Pletcher's late-blooming Algorithms, whose freakish five-length victory over Hansen in the Holy Bull on Jan. 29 stamped him as a potential monster. But Algorithms was scratched with an injury on Sunday morning and his future is uncertain. In his absence, Pletcher's Discreet Dancer went off as the 4--5 favorite, but Union Rags rolled to the lead on the turn for home and drew clear. Jockey Julien Leparoux (who got the mount when Javier Castellano chose to ride Algorithms) showed Union Rags the stick twice but never struck flesh. Even more impressive was the fact that Matz, 61, insisted that he hadn't sharpened the colt for the race because he is pointing him toward a May peak.

The Derby's field of contenders is typically bloated: Pletcher's El Padrino showed guts in winning last Saturday's Risen Star in Louisiana; Hansen gets a chance to atone for his Holy Bull defeat this weekend in the Gotham at Aqueduct; and three-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert has four contenders. But for now, they are all chasing Matz.

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PHOTOBOB MAYBERGER/ECLIPSE/ZUMAPRESS.COMEASY MONEY Leparoux (yellow silks) cruised to the wire without ever using the whip on Union Rags.