It had been four months since Union Rags last raced. That was in November at the Breeders’ Cup Classic Juvenile, where he finished just behind Hansen, for second place. If he showed any signs of rust, they were not readily apparent as the early Kentucky Derby Favorite took the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
This race was supposed to be a highly anticipated showdown between three thoroughbreds who have garnered lots of attention from racing fans and those who are looking for favorites among the horses nominated for Triple Crown racing. The Fountain of Youth Stakes lost a bit of its zeal when Algorithms was scratched the day before the race due to an injury to a splint bone. Still, another Todd Pletcher trained horse, Discreet Dancer, was running and actually the favorite, going off at 4-5 odds.
Discreet Dancer broke out of the gate with the lead, along with Casual Trick. After the first turn, Casual Trick faded back a bit, as long-shot News Pending challenged and pushed Discreet Dancer for the lead. Union Rags was just behind the leaders, battling for third. The far turn is where the race really started taking shape as Union Rags seemed to hit another gear on the outside leaving Casual Trick behind and pulling even with Discreet Dancer and News Pending. Down the stretch is where Union Rags was able to pull away, without jockey Julian Leparoux ever having to use the whip. The Michael Matz trained colt won by four lengths, posting a time of 1:42.68 in the 1 and 1/16 mile contest. News Pending finished second, just ahead of Discreet Dancer.
Matz was pleased by the effort Union Rags gave; “You never know after a four month rest. Do you have the horse fit enough? Did you do this? Did you do that? You always go through 51 questions,” Matz said in a release put out by Gulfstream Park. “I guess we did it right this time.” The next scheduled event for Union Rags is the Florida Derby, to be run on March 31st.