Horseracing

Barbaro's trainer has Derby contender

Union Rags
Union Rags, ridden by Julien Leparoux, prevails in the Fountain of Youth.
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Six years after Barbaro, trainer Michael Matz has another star attraction for the Kentucky Derby.

Union Rags confirmed his status as the Derby front-runner with an impressive four-length victory in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes over the weekend at Gulfstream Park.

The win in his 3-year-old debut comes nearly four months after the colt's lone defeat — by a head to Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5.

''You never know after a four-month rest. Do you have the horse fit enough? Did you do this? Did you do that?'' Matz said. ''You ask yourself 51 questions. I guess we did it right this time.''

Matz took a similar path with Barbaro, who won the 2006 Derby before breaking down in the Preakness and sustaining injuries that ultimately led to the colt being euthanized.

Union Rags breeder and owner Phyllis Wyeth was feeling confident in the winner's circle at Gulfstream Park.

''We were just out for a practice run. Can you believe that one? And we didn't want him to peak to soon,'' she said.

As for comparisons to Barbaro: ''Barbaro was an undefeated horse, and we had a lot of confidence in him, there was no doubt. If it wasn't for maybe two feet he'd be undefeated, also,'' said Matz, referring to Union Rags. ''I think he's a real good horse. He's a got a real good disposition, and I certainly don't think there's any problem with distance with him.''

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