By Ed Gray Photo Credit: Coglianese Photos
Favored Union Rags Finishes Third, Reveron Second
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – As Take Charge Indy galloped along on the lead, the race that most people came to see Saturday at Gulfstream Park seemed to be setting up several lengths behind him during the backstretch run of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1).
Heavily favored Union Rags was joined to his outside by solid second choice El Padrino, creating a high level of drama: Did El Padrino have Union Rags right where jockey Javier Castellano wanted him – trapped behind horses? Would Union Rags be able to shake free and produce the devastating kick that propelled him to an easy four-length triumph in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 26?
That drama would never really play out to the satisfaction of the financial backers of either of the top two betting choices, as Take Charge Indy had, in effect, already stolen the race. The Patrick Byrne-trained 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy, who had been allowed to conserve his energy while setting sensible fractions, was not about to play understudy to Union Rags, El Padrino or the other five starters in the 61st running of the Florida Derby.
The 7-1 third betting choice carried his speed through the stretch run under jockey Calvin Borel to score by a length over Reveron, a 31-1 long shot ridden by Elvis Trujillo. Union Rags, who lacked running room until the top of the stretch, rallied to finish third under jockey Julien Leparoux, a neck behind the runner-up and 1 ¾ lengths clear of El Padrino.
“We knew he liked the racetrack. We’re not surprised,” Byrne said. “It’s a great result with that pedigree and (winning) a Grade 1.”
Trainer Michael Matz admitted that he didn’t expect the result even after Union Rags lost his right hind shoe in the paddock and had to have it tacked back on.
“Julien said Javier was on him the whole time down the backside, but that’s just race-riding. He said he should have been closer the way the track has been right now. Horses aren’t coming back. Pat’s horse got an easy lead and he got a head start on me, and we just couldn’t get him, “said Matz, whose colt has won four of his five prior starts to earn his 2-5 favoritism. “Julien said he just didn’t get out in time and the way the track is today, you had to be close to the pace.”
At least, Matz could explain the shocking upset. Trainer Todd Pletcher has a little tougher time figuring out El Padrino’s flat fourth-place finish as the 5-2 second choice.
“He got kind of a wide trip around there but Javier had Union Rags down inside of him and got a clean trip,” Pletcher said. “He just didn’t finish. We’ll see how he comes out of it and decide where to go from there.”
El Padrino had defeated Take Charge Indy by two lengths in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan 29 before going on to capture the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds. Take Charge Indy, who was scratched from the Tampa Bay Derby earlier in the month, hadn’t raced since finishing second behind El Padrino.
“He needed the last race, I don’t care what anybody says. This horse, he has the potential; he has the breeding behind him. Pat’s been to the big dance, so he wasn’t coming to play, I’ll tell you that,” Borel said. “He’d been off for a while, and I didn’t want to take anything from him. I think we got enough out of the race last time for today, and it set him up just right.”
Take Charge Indy, who earned $600,000 for his second victory in seven starts for owners Charles and Maribeth Sandford, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.79.
“I didn’t feel there was any pressure on me going in. I was seven, 8-1. Mike was 1-5 (actually 2-5). It’s nice to be 1-5 because it usually means you have the best horse on that day. But I wouldn’t trade places with him. This was a solid race today,” Byrne said. “I appreciate owners like Chuck and Maribeth Sandford for giving me an opportunity. I’m blessed to have a horse like Take Charge Indy.”
Reveron, who stalked the pace under Elvis Trujillo, had just enough to hold off Union Rags and prompt his trainer to plan on a trip to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 5.
Matz, who captured the 2006 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby with Barbaro, expects Union Rags to go on to Churchill Downs for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
“I’m not going to trade with anybody. It’s just unfortunate how it turned out today, but he can’t help that. It was just one of those things,” said Matz, whose Grade 1-winning colt suffered his first career loss at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), in which he raced seven wide to fall just a head short of catching Hansen.
Take Charge Indy had finished fifth following a troubled trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before making his 2012 debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 29.
“When we ran Jan. 29 we really didn’t think he’d run as hard as he did against El Padrino. He ran hard that day, and he got tired,” Byrne said. “He needs five, six weeks, at least (between races), so that’s the reason we took aim at the Tampa Bay race. When we were sitting there and he drew the 10 hole, Chuck and I and Marybeth were talking about it and we said ‘That colt is doing so well, why don’t we take a shot in the Florida Derby’”
Take Charge Indy fired his best shot in Gulfstream’s signature race to steal the show from Union Rags and El Padrino.
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