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2012 Kentucky Derby Contenders: Union Rags

Horse: Union Rags
Trainer: Michael Matz
Pedigree: By Dixie Union out of a Gone West mare (Tempo)
Career Record: 6-4-1-1
Career Earnings: $1,198,800
Notable Races: G1-Florida Derby (3rd); G2-Fountain of Youth (1st); G1-Breeders' Cup Juvenile (2nd); G1-Champagne Stakes (1st); G2-Saratoga Special (1st)

Can He Win The 2012 Kentucky Derby?:

All winter long, Union Rags has been at the top of the Kentucky Derby top 10 lists and the Las Vegas future wagers. Union Rags closed at the 9/2 favorite in Pool 3 of the 2012 Kentucky Derby Future Wager and he is widely expected to vie with Bodemeister for the status of Kentucky Derby favorite on Saturday afternoon.

In his final pre-Derby race, Union Rags suffered through a bad trip in the G1-Florida Derby after getting boxed in during the early stages and only finding a clear running lane in the final furlong. In reality, the Florida Derby wasn't a bad prep race for Union Rages since he didn't need to win the race and wasn't extended in deep stretch. He finished up the race very strong, running the final 1/8th of a mile in 6.37 seconds, while racing 41 feet further than winner Take Charge Indy over the course of the trip. While his connections were likely disappointed with the final result, the performance of Union Rags in the Florida Derby suggests he could be sitting on a big race in the Kentucky Derby if he's able to get a clean trip.

On the negative side of the equation, Union Rags has never really run a "big number", as many horseplayers like to say. In other words, he's never run a race that, in retrospect, is significantly faster than his rivals. Additionally, while Union Rags has been very consistent since his debut at Saratoga in August of 2011, he hasn't displayed a significant improvement from 2011 to 2012. However, this colt is clearly one of the best horses in this three-year-old crop and can't be overlooked by any player in the Derby.

Union Rags will be ridden by jockey Julien Leparoux in Saturday's Derby. Leparoux is a patient rider that is typically very adept at judging the early pace, a trait that fits perfectly with the stalking running style of Union Rags.

Trainer Michael Matz won the 2006 Kentucky Derby with Barbaro.