Michael Matz put Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby with what was then considered an unconventional path: A five-week layoff and only two starts in the months of February, March and April.
“I wish we could take the same path and have the same result, that’s for sure,” Matz said with a smile today. “Barbaro had three race races as a 3-year-old, but only two races as a 2-year-old.”
Union Rags raced four times last year. Barbaro had three preps as a 3-year-old, but one of them came very early in the year.
“I think this colt is a bit more laid back than Barbaro,”Matz said. “Barbaro was very professional in what he did once you got the saddle on him. When you got the rider on him, he couldn’t be any better. This horse is bigger and more mature than Barbaro was as a 3-year-old at this point.”
Union Rags’ breeder and owner Phyllis Wyeth of Chadds Ford, Pa. nearly missed out in campaigning her homebred colt. She sold him as a yearling for $145,000 at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale. She had a change of heart and bought back Union Rags at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale at Palm Meadows Training Center last February for $390,000.
“I’ve had a number of horses for Mrs. Wyeth, but nothing of this caliber,” Matz said. “She loves this horse. She’ll be here for the Fountain of Youth.”
Wyeth is a 70-year-old former employee of John F. Kennedy. She handled the White House mail during his presidency.
--Edited Gulfstream Park release