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Union Rags Impressive in Champagne

Union Rags wins 2011 Champagne.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
Caught behind horses with less than 300 yards to go, favored Union Rags abruptly changed course in mid-stretch and went on to an imposing 5 ¼-length victory in Saturday afternoon’s 140th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Champagne at Belmont Park.

 

The Champagne victory, Union Rags’ third in as many starts, earned the 2-year-old bay son of Dixie Union an automatic berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on November 5 as part of the “Win and You’re In” series. Last year, Uncle Mo won the Champagne before taking the Juvenile and the Eclipse Award as Champion 2-Year-Old Champion Male.

 

With Javier Castellano aboard, Union Rags was bumped at the break and had to settle in fifth behind Right to Vote and Power World as they took the field of eight juveniles through an opening quarter-mile in 22.74 seconds and a half in 45.84. With nowhere to go as they headed for home, Castellano first tried to steer Union Rags between horses, but then angled the 6-5 favorite sharply to the outside. Once clear, the big colt took off with a rousing late run that carried him under the wire in 1:35.55 for the mile.

 

“My plan ‘A’ was to be close to the pace,” said Castellano. “Unfortunately in the first jump [Right to Vote] squeezed me. He bumped really hard and I lost the momentum right there. Now, I had to change to plan ‘B’ – come from behind horses. But he’s an amazing horse – nothing bothers him. When he saw daylight, he took off.”

 

Alpha, the 2-1 second choice, closed from last to gain second, a neck ahead of longshot Right to Vote.

 

“I was happy with the way he ran in only his second start,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of the runner-up. “He finished second to a very nice horse. We’ll go onto the Breeders’ Cup with him.”

 

Union Rags, owned and bred by Phyllis Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable, began his career at Delaware Park in July, rallying from seventh to post a 1 ¾-length victory in a five-furlong maiden race. In his next start, he rolled to a 7 ¼-length win the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Saratoga Special going 6 ½ furlongs over a sloppy track on August 15.

 

In the Champagne, Union Rags returned $4.40 for a $2 win bet, and the $180,000 winner’s purse extended his bankroll to $498,000.

 

“I think he’s a real good horse,” said trainer Michael Matz, who won the 2006 Kentucky Derby with Barbaro. “Anytime you can win going five-eighths with me, you know they’re nice horses. I’ve had horses on and off for Mrs. Wyeth, and she said to me, ‘I’m going to have a good one for you,’ and I think she does.”

 

Takes the Gold finished fourth, followed by Invocation, No Spin, Power World, and Laurie’s Rocket.


Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese

 


 

 

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Yep, this horse look like something special.
This horse is serious

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