Javier Castellano described Union Rags as “unbelievable” following the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) Aug. 15 in upstate New York. And for anyone watching the race at Saratoga Race Course, it was easy to see why the jockey was so excited.
Even though Union Rags swerved out in the stretch and was tested from his rail post by a swift pace, he romped to a 7 1/4-length victory in the slop. The son of Dixie Union posted a winning time in the 6 ½-furlong event for 2-year-olds of 1:18.33.
Stat, the 8-5 favorite who had broken his maiden by two lengths at Belmont Park July 9, finished second, three lengths in front of Indian Evening. They were followed under the wire by Banner Bill, Trinniberg, and Italo.
“I got a phone call last week from my agent; he wanted me to work some horses on Tuesday,” Castellano said. “Jockeys usually take off on Tuesdays since we race six days a week, but I’m so glad he did that to me. When I showed up and worked the horse (Union Rags) in the morning, it was unbelievable. I’ve never worked a horse like that and I’ve been very fortunate to ride horses like Ghostzapper and Bernardini . I’ve been a very lucky, fortunate guy, but this horse is unbelievable and special.”
Union Rags’ time for the half-mile work that day was :47.66, which was the fastest of 44 horses covering the same distance at Saratoga.
Bred by Phyllis Wyeth in Pennsylvania and raced by her in the name of Chadds Ford Stable, Union Rags broke from the No. 1 post in the Saratoga Special. He ran in second early, battling for the lead with favored Stat, who covered a quarter mile in :21.78; Indian Evening, and Trinniberg were also contesting the early pace.
After completing a half mile in :45.55, Union Rags was in front of Stat by a head and he started pulling away in upper stretch. At the stretch call, he had a 3 1/2-length advantage.
“It was a tight trip, but it didn’t matter,” Castellano said. “He showed up today. “(In the stretch) I wanted to stay off the rail a little bit and when I did that, I think he saw the screen board. Today it’s dark and rainy, and the light (of the board) is so bright. I think he saw the light from the board and kind of got scared a little bit and jumped. I corrected really quickly, and after that he continued to run.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he’s going to be a super horse,” the rider added. “I think he can run all day.”
Union Rags earned $290,000 for winning the Saratoga Special. The race’s purse was listed at $150,000, but, in addition to his winner’s share of $90,000, the colt picked up a $200,000 bonus for being the first juvenile offered at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale to capture a graded race. His career earnings stand at $318,800.
Prior to the Saratoga Special, Union Rags had run only once, taking a five-furlong maiden-special-weight event by 1 ¾ lengths July 12 at Delaware Park.
“He’s a very sensible colt,” said Union Rags’ trainer, Michael Matz. “He worked here (at Saratoga) last week and worked like a real good horse. When he worked so well, we expected him to run well, and if he doesn’t you say, ‘What did I do wrong?’
“He proved he is a good horse, and I’m really excited about him. Phyllis, the owner, is a great person. She has had a lot of horses for me, and she told me that one day she would get me a good one. Hopefully we have it.”
Union Rags paid $8.50, $4, and $2.90 to his backers. Stat paid $3.30 and $2.50, while Indian Evening returned $2.70.
Produced from the Gone West mare Tempo, Union Rags was purchased at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale for $145,000 by IEAH Stables. Earlier this year, at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March select sale of 2-year-olds in training, Chadds Ford bought the colt for $390,000 from Eddie Woods, agent.
“We don’t know (where he will run next),” Matz said. “We’ll get him back at the barn and see what we look like, speak with the owner, and see what we want to do. Obviously our main goal is for next year, but we’ll just have to see how he is and look for something in about a month or five weeks.”