HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Union Rags dominated the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, bolstering his credentials as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.
Trained by Michael Matz, Union Rags won his first race since he lost to Hansen by a head in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. The son of Dixie Union finished four lengths ahead of News Pending, a 27-1 longshot saddled by Kent Desormeaux.
"You never know after a four-month rest. Do you have the horse fit enough? Did you do this? Did you do that? You always go through 51 questions," Matz said in a release put out by the track. "I guess we did it right this time."
With Julien Leparoux aboard, Union Rags made a three-wide move coming out of the backstretch and took the lead on the turn. He then pulled away for his fourth victory in five starts.
"I was hoping he would run a good race, but I was not expecting that," Leparoux said. "He's such an easy horse to ride and did everything so easily. I didn't hit him once. I just showed him the stick a couple times. I'm sure he was not 100 percent today, which means he should just get better."
Union Rags ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.68 to earn $240,000 for owner and breeder Phyllis Wyeth. Discreet Dancer faded to third.
Morning-line favorite Algorithms was scratched with a popped splint in his right-front leg.
Matz said Union Rags is scheduled to race in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31.