ELMONT, N.Y. | It wasn’t an unseasonably warm morning at Belmont Park, but Union Rags was still heating up as he sprinted around the dirt track Thursday.
Trainer Michael Matz wasn’t worried.
“I have no complaints. [Exercise rider Peter Brette] said he felt fine,” Matz said. “He said the hardest part was pulling him up.”
Union Rags, the 6-1 third choice on the morning line, is known to get a little lathered up from time-to-time.
“He’s a very hot-blooded horse that he was that way from a 2-year-old and sometimes even in the evenings we can’t put a blanket on him because he gets too warm,” Matz said. “That’s just him. I can’t change that.”
Matz hopes Union Rags shows his 2-year-old potential in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes after a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. His trainer can’t explain what went wrong that day or in the Florida Derby, but that didn’t derail the decision to come to the Belmont.
“I don’t think he had a chance in his last two races to run and I don’t think you can blame it on him. We’ll find out Saturday,” Matz said. “I don’t know if a mile and a half is the place to start. But it’s the last Triple Crown race and I think he deserves a chance.”
That kind of comment from a trainer could be a smokescreen or a legitimate concern about the distance. I’ll Have Another figures to have it, but none of these horses have run 1 1/2 miles, so it’s still a bit of a mystery.