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Does Derby favorite belong to Matz or Baffert?
Two trainers bid to run top horse
Mostly, though, Baffert’s new mantra is not to worry about things he can’t control, not an easy task for a perfectionist.
“I used to get upset over little things that I shouldn’t have even worried about,” he said. “This sport can really get you down. I’m actually enjoying my sport a little bit better.”
Bodemeister turned in the most dominating performance of any Derby prospect with a 9 1/2-length victory in the Arkansas Derby. He’s never been worse than second in his four career starts, all this year. He didn’t race as a 2-year-old and no colt since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without running at 2.
“When I told him Bodemeister was going to the Kentucky Derby, his first question was, `Well, what if he loses?”’ Baffert said. “I said, `Well, we can’t worry about that.’ It’s a little extra pressure for me to make sure that he runs well.”
Matz, meantime, has been quietly going about his business since hitting the big-time with Barbaro. While his champion, undefeated colt was trying to battle back, Matz won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic that fall, making for a bittersweet year.
Union Rags, with four wins in five career races, is residing in the same barn that housed Barbaro at Churchill Downs; same exercise rider, too.
“We have some very nice memories from here,” said Peter Brette, who also works as Matz’s assistant trainer. “It’s really nice to be back with a horse that’s got a really good chance.”
Barbaro ran three times before the Derby, while Union Rags has had an even lighter schedule — just two starts, including a win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes after a strong 2-year-old campaign.
“I hope I learned something in six years,” said Matz, a former Olympic equestrian. “It’s just like anything else, probably the same thing you learned riding - experience.”
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