Apr 192017

As time permits I will continue to profile some horses from the upcoming 2017 Kentucky Derby. My first write up was about Always Dreaming. This article will focus on the Derby Double that Union Rags pulled off with his first crop of three year olds getting both a Derby runner in Patch and an Oaks runner in Paradise Woods.  First some general notes about Union Rags. You might recall his story from 2012 Kentucky Derby as his breeders sold him, then bought him back (at a much higher price) after he became a Derby prospect. Union Rags showed precocity winning the G2 Saratoga Special and the G1 Champagne as a 2yo. He finished 2nd in the Breeder’s Cup Juvy, losing as the 2-1 favorite to 10-1 long shot Hansen. Union Rags wasn’t just a fast 2yo though carrying on his form into his 3yo season in winning the Fountain of Youth before finishing 3rd in the Florida Derby. He disappointed Derby Day but would come back to win the Belmont Stakes after which he was retired with a minor injury in July.  He concluded his career with 5 wins from 8 starts – his 3 losses coming in G1 races (BC Juvy, KY Derby and Florida Derby). He was probably retired too young, but his pedigree – Dixie Union x Gone West x Nijinsky was just too good to keep him on the track. Union Rags was retired to Lane’s End, the home of his sire Dixie Union and stands there for $50,000.

While no one doubts the pedigree of Union Rags, $50,000 is a high enough stud fee for an unproven sire that had Union Rags making a couple lists of over-rated stallions. As it turns out, that $50,000 mark might just be right on. In the SIM Union Rags suffers a bit from the dirt sire syndrome being lower rated than he likely merits. He stands at one of the premier stud farms in the USA with a $50,000 stud fee yet out of 4 full classes of runners, averaging 100 runners a class he only has 3 graded winners. He sports a ghastly 3.6% stakes winning percentage and an anemic 0.7% graded winning percentage. Even more puzzling, Union Rags is in the top 5 of sprint sires by average winning distance. Odd indeed for a horse who won the Belmont and has Nijinsky as his DDS! Based on these number and his current affinity to throw sprinters I can’t really recommend breeding to Union Rags at this point if you are expecting to get a classic distance graded level horse. Hopefully, his ratings will be adjusted based on the results of his real world runners.

Paradise Woods is one of those runners and she is my pick for the Kentucky Oaks. Paradise Woods opened a lot of eyes winning the Santa Anita Oaks by a record margin of 12 lengths. Much was made of Unique Bella early this year before an injury sidelined her, but perhaps it is Paradise Woods who is the super filly in this group. She has only raced 3 times, so her destruction of the SA Oaks puts her in rare air. Paradise Woods is out of a Forest Wildcat mare who has quietly turned into an outstanding broodmare sire. Her mom is a mare  named Wild Forest who looks like an excellent producer having a stakes winner named Forest Chatter and two other $100K earners despite being breed to lower level stallions (Broken Vow, Pleasantly Perfect, Dixie Chatter, Rock Hard Ten). Based on the promise which Paradise Woods shows, I expect Wild Forest will be getting bred to some higher echelon stallions in the coming years. This sample size also bodes well for Union Rags as a sire because he clearly brought more out of Wild Forest than these others. Paradise Wood’s DDS is Zilzal, a son of Nureyev who is a (C) classic chef de race influence and below Zilzal is Reviewer a B/C son of Bold Ruler B/I. I feel that Union Rags will be more of classic distance influence so we have a patter of Union Rags (classic distance) over speed in Forest Wildcat over classic in Zilzal over speed in Reviewer. That daughter of Reviewer, Long Legend, the third dam of Paradise Woods is a blue hen monster being the dam of prominent speed sire Mr. Greeley and is also the third dam of Kentucky Derby winner and successful sire Street Sense. There is a lot of quality class and speed which has culminated in a potentially dynamic Oaks winner in three weeks.

While Paradise Woods will likely be one of the favorites in the Kentucky Oaks, Patch will be one of those 50/1 shots who is disregarded except by the sentimental who bet him because of his name and handicap – he is named patch because he is blind in one eye. This type of story will assure Patch to get a 7 minute feature Derby Day where everyone says something nice about him before Jerry Bailey dismisses him and makes his chalk pick.  Like Paradise Woods, Patch has only 3 career starts winning one race, his maiden and placing 2nd twice, one of those being in the Louisiana Derby which gave him the points for the Kentucky Derby. Patch has a monster pedigree being out of an A.P. Indy x Unbridled mare. Union Rags is certainly getting some mares and good to see he is making the most of them. There is actually a lot of inbreeding going on in Patch’s pedigree, 5×3 Seattle Slew, 5x4x5 Mr. Prospector, 4×5 Northern Dancer, 5×4 Secretariat and a rare 5×5 to the mare Tamerett who has been described as a genetic giant of the breed. Tamerett’s first four dams are all blue hen mares. Patch therefore accentuates Union Rag’s pedigree with arguably 2 of the 3 most successful recent American bloodlines on his dam’s side (Indy and Fappiano with the third, (son of) Storm Cat being present as his own DS) with deep, historic class. While I don’t think Patch will win the Kentucky Derby, if he does run well, there is reason to have seen it.

I hope this gives you some more things to look at come Derby day and however it plays out it was a strong achievement for Union Rags to send two well bred horses to Kentucky on the first Saturday of May.

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