LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Trainer Michael Matz believed what he couldn't see -- that Union Rags had a strong final workout amid a field of Kentucky Derby hopefuls that dotted Churchill Downs on Saturday.
When he was told the times -- 59.80 seconds over five furlongs -- his eyes grew wide for a brief moment before he quickly downplayed what could be the Derby favorite after Wednesday's post-position draw.
"I didn't see very much," said Matz, whose view was blocked in part because runners involved in a pre-Derby marathon made it difficult to get to the front side of the track.
"We wanted him to have a strong work here and that was the plan all along. Like I said, I wish I could've seen it, but all I saw was the front part of it, the last quarter mile, but he looked like he did that nice. They both went real nice."
Matz is back at Churchill Downs with a Kentucky Derby hopeful for the first time since winning the 2006 Derby with Barbaro, who won his first six starts before breaking down at the Preakness. Barbaro ran three times heading into the Derby, while Union Rags has had an even lighter workload with just two starts including a win at the Fountain of Youth Stakes after a strong 2-year-old campaign.
While no favorite has emerged yet from the group, this year's class features eight horses of the 13 that started the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November here with a ninth, Optimizer, who will make the field if one of the 20 drop out.