Union Rags replaces Hansen atop AP's Derby Top 10

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By RICHARD ROSENBLATT, Associated Press

Hansen blue his chance to be a Kentucky Derby favorite. He finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes after a daylong art project in which the near-white colt's tail was dyed blue, only to be rinsed off before the race.

After being beaten by Dullahan on the final weekend of major Derby preps, Hansen has been replaced by Union Rags at No. 1 on the AP's latest Run to the Roses' Top 10 list of contenders.

Union Rags regained the top spot he held for most of the prep season before his third-place finish after a tough trip in the Florida Derby on March 31.

Trained by Michael Matz and owned by Phyllis Wyeth of Chadds Ford Stable, Union Rags comes into the Derby on May 5 with four victories in six starts, among them the Fountain of Youth in February and the Champagne last October.

Hansen, sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the 13-horse field, took the lead as expected but faded in the stretch as Dullahan rallied for a 1 1/4-length win over the synthetic Polytrack at Keeneland. Dullahan's big win moved the colt trained by Dale Romans into the No. 6 spot. Hansen dropped to No. 8.

In Saturday's other major Derby prep, Bodemeister went wire-to-wire for a 9½-length romp over stablemate Secret Circle in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. The 1-2 finish for Bob Baffert gives the Hall of Fame trainer a double shot at winning his fourth Kentucky Derby.

Bodemeister, with two wins and two seconds in four starts, moved to No. 4, and Secret Circle improved to No. 5.

Unbeaten Gemologist remained No. 2, having punched his ticket to Churchill Downs with his win in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7. Creative Cause is No. 3 off a consistent record that includes a win in the San Felipe and a second-place finish to I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby.

Mike Smith, who rode Bodemeister for the first time, will be aboard the colt named for Baffert's 7-year-old son, Bode, in the Derby. Rafael Bejarano will ride Secret Circle.

"He ran like he did when he broke his maiden," Baffert said referring to the colt's 9¼-length win at Santa Anita on Feb. 11. "He was relaxed. His last race (second in the San Felipe), he sort of fell apart going to the gate, he got hot; he was a mess. ... (In the Arkansas Derby) he was pretty calm, cool and relaxed. He did everything very professionally."

Romans, meanwhile, has himself a horse for the Triple Crown races a year after winning the Preakness with Shackleford.

"I think he will run well on dirt," Romans said even though Dullahan is 0 for 3 on dirt at Churchill Downs. "He ran a big race in the Breeders' Cup last fall (at Churchill) and he is better this year. He should handle the surface."

Kendall Hansen, who owns Hansen, made the call to have the end of his colt's tail dyed blue for the Blue Grass. When word got out, he was called before the stewards and threatened with a fine. There was talk the horse could be scratched if he entered the paddock with a blue tail, so the dye was removed.

Trainer Mike Maker was not pleased with what took place.

"Maybe (Hansen) could've relaxed a little bit more if he didn't have somebody working on his tail all the time. I don't know. It kind of hurt me and Mike's relationship," the owner said. "We're going to have to talk it out. It was just a lack of communication. I went to a lot of effort to get this thing arranged."

A Derby contender or two could emerge after Saturday's top 3-year-old races, the Jerome at Aqueduct and the Lexington at Keeneland.

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1. Union Rags (Michael Matz, trainer; Julien Leparoux, jockey): Back on top, and could wind up betting favorite when Derby gates open. ... Worked 4 furlongs in 48.10 last week at Palm Meadows before being vanned to Keeneland to prep for Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (G1), Churchill Downs, May 5. ... Derby future wager odds: 9-2.

2. Gemologist (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Wood Memorial (G1) winner takes 5-0 record to Churchill Downs. ... Last unbeaten who won Derby was Big Brown in 2008. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.

3 Creative Cause (Mike Harrington, Joel Rosario): San Felipe (G2) winner and Santa Anita Derby (G1) runner-up heads from Hollywood Park to Churchill Downs on April 28. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 8-1.

4. Bodemeister (Bob Baffert, Mike Smith): Arkansas Derby (G1) winner will try to become first Derby winner with four prior starts since Exterminator in 1918. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 22-1.

5. Secret Circle (Baffert, Rafael Bejarano): Baffert says his Arkansas Derby runner-up "ran a great race, too." ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 30-1.

6. Dullahan (Dale Romans, Kent Desormeaux): Came up with big finish to win Blue Grass (G1) and earn trip to Derby. ... Romans: "I think he'll run well on dirt." ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 23-1.

7. I'll Have Another (Doug O'Neil, Mario Gutierrez): Santa Anita Derby winner ships from Hollywood to Churchill on April 28. ... Jockey headed to first Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 21-1.

8. Hansen (Mike Maker, Ramon Dominguez): Blue Grass runner-up gave no indication he would thrive at 1¼-mile Derby distance. ... Still won Gotham and 2-year-old championship last year. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Derby odds: 8-1.

9. Take Charge Indy (Patrick Byrne, Calvin Borel): Borel says Florida Derby winner will "get better in time." ... Never discount rail-riding Borel on Derby day. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 15-1.

10. Alpha (Kiaran McLaughlin, Dominguez): Wood runner-up being vanned to Churchill after getting an all-clear from precautionary ultrasound on left front leg to check on cut. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 21-1.

Keep an eye on: Daddy Long Legs, Daddy Nose Best, El Padrino, Mark Valeski, Sabercat.

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