Morning breeze

April, 28, 2012
Union Rags and jockey Julien LaparouxMatthew Stockman/Getty ImagesUnion Rags and jockey Julien Laparoux get some excercise Saturday morning.

LOUISVILLE, KY -- I got to Michael Matz's barn a little bit before 8:00 a.m. today to ride Union Rags in his last breeze before the Kentucky Derby. The track opens for training after the break at 8:30 a.m., but Michael likes to take a good walk over the grounds on the way, so he asked me to head in a little bit earlier to do that this morning, too.

There were a lot of people watching and following us, and a lot of them had cameras and video equipment, but Union Rags was just relaxed and posing for pictures. He's a very laid-back horse; he just stands there. We spent maybe five minutes in front of the track before it opened and he didn't even move hardly at all, maybe one little step. There were even a few horses in front of us getting a little bit anxious to get to the track, and one guy was unseated but didn't let go of the reins, so that was good -- the horse wasn't loose. Union Rags just watched it and stood there and didn't move. He's definitely very smart.

Michael rides out to the track all the time with his horses -- he was a three-time Olympic Equestrian and is a very, very good rider. I definitely have a lot of respect for him. He backed up with his Oaks filly And Why Not, so Union Rags and I just followed him. He likes to be on his pony and watch the breeze and I think it's great, nice for him to be by himself and focus on watching them train.

We backed up jogging to the eighth pole and then we stood for a little bit until we had a clean shot. Once I found an opening, I turned him to start galloping and we went ahead to breeze.

I think everybody who saw it would say it was pretty good, :59 4/5 for the half mile. It was how we wanted to do it; he broke off very nicely and finished strong all the way to the wire, and he galloped out good, six furlongs in 1:13 4/5.

He's the kind of horse who would go 1:12 if you wanted him to, but Michael wanted me to go a little easier than that with him. He does whatever you want, really. We just wanted a good, solid breeze before the race.

Tonight is night racing at Churchill Downs and yesterday we wrapped up the meet at Keeneland. It was great to win the riding title there because it's one of my favorite meets. The six-win day I had on April 21 was pretty special too -- that equaled a record that's been around for 22 years, so it meant a lot. For a jockey it's definitely a goal to be leading rider at every meet you go to, so it's nice to see it happen and I owe a lot to the connections of all the horses I rode. Keeneland is something special, the trainers are good, the horses are nice, and the meet is short and enjoyable.

Last Tuesday I got a chance to pay a visit to Old Friends Equine, a retirement home for horses in Lexington. Ball Four retired there, and he's a horse I enjoyed riding and had some special memories with. Usually I go back to Louisville on dark days when I'm riding at Keeneland, but this time my fiancÚ and I stayed in Lexington and had a nice day with lunch and went to see the horses at the farm.

It was good, a nice day out, and it was great to see Ball Four there and happy. He's got some friends in the paddock and he's healthy and looking good.

I think it's very important what they do there. If you look at what horses they have, they have some Grade 1 winners, but they also have runners that have never won a race. I wish they all had a chance to get a nice home after their racing careers. The ones that wind up there are definitely very lucky.

Tomorrow kicks off the beginning of Derby week and the next big thing for us is the post position draw on Wednesday. I'll have thoughts on whatever post we get with Union Rags -- if you have any questions for me, leave them in the comments box and I'll try to answer!



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