Union Rags wins Belmont Stakes 2012
Union Rags put in a determined effort along the rails to clinch the G1Belmont Stakes in a nail biting finish. The son of Dixie Union was sent into the race as the second favourite at 11-4 behind Kentucky Derby third Dullahan. In a change of strategy by the connections of Union Rags, jockey John Velazquez was entrusted the ride in the big race, probably expecting a change of luck. The racing fans at Belmont Park who were perhaps disappointed with the pullout of Triple Crown hopeful, I’ll Have Another, a day earlier, were treated to an exhilarating race.
Paynter set the pace right from the start with Union Rags racing in midfield for almost half the distance. With six furlongs left in the race, Velazquez decided to step up the acceleration and made significant headway. Paynter, who had kept the zeal in front shifted slightly from the rails. Union Rags went for that inviting gap between Paynter and the rails and with a heave got the better in the last 40 yards.
"I was very proud of him," said Velazquez. "Just to be home, this was my opportunity here. It was incredible - there aren't words to describe it. They liked this horse for so long, and for him to finally rise to the top again. I'm very, very happy for him."
An elated winning trainer Michael Matz who was a part of the US Equestrian team at three Olympics said, "We always thought this horse had Triple Crown potential," he added. "I do really think this horse when he has a clean trip is one of the best three-year-olds in this crowd. Whether he could have done something against I'll Have Another I don't know but it sure would have been fun to see."