Union Rags narrowly beat Paynter at the line in a photo finish, winning Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, the third leg in the Triple Crown.
While Saturday’s race was overshadowed by the absence of I’ll Have Another, the stallion who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Union Rags and the rest of the field still provided an exceptional race, with Union Rags barely beating Paynter.
CBS News reports that Union Rags, trained by Michael Matz, suffered a disappointing seventh place in the Kentucky Derby, and completely skipped the Preakness. Original jockey Julien Leparoux was replaced by John Velazquez for the Belmont.
Trainer Matz commented after the race that, “We really got to see the real Union Rags,” as the stallion ran along the inside rail in the middle of the pack during the race, until Velazquez urged him to make a move for the lead. He ran on the inside of Paynter, the front-runner trained by Bob Baffert (trainer of Bodemeister), winning by a neck.
I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, jockey Mario Gutierrez, and Canadian owner Paul Reddam were on the top of the racing world earlier this week, but Friday morning they announced that the horse was being scratched from the Belmont Stakes and retired from racing, because of early tendinitis in his left front leg, according to USA Today. Gutierrez stated Saturday that:
“Personally, I was a little sad; I was a little sad, but not disappointed. Personally, I wanted to be in the race with him, because I know how great he is. I wanted to make history. He’s the one who brought us here. We have to take care of him.”
I’ll Have Another was hoping to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, the first since Affirmed in 1978. Instead, he spent Saturday in front of cameras, posing for pictures, and having a retirement party. Despite not being entered, he still received some of the biggest cheers from the 85,811 spectators at the Belmont.