According to a report by Bloodhorse.com, trainer Michael Matz announced that two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey, John Velazquez, will replace Julien Leaproux aboard Union Rags for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
The change should come as no surprise as it had been widely speculated that Leparoux would not return to ride Union Rags after a very troubled race at the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Leparoux had replaced Javier Castellano aboard Union Rags for the Fountain of Youth on February 25 after Castellano committed to ride Todd Pletcher's Algorithm for the Derby. Leparoux guided Union Rags to a win on that race and Algorithms was injured later on.
Then on the Florida Derby on March 31st, Leparoux rode Union Rags to a third-place finish as the heavy favorite after being boxed-in around the track. He was able to get in the clear around the final furlong and rallied late to get close for the win.
So after two very notable high-stakes races where Union Rags found trouble in the race, especially the Kentucky Derby, fans of the colt everywhere claimed for a change of rider. But Matz waited until after the Preakness to announce the change.
According to the report Matz said:
Julian was good with the horse…but he got in trouble in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby and I don’t think the horse really had a chance to run. Whether it was the horse, the jockey, or the trainer, I don’t know, but we decided to make a change.
Apparently the kicker was that Velazquez, besides being one of the top riders in NY, committed to a multi-race schedule with Union Rags. I wouldn't blame him, the colt could be one good trip away from showing the form that took him to be one of the Derby favorites.
Plus he returns to the track of his most impressive win, last year's Champagne Stakes. Velazquez will be aboard Union Rags for his scheduled work next week at the Fair Hill training center. You can bet he will get a lot of tote play for the Belmont.
In another report from Bloodhorse.com, another jockey change for the Belmont Stakes was announced, Donegal Racing president Jerry Crawford told the Des Moines Register on May 21, that the nation's leading rider, Javier Castellano will replace Kent Desormeaux aboard Dullahan.
As you might recall, it was reported before the Preakness, that Desormeaux failed a breathalyzer test before racing at Belmont Park on May 18 and lost his mount aboard Tiger Walk in the Preakness, being replaced by Ramon Dominguez.
This just gets things more interesting for the Preakness as two of the nation's top jockeys get very important mounts for the Belmont Stakes where I'll Have Another will be looking to become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.