Prior to Friday morning, all attention regarding the Belmont Stakes was focused on I'll Have Another. It's been 34 years since the last Triple Crown winner, and I'll Have Another had what looked to be a golden opportunity to break the spell.
After winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, I'll Have Another was the clear favorite heading into the weekend.
However, after I'll Have Another said, "I've had enough" due to swelling in its left leg, the field is wide open.
One horse that figures to be in contention at the Belmont is Union Rags. Like anything else, luck plays a part in horse racing, and Union Rags has been anything but "lucky" in his past several appearances.
After winning last year's Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in dominant fashion, this horse has found some trouble recently. Union Rags finished a very close second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, came in third at the Florida Derby after being boxed in traffic, then stumbled to a disappointing seventh-place finish at the Kentucky Derby.
After skipping the Preakness, Union Rags will have a new jockey. Out goes Julien Leparoux, and in comes soon-to-be Hall of Fame jockey John Valezquez.
While Union Rags hopes to see a change in his fortune, other horses hope riding their momentum will propel them to victory at the Belmont Stakes.
Dullahan is the main beneficiary from I'll Have Another withdrawing, and is now the favorite to win this weekend at 5/1 odds. Prior to Friday, this horse was considered to have the best chance to ruin I'll Have Another's bid for the Triple Crown.
In the last leg of recent races, Dullahan has looked like a freight train. After a dominant late charge in the Blue Grass Stakes, Dullahan narrowly edged frontrunner Hansen to win the race, and displayed the same endurance to a lesser degree in the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished in third place.
In workouts leading up to the Belmont, Dullahan has reportedly been very impressive. The horse indicated it was in tip-top shape last Sunday during a workout at Belmont Park, showing very little signs of fatigue after running four furlongs in just 45.97 seconds.
Dullahan looks like the clear favorite to win this weekend, barring a dark horse making a charge to the front and surprising the pack.
One such horse to keep an eye on at the Belmont is Paynter. Owner Bob Baffert was disappointed that Bodemeister failed to win the Kentucky Derby after being a heavy favorite, but he'll have a shot at redemption with stablemate Paynter at this weekend's Belmont Stakes.
Leading up to this weekend's race, Baffert has shown tremendous confidence in Paynter. He's sitting Bodemeister in the Belmont despite being the runner-up to I'll Have Another in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
It was a surprising decision to some, but if Baffert's choice of horses proves to be wise, then he'll get what has been so elusive to him this season—a win in a Triple Crown race.