Belmont Stakes 2012 Winner: 5 Fun Facts About Union Rags

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJune 10, 2012

Belmont Stakes 2012 Winner: 5 Fun Facts About Union Rags

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    Union Rags is a true champion, with a back story that is worthy of the full glitz of a Hollywood movie. 

    When he bolted down the backstretch of the Belmont for a close win in the prestigious race and a spot in America's fickle consciousness, that story fell into the spotlight. 

    This colt won the race with great heart and competitive drive—two qualities we are always quick to identify with. So it is natural that people would want to know a little more about this competitor. Let this slideshow satiate your need for all things Union Rags. 

Terribly Fantastic Twos

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    Union Rags entered the Triple Crown season as one of the more well-known horses and favorites. That is because he had a fantastic run as a two-year-old. 

    He dominated the Grade II Saratoga Special Stakes and stepped up to the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont. That race had a nice field, and Rags handled it no problem. He made a nice late charge, not unlike his run at the Belmont, and beat Alpha by five lengths. 

    He was not as strong in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but he still had a tremendous year and was second to Hansen as the American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt. 

Deep Connection with Owner

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    A very proud and happy Phyllis Mills Wyeth was shown on the broadcast following the race. She had every reason to be feeling that way. 

    Wyeth's parents, Alice du Pont and James Mills, owned and bred horses. Union Rags' mother is Tempo, who is part of the bloodline of horses Wyeth's parents owned. Tempo had many offspring, but she nearly died after giving birth to one of her foals, going on to bear just one more following that incident. That "one more" was Union Rags. 

    Despite this connection to her childhood, Wyeth was talked into selling the horse as a yearling in 2010 by her tax accountants (you can see her discuss that in this film).

    It was a decision she regretted, and she ended up buying the horse back at an auction in 2011, for over $200,000 more than she sold him for less than a year prior. She was almost instantly rewarded for her faith in the horse, though, and now the two have won the prestigious Belmont. 

Helping His Trainer Erase Painful Memories

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    Union Rags' trainer is Michael Matz; the same Michael Matz who trained Barbaro. 

    Barbaro won the 2006 Kentucky Derby and had the look and all the tools of a horse that could win the Triple Crown. Then the impressive colt shattered his leg at the Preakness. This ended his career and eventually ended his life. 

    Matz has not trained a horse that has played a prominent role in the Triple Crown since Barbaro. And while Union Rags fell fall short of the Triple Crown, he completed the last step that could have sent Matz and Barbaro into eternal glory in 2006. 

Running His Jockey Back to Belmont Winner's Circle

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    Jockey John Velazquez has had an amazing career, with more than 4,000 career victories. But just two of those have come in Triple Crown events. 

    In 2007, he became the first jockey to ride a filly to victory at the Belmont since 1905 when he led Rags to Riches across the finish line first. 

    Velazquez, who has twice led all jockeys in earnings, has now won a Triple Crown event in consecutive years. He took the Kentucky Derby last year atop Animal Kingdom. 

What a Stud

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    Union Rags retirement just got a lot richer—in many ways. 

    With his win in the Belmont, this already high-profile horse is going to command a hefty fee when he goes out to stud. 

    Union Rags will be commanding a comfy seven figures for an afternoon of his "services." This colt is going to live like a king, and he will be able to sit back and enjoy the triumphs of his offspring.