Union Rags Pedigree: How Belmont Stakes Winner Beat the Odds

Mike MoraitisAnalyst IJune 9, 2012

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Jockey John Velazquez celebrates after guiding Union Rags to victory in the 144th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2012 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Union Rags' pedigree might have suggested he wouldn't be the right type of horse to run the Belmont Stakes, but after winning the third leg of the Triple Crown, he proved that notion wrong.

Before the Belmont, trainer Mike Matz could only hope that Union Rags' pedigree on the female side was enough to help him in the one mile-and-a-half race.

But as Alice Wincze Hughes of the Kansas City Star reported, there were still factors in Union Rags' pedigree that left doubt in the horse's ability to run such a long race.

Though offspring of Dixie Union usually have issues going beyond 11⁄8 miles, Matz said there are some influences on the female side of Union Rags that give him hope going 12 furlongs.

In the same report, Matz explains Union Rags' pedigree more in-depth.

"His second and third dam were 1½ -mile horses, so I think that's where he gets the distance from," Matz said. "He is a big horse with a long stride that covers the ground easy. But we don't know (about the distance). No one knows."

Clearly, not even Union Rags' trainer was certain this horse could pull off a win with the distance.

Union Rags was a victim of bad positioning for much of the race and needed incredible patience to run the race he did. After holding back and waiting for the right time to strike, jockey John Velazquez got his opportunity and took it.

Chasing Bob Baffert's horse, Paynter, down the stretch, Union Rags caught the front-runner and blew past him to win.

If there was any doubt about Union Rags having enough juice to finish this race, just look at the stretch run.

Union Rags wasn't supposed to be able to run this race as well as he did, but clearly no explosiveness was lost with the longer distance. Union Rags not only finished strong, but had more plenty left in the tank to prove that he was built to run a race like the Belmont.