John Velazquez: Why Union Rags' Jockey Will Get More Chances to Win Triple Crown

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst 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

Trainer Mike Matz decided a change was in order for his horse, Union Rags, and thanks to new jockey John Velazquez, Matz looks like a genius for making the switch.

The need for such a decision stemmed from the disappointing race Union Rags had at Churchill Downs. He was thought to be one of the favorites at the Kentucky Derby, but bad positioning doomed the talented horse and he finished in seventh.

Enter: John Velazquez.

Union Rags didn't have any more favorable a position in the Belmont Stakes than he did in the Kentucky Derby. Granted, his post position was better and there were fewer horses in the race, but Union Rags still had to overcome adversity.

Pinned to the inside, it looked like Union Rags would once again fall victim to a bad position. But thanks to a blunder by Mike Smith, who rode Paynter, Velazquez was given an opening to take Union Rags to the front of the pack and took it.

As a result, Union Rags promptly blew by Paynter at the end of the race to win a photo finish. It was a race that, with a little help, Velazquez ran brilliantly.

There's no question that Velazquez's winning of such a huge race will greatly help his career. That's not to say Velazquez wasn't a solid jockey before, but he will be much more well-known now.

This new, more widespread recognition should give Velazquez more opportunities to ride high-profile horses, namely those who run for the Triple Crown.

Sure, Velazquez had already won the Belmont and the Kentucky Derby once, but that can be considered a fluke. Now, Velazquez has multiple Belmont victories under his belt, and that's nothing to shake a stick at.

This isn't the last we've seen of Velazquez in the three biggest races in the sport. He more than deserves his shot at winning the Triple Crown.