Expectations can be impossible to live up to. Even if you're a horse.
Union Rags' win at the Belmont Stakes was an impressive—albeit fairly unwatched—win, but it was even more so when you consider that he wasn't really bred to run a 12-furlong race.
Not only did this young colt finally live up to the expectations set up by his parents, he exceeded them. Let's take a look why.
Union Rags' late sire was an impressive horse, but it was in a limited capacity.
Dixie Union won seven of 12 races in his career, and two of those came in Grade-1 races at Malibu and Haskell, which was a lengthy run at 11 furlongs.
But while Dixie Union's offspring has been effective up to a mile-and-an-eighth, he never raced in any Triple Crown event and never competed in a race as long as the Belmont Stakes. As a result, there was much concern surrounding Union Rags in New York.
To add to the uncertainty, Union Rags' mother, Tempo, won two of her three races but never went longer than a mile.
No Successful Grandparents
Of Union Rags' four grandparents, only Dixieland Band and Gone West ever ran in a meaningful race, which happened to be the Belmont Stakes for both.
A horse's pedigree isn't as important as it used to be
Dixieland Band finished 14th in 1983, while Gone West finished sixth in 1987. So while Union Rags has a recent pedigree that raced 12 furlongs, he didn't have any that were successful.
In fact, you have to go three generations back to get to Northern Dancer, who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1964 before finishing second in Belmont.
The route Union Rags took to victory on Saturday was, at least according to his pedigree, quite unique. His parents had some success in shorter, big-time races, which Union Rags disappointed in.
However, the horse who didn't seem to have the pedigree to go long distances went on and won himself the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the Triple Crown races.
This just goes to show you that pedigree isn't the be-all, end-all factor in picking a winning horse.