John Velazquez and Union Rags were able to run down Mike Smith and Paynter down the stretch to win the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes. Smith had Paynter out in front for almost the entire race, but Velasquez was able to sneak by on the inside rail to take the lead for good.
In a surprise showing, Atigun, ridden by Julien Leparoux, finished third. Up until around the 200-yard mark, it looked like Atigun had built up some steam and had a chance to surpass Paynter, but he slowed towards the end.
The 2012 Belmont Stakes was certainly exciting, but it was painfully obvious that something was missing from Belmont Park on Saturday.
We all know what was wrong at the third leg of the Triple Crown: I'll Have Another didn't run in the race.
It's nearly impossibly to blame trainer Doug O'Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam for pulling the Triple Crown hopeful out of the Belmont, as they feared further injury for their beloved horse after they found out he had a swollen left front tendon.
But that doesn't mean the race was what it would have been without I'll Have Another in the field. If you didn't bet on it, there's no reason for you to care that Union Rags won.
The Michael Matz-trained horse finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, then sat out of the Preakness Stakes to gear up for the Belmont. That's not a very compelling storyline compared to the script I'll Have Another had written before he was struck down by injury.
I'll Have Another shocked the thoroughbred world when he ran down Smith and Bodemeister in the final furlong to win the Kentucky Derby. That kept our interest in the Preakness Stakes. When he won the Preakness, everybody who had ever watched horse racing was looking ahead on their calendar to the Belmont Stakes, hoping to see I'll Have Another complete the Triple Crown.
But without I'll Have Another, after a crushing blow to horse racing, there was emptiness on Long Island on June 9. There was a buzz at the track, but it wasn't what it would have been if I'll Have Another had been gunning for the first Triple Crown since 1978.
Give credit to Union Rags for his come-from-behind win, but it must come with a figurative asterisk. Union Rags ran almost the same race that I'll Have Another did in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but I'll Have Another ran them better. He caught up to a better horse in Bodemeister than Union Rags did in Paynter, and none of that can be forgotten.
It was a good race, but it wasn't as good as it would have been if I'll Have Another was able to race.
Here are the payouts for the 2012 Belmont Stakes, per the New York Racing Association.
|1. Union Rags ||7.50||4.20||3.40|
|3. Atigun ||10.60|