2012 Belmont Stakes Winner: Union Rags Will Ride Turn Victory into Eclipse Award

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2012

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09:  Union Rags ridden by John Velazquez narrowly beats Paynter ridden by Mike Smith during the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2012 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Union Rags will benefit from I'll Have Another's absence on horse racing's summer circuit. Don't be surprised if this results in an Eclipse Award for Michael Matz's prized colt.

I'll Have Another still has the inside track. Winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, plus the Santa Anita Derby and Robert B. Lewis Stakes earlier this year, gives I'll Have Another an excellent season.

But Union Rags now has the momentum heading into the latter months of the campaign.

Aside from his Belmont win, Union Rags also won the Fountain of Youth race this year. A third-place finish in the Florida Derby will also go in his favor.

He doesn't have I'll Have Another's credentials yet, but he will get there.

Watching Union Rags race this summer will be fun. His Belmont Stakes victory has completely transformed the landscape for this year's Horse of the Year honor.

Let's see where Union Rags goes from here.


Summer Races

We can expect to see Union Rags again in late July. He will race in the Jim Dandy or Haskell Invitation to prepare for Travers at the end of the summer.

His next two races are going to determine his award status.

If Union Rags finishes in the top three in both of these he will remain in contention. Winning the Travers would give him a tremendous boost.

But I'll Have Another's absence gives him the biggest advantage. I'll Have Another went from summer favorite to tragedy in one moment, and Union Rags seized that moment.

All of these races will have a competitive field. They will not be as demanding as the rigorous Triple Crown run, but Union Rags will have to work hard.

The Eclipse Awards are horse racing's highest honor. The Horse of the Year award is the best of the best.

I'll Have Another may have done enough to win the accolade this year, but Union Rags should not be overlooked. His victory on Saturday was exciting, and his overall resume is not far behind I'll Have Another's run this year.

Union Rags couldn't win horse racing's biggest races, but he will win its biggest individual award. Expect a big summer for Michael Matz and his thoroughbred.