Belmont Stakes 2012 Results: Why Union Rags Was a Deserving Champion

Andrew Kulha@@AKonSportsSenior Analyst IIIJune 10, 2012

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09:  Union Rags ridden by John Velazquez (R) outruns Paynter ridden by Mike Smith (L) to win 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

It was a bittersweet moment for many fans of horse racing when Union Rags made his epic comeback on the homestretch to win the 2012 Belmont Stakes.

On one hand, we had yet another great race to round out an incredible Triple Crown season, and there's no doubting that the Belmont was a fantastic way to cap it off.

On the other hand, though, there seemed to be cloud of disappointment surrounding the event. The Triple Crown season had ended with yet another Triple Crown bid spoiled, but this year seemed to be more disappointing than most.

Not many of us knew that we were watching greatness when I'll Have Another first crossed the finish line at the Kentucky Derby. It was a great race and a great story, but not many could look into the future to see what was in store.

Our eyes were opened a few weeks later at the Preakness Stakes, as the horse ran yet another magnificent race in what was just about a carbon copy of what we saw at the Derby.

All of a sudden it dawned on the sports world like a ton of bricks—this could be the year we finally see another Triple Crown winner, and I'll Have Another was the perfect horse to do it. Not only did the horse possess incredible grace, speed and patience, but he worked so well with his jockey Mario Gutierrez , who did well to position his horse for the win and execute on the homestretch in both major races.

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 08:  Trainer Doug O'Neil and I'll Have Another stand with their team after a press conference outside of barn two on June 8, 2012 in Elmont, New York.    It was announced earlier in the day that I'll Have Another has been scratched from
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

They seemed like a team destined for greatness and perfect for the history books, but all of that was lost when I'll Have Another was abruptly retired because of an injury to his left front tendon before the Belmont.

Yet another year, yet another Triple Crown bid that didn't work out. This time, though, we didn't even get a chance to see if I'll Have Another could do it.

So there was a tinge of disappointment in the air when the trumpets sounded to star the race, and when the gates opened we knew that history would not be made at the 2012 Belmont Stakes.

Nonetheless, the race delivered. Once again a Bob Baffert horse, this time Paynter, found himself in the lead for most of the race, but was overtaken on the homestretch in yet another epic finish.

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09:  John Velasquez, Jockey of Union Rags celebrates his victory  during the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2012 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Union Rags had finally lived up to the potential that we had heard so much about in the previous races, and he looked really good doing it. Not only was Union Rags able to pace himself to the huge Belmont track, but his comeback at the end while hugging the rail and sneaking by Paynter was an incredible sight to see.

It wasn't the race we were hoping for, but it was still great nonetheless.

Perhaps history will look back on the 2012 Belmont as the race that could have been, but those who watched knew that it was the race that Union Rags won, and he did so in impressive fashion.

We didn't see a Triple Crown try, but we were still given a deserving champion when all was said and done.

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