He was considered one of the best two-year-old colts in the country. He finished second to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after racing wide almost the entire way around the track. He debuted as a three-year-old in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and rolled to a victory under Julien Leparoux. Then, everything starting going wrong for Union Rags.
The son of Dixie Union, the winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby, made his final pre-Derby prep in the Florida Derby and encountered a disastrous trip all the way around the track. A month later at Churchill Downs, another bad trip that left Union Rags without a chance to make any meaningful impact. Then he came to Belmont.
Prior to the Belmont Stakes, trainer Michael Matz decided to take Julien Leparoux off of Union Rags and put John Velazquez in the irons. The results were exactly what Matz was looking for.
Union Rags produced a strong run along the rail to get by the pace setter, Paynter, to win the 2012 Belmont Stakes and exact a bit of redemption after a disappointing spring. Paynter, owned, trained and ridden by the same connections of Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, looked like a certain winner at the top of the stretch, extending his lead to three lengths over his rivals. But jockey Mike Smith wasn’t able to keep Paynter close to the rail and Union Rags exploited the opening in the final 100 yards to get up at the wire.
With the end of the Triple Crown season we now look forward to this three-year-old class taking on older horses as they point towards the Breeders’ Cup in early November. While I’ll Have Another is retired, we still have Bodemeister, Union Rags and Paynter to look forward to over the next six months.