Union Rags wins 144th Belmont StakesRace co-favorite edges Paynter at the wire to win
Less than three minutes later, it was one of the horses that replaced him as the favorite that ended up as the Belmont winner.
Union Rags, a 5-to-2 co-favorite in the final pre-race line, ran the 1.5-mile course in 2:30.42, edging out Paynter by a nose to win the 144th Belmont Stakes. The win was one of redemption for Union Rags, as the horse had finished a disappointing seventh at the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness Stakes to be sharp for his run in the Belmont.
It was also a win of redemption for jockey John Velazquez, who had ridden Went the Day Well to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a tenth-place finish at the Preakness before moving over to replace Julien Leparoux atop Union Rags for the Belmont.
The skip and the switch paid off for both horse and jockey, and Velazquez earned his second career Belmont victory and third overall Triple Crown race win; he had won the 2007 Stakes atop Rags to Riches (making her the first filly to win the Belmont since 1905), and last year, he rode Animal Kingdom to victory at the Kentucky Derby before placing in the Preakness Stakes and finishing sixth at Belmont.
"I don't have words to describe it," Velazquez said of the win. "I have to give it to the horse. For (trainer Michael Matz) to finally rise up to the top again, I'm very, very happy.”
Paynter’s runner-up effort gave trainer Bob Baffert a second-place sweep, as he saw another of his horses, Bodemeister, place in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes last month. Leparoux, meanwhile, also found himself on the proverbial podium at the Belmont, as he jockeyed 19-to-1 longshot Atigun to the show spot in the winning trifecta.
Dullahan, the horse that had become the race favorite when I’ll Have Another was scratched and was the co-favorite at the final line, finished seventh.