Union Rags gets heart-tugging Belmont win
By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The glorious unpredictability of horse racing produced a heart-tugging winner of the $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday when Union Rags surged to victory in the 144th running of America's most demanding Triple Crown race.
Just a day after the dreams of a generation of racing fans were shattered when I'll Have Another's bid to win the Triple Crown ended prematurely, Union Rags fulfilled another dream with a courageous win.
Patiently ridden by John Velazquez, Union Rags (5-2) snuck through on the rails to run down the gallant Paynter in the final strides before the post.
Paynter (4-1) held on to finish second, beaten a neck, after jockey Mike Smith opened the door for Union Rags when he drifted off the rails in the sprint to the wire.
Atigun, a 20-1 outsider, was third, a further 1-1/4 lengths behind the runner-up while Dullahan, who started as the joint favorite with Union Rags, finished a distant seventh in the 11-horse field.
"I waited for a hole to open up and I got lucky. The horse did it all," said Velazquez.
"At first, the hole was pretty tight, I engaged him to get into the hole - I didn't know it was going to open up - I anticipated it was going to open up, and he took it. Once he did, he put in a good fight."
The connections of I'll Have Another, who won this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, joined the throngs of people watching from the stands after retiring their colt on the eve of the race when he injured a leg. Continued...