Racing: Union Rags to Belmont riches
Union Rags nipped Paynter in a photo finish to win the Belmont Stakes late on Saturday, beating a field without US Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another who had been retired with an injury.
The finish was another thriller in the final leg of the Triple Crown, and trainer Bob Baffert was on the losing end again.
I’ll Have Another used two stirring drives to beat Baffert’s Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. But the champion stunned the horse racing world on Friday when he was scratched from the Belmont and retired due to a tendon injury, relinquishing a shot at the first Triple Crown sweep since 1978 and only the 12th ever.
His absence opened up the race for Union Rags, who had finished seventh in the Derby. A crowd of 85,811 cheered at the New York track as Paynter and Union Rags battled down the straight, and Union Rags caught the front-runner at the end to win by a neck.
Trained by Michael Matz, Union Rags skipped the Preakness and switched jockeys for the Belmont – from Julien Leparoux to John Velazquez, who picked up his second Belmont victory after winning in 2007 with filly Rags To Riches. “I have to give it to the horse. He did it all for me. He just worked so unbelievable and I was just hoping he could put that work into today’s race and he did,” Velazquez said. “I was very proud of him.”’
Union Rags was along the inside in the middle of the pack until it was time to make a move for the lead. Velazquez guided Union Rags to the inside of the front-running Paynter and relentlessly closed the gap.
Atigun, a 20-1 outsider, was third, a further 1¼ lengths behind the runner-up while Dullahan, who started as the joint favourite with Union Rags, finished a distant seventh in the 11-horse field.
It was a special day for Union Rags’ owner, Phyllis Wyeth, who survived a brush with death 50 years ago. She worked for John F Kennedy during his presidency but her world was turned upside down in 1962 when she was involved in a head-on car crash that left her paralysed from the waist down.
Confined to a wheelchair, she became an advocate for helping people with physical disabilities, while indulging in her love of breeding racehorses. She bred Union Rags then sold him at auction, only to have a change of heart when she dreamt that he would do great things.
“I knew he would make it. It was my dream and he made it come true today,” Wyeth said.
Meanwhile, at Perth yesterday, Mumbles Head maintained his 100 per cent course record with a magnificent victory in the Aviva City of Perth Gold Cup.
Trained in Pembrokeshire by Peter Bowen and ridden by Tom O’Brien, he stormed away by nine lengths to register his fourth success at his favourite track. O’Brien said: “I know the horse well and Mr Bowen gave me permission to ride him the way I liked and it worked a treat. We crept into the race on the far side last time round and he was always travelling and jumping for me.
“I took him wide and we stayed out of trouble. He’s lightly raced for an 11-year-old as he has tendon trouble and ideally I would have liked some company as we were in front soon enough. He loves it round here and everything just suits him.”
Another Welsh raider, Sublime Talent, took the Furgo Subsea Services novices’ Chase for Evan Williams and Adam Wedge. “They went no gallop but he did it really well,” said Wedge.
Navy List and Monkinzain led home a 1-2 for Lucinda Russell in the ETPM 5th Birthday Novices’ Handicap Hurdle. The winner was ridden by Campbell Gillies and Russell said: “I was a bit concerned about the ground but it was great to have first and second, and fourth for that matter with Lucky Sunny. Funnily enough we took Navy List out at Cartmel recently because we thought the ground was too soft.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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