Haskin's Belmont Report: A Morning With Union Rags

The following is a photo gallery of a typical morning with Belmont Stakes contender Union Rags. All photos by Steve Haskin

Union Rags in paddock after gallop
Union Rags in paddock after gallop

Union Rags bright and alert
Union Rags bright and alert

Feeling good
Feeling good

Anxious to get it on
Anxious to get it on

Maintaining his flesh beautifully
Maintaining his flesh beautifully

Looking good
Looking good

Heading to the sand pen
Heading to the sand pen

Horse heaven
Horse heaven

Beauty of Fair Hill
Beauty of Fair Hill

They love paddock time
They love paddock time

Some horses have it made
Some horses have it made

Waiting patiently
Waiting patiently


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Twelve pictures, 12,000 awe-inspiringly beautiful words, unspoken/unwritten, summarized in two: Union Rags.

The Belmont Stakes 2012, cometh the hour, cometh the horse.

As Zarvona would say "go baby, go baby, go baby go!!!

27 May 2012 9:18 PM

Steve, you've made modest comments about your camera so maybe it's your lens, but it's rare to see horse pix that not only have no distortion in a head-on shot but also show individual leaves in deep background.

Your photos are seriously good. Book, book, book!

27 May 2012 9:24 PM

Thanks for the great photos!  My gawd this horse is gorgeous.  Looks like a happy one, too.  

27 May 2012 9:48 PM

I tear up when Phyliss Wyeth says (NBC, KY Derby):  "I'm in love with this horse."  He is a beauty.

27 May 2012 9:56 PM
Terry M.

I wish all race horses got paddock time. Good for Michael Matz.

27 May 2012 9:57 PM

Steve I think I love you!What a great way to end a rainy humid weekend!He looks fantastic and thank you for the wonderful share.He really looks ready to go and happy!

27 May 2012 10:00 PM

so nice to see these horses out enjoying some paddock time and just being horses, plain and simple. thanks for the great pictures!

27 May 2012 10:03 PM


27 May 2012 10:15 PM
Karen in Indiana

Wow! While I do so hope that I'll Have Another wins the Belmont, I'm still a fan of Union Rags. He is looking as fit as I've ever seen a horse look! I won't be rooting for him in this race, but will definitely in the rest of his races.

27 May 2012 10:34 PM

Thanks for these very nice photos! Sure is on the muscle and while he has become quite an enigma lately, this good looking fella will once again have his day in the sun. When on his game, he makes a brilliant move at he head of the stretch and I expect this from him in the Belmont. The queston to be answered is will it be good enough to take down the sensational I'll Have Another. Should be a terrific race.

27 May 2012 10:42 PM

So beautiful!!! One of the prettiest horses i'v seen this year!!!! If there was any horse that I wouldn't mind stealing I'll have another's triple crown chances it would be him. And you just got to be a fan of Michael matz!! And with the johnny has is rider he really has a shot to win the toughest of the TC races and put those doubts to rest!

27 May 2012 10:59 PM
Mister Frisky

This is one serious looking caballo.Rags has spoiler written all over him.History might have to wait another year.

27 May 2012 11:23 PM

I like Union Rags, but I don't see his speed figures supporting a win in the Belmont. Mid Nineties for the Beyer Speed figures will not win this race, which Union Rags has earned in his races.  That said, he is a good horse.

27 May 2012 11:24 PM
Stellar Jayne

On to Belmont and the winners circle!

He is beautiful to look at and a gorgeous mover.

27 May 2012 11:29 PM

Union Rags is a beautiful horse.  You might say he is like "a work of art".

27 May 2012 11:53 PM

Union Rags is definitely "easy on the eyes". He is striking from a physical aspect, look at that tail. Whirlaway would be jealous. I don't feel he's the same horse he was as a 2 year old. Maybe he's lost his competitive edge like Rachel Alexandra did, but that's just my thoughts. Who knows? Anyway, Rags looks up to the task. I wish him well, he'll need it. Dullahan and I'll Have Another won't cut him any slack.

28 May 2012 12:32 AM

What a beautiful horse in a beautiful setting!  While I'll Have Another has stolen my heart, and who I'll be rooting for on June 9th., nothing can be taken away from Union Rags and his beauty or achievements.  Same goes for the other contenders. Is there anything more beautiful than a tb in full run?! Love these candid shots of him "hanging out" in the pasture!  Thanks for sharing them, Steve!

28 May 2012 5:23 AM
Big Lew

Steve, thanks for someone finally covering Union Rags since his Kentucky Derby debacle.  He really looks great.  Did Matz ever mention the popping noise Leparoux  heard while riding UR in the Derby?  Did you notice if they are galloping him longer distances to be able to get the 1 1/2 mile of the Belmont?

28 May 2012 7:14 AM

UR might be almost as handsome as his sire.  He will be stunning after retirement when he lets down and puts on weight.  But, I hope he continues a successful career for some time. Thanks for the lovely pictures of the horse and my favorite place for training.  

28 May 2012 7:51 AM

Thank you for lovely photos of a magnificent horse!

28 May 2012 8:37 AM

I glad Michael changed riders.

28 May 2012 8:49 AM
Pedigree Ann

In the racing business, handsome is as handsome does. Saarland was a gorgeous hunk of horseflesh, too, but he turned out to be distance limited and not quite good enough. Buckpasser, on the other hand, was beautiful and a champion. One of the greatest of all time, Kelso, wouldn't have won any beauty contests.

It's okay to love a beautiful horse (I fell for Hard Spun), but watch out when handicapping actual races. 'Pretty horsies' don't necessarily run faster than the average or plain ones.

28 May 2012 10:21 AM
Lou in TX

This beautiful horse reminds me so much of Barbaro as a  3 yr old.  UR seems to be a very happy horse and who wouldn't be at the beautiful Fair Hill.   Steve thank you so much for all your wonderful articles. Always a fan.

Lou in Tx

28 May 2012 10:37 AM


28 May 2012 10:51 AM

Union Rags looks magnificent as usual.  He's remains a great race horse, BUT I believe 12f is definitely out of his range, and I hate to see him put through the grind of the Belmont.  He's a horse who has managed to get himself in trouble in every race, no matter who rode him.  I think I'd rather see him overcome in 8-9f races, than bury his talent in a race too far.  He has so much ability, and I don't want to see him ruined.  

And I really, really want a Triple Crown this year, and only I'll Have Another can make that happen.

28 May 2012 10:57 AM

Oh...and I can't wait to see the Met Mile today.  What a line-up!  There's so much talent, I can't figure out who'll cross the wire first...I simply love all of them!

To Honor And Serve! Shackleford! Caleb's Posse! little Jackson Bend! Caixa Electronica! Unfamiliar with Saginaw, but I suppose I'll learn something new today.  What a great day!

28 May 2012 11:06 AM

You cant blame michael matz, That horse looks incredible.

28 May 2012 11:16 AM

I love this horse, love the way he is being handled and love the pics.  That said, his numbers say he isn't as fast as I'll Have Another.  Maybe this is a result of bad trips.  June 9 he gets a new jock and a distance that gives every horse with talent a fair chance, so we'll see.  

I'm a firm believer that only a great horse should win the Triple Crown.  If I'll Have Another wins, he will have to be a great horse.  If he doesn't win, I'd like to see Rags in the winner's circle.

28 May 2012 11:18 AM

great photos! looks like a future miler to me. maybe he hits the board in the belmont. i"ll have another is mounting up negatives before the big race ie: no nasal strip, no published works and negative press for trainer. could be "another" close race.

28 May 2012 12:06 PM

Thankyou so much Steve for bringing Union Rags into my home for me to enjoy.  Your shots of him are absolutely fantastic and I have to admit, I haven't seen any as crisp and lifelike as these.  Please keep taking pics of the horses, you do a great job and have a knack for capturing the essence and soul of the horse.  God Bless You!

28 May 2012 12:22 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

I would like an "up close" visit with Union Rags.  He is beautiful. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

28 May 2012 12:53 PM

All four legs wrapped all the time?

He is a beauty. I am more interested in him race in the Haskel or at Saratoga. Best of luck to him whereever he goes.

28 May 2012 12:56 PM


28 May 2012 1:44 PM

Best article yet Steve..

Horse looks better tahn when I saw him at Gulfstream..

We shall see if his performance matches his looks..

May the best horse win.

Side note To Honor and Serve getting 3-1 today??

28 May 2012 2:15 PM

Dixie union was trained by the great richard mandella , ve this horse and his story , smart to skip the preakness. Horible trip in the derby still ran on strong at the end

Smart money will give him another shot to end the hype centered around ill have another

I feel the next tripple crown winner will be trained by richard mandella , a great trainer and a great person, hell have his day .... Long over due

28 May 2012 2:38 PM

Thanks for another article meeting your high standards.  What terrific pics.  You have an outstanding horse looking even more so.  That horse is jaw dropping.  With the great New York rider Johnny V. on him, Union Rags now stands an excellent chance.

28 May 2012 2:58 PM

Oh mercy isn't Union Rags a striking thoroughbred!

Paddock/pasture time is so important for a horse.

Your photos of UR are so appreciated and they are top notch quality.

28 May 2012 3:11 PM

Again Steve, you have come up with stunning photos. I agree that Michael Matz knows how to manage a horse and make the horse's life much happier. I have been a Union Rags fan since the beginning, so it's difficult to pick a horse for the Belmont as another Triple Crown winner would be so exciting. I also agree that a rider change is a positive decision. Although Julien is very talented, he and Union Rags did not seem like a good match. Best to all in the Belmont and wishing a safe trip to everyone.

28 May 2012 4:11 PM

Enter RAGS in the new wenstminster DOG show..............

28 May 2012 4:46 PM
Paula Higgins

Gorgeous pictures Steve of a gorgeous horse! I don't know that he will win the Belmont. Two things will have to happen. The rest Michael Matz gave him will work to his benefit and the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown will have taken alot out of IHA. Michael Matz takes very good care of his horses that's for sure.

28 May 2012 7:32 PM
steve from st louis

Steve, he looks like a draft horse to me, tall and powerful behind. Maybe he can "pull" off the upset. Appears to have outgrown his speedy relatives. Don't know if he can get the 12 furlongs, but I'd sure like to breed him to smallish, slightly built mares.

29 May 2012 10:50 AM
Ida Lee

OMG I've been in love with Union Rags since I first laid eyes on him. And in case I had forgotten why, your photos and article brought it all back to me. Thank you so much for these photos. He looks wonderful and ready for the Belmont. Although I too will be cheering for I'll Have Another as a Triple Crown is just too awesome to ignore, I will continue to cheer on Union Rags in all his future endeavors.

30 May 2012 3:50 PM

As I like to call him The Spoiler!! Go Rags!!

30 May 2012 4:13 PM

I always thought Kelso was beautiful, Ann, and War Admiral, gorgeous. All horses have an inner beauty. Even horses who aren't strikingly beautiful from the onset, like Seabiscuit and Assault. Their beauty grows on you, you have to look deeper, but Kelso? He was handsome, first glance.

30 May 2012 5:56 PM
Union Buster

Great pics Steve. If you hadn't told me this was "rags" I wouldn't have known him from others but they are great pics. Unfortunately this horse just doesn't seem to have gotten better since last year. I don't buy the he has only raced a few furlongs in his last two races I hear some say, if he was good enough he would have run down the slow finish in the Ky Derby once he got rolling. I'm not wasting a dime on him in the Belmont and am really hoping to see a Triple Crown Winner.  

31 May 2012 9:35 AM

This is a great looking colt. I think Johnny V will use his long stride and tactical speed here. I think he wants to run and horses get more stamina from underneath than on top IMO...UR's damsire's damsire is Secretariat and he also has a nice tail line and Nijinsky underneath...from Northern Dancer.

He could be more dangerous here than many think-especially with Johnny V up. The horse WILL have a nice spot with Johnny V up. He almost went wire to wire in the Belmont Stakes for Pletcher in 2009 with a deep stalker. Johnny is not afraid to go...

I did not like UR for the Derby with that post and jockey. He is fresh and looks ready to go. Do not dismiss him.

01 Jun 2012 12:54 AM
Uncle Smiley

Rosie Napravnik is the jockey for next year, in the Triple Crown.

Had she ridden Union Rags, this year... Well who knows..

It wasnt in the cards.

We need a Triple, but who knows if Union Rags will be the spoiler this year?


02 Jun 2012 8:48 PM

SPEED doesn't win the Belmont, class does. Don't count UR out yet. Just pray to God he has a new jockey cause the last one sucked! If we don't have a TC winner, I'm for UR all the way!

05 Jun 2012 4:03 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

To all the folks who doubted Union Rags' pedigree, take the time to actually study it.  He has both Northern Dancer and Native Dancer blood, top and bottom.  Northern Dancer/NEARCO line horses can go 4 miles, never mind a mile and a half. Federico Tesio didn't breed sprinters...he bred Classic horses.

09 Jun 2012 8:50 PM


The Dixie Union stamina limitation ghost has been exorcized in the Belmont Stakes, hallelujah! Now the 3YO championship and HOTY bids will require a herculean come-from-behind effort to topple I'll Have Another from the top spot ...making for an exciting second half of the racing season.

Its now unto the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup for "Beauty & the Beast".

Go Union Rags. Go Phyllis Wyeth. Go Michael Matz. Go Johnny V.

Go Baby, go baby, go baby, go!!!

09 Jun 2012 9:18 PM

Thank God Rags won...hope we can salvage another "disgugsting" year. Here's hoping he rolls back in the Travers and BCC. Though his time was nothing impressive...still, coulda shoulda, woulda...oh well.

09 Jun 2012 10:25 PM
Lise from Maine


Congratulations to Union Rags and Mr. Matz for winning the Belmont Stakes today!

09 Jun 2012 11:19 PM

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