Haskin's Belmont Recap: Rag Time

In his hauntingly melodic song, “Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen wrote, “Baby I’ve been here before. I know this room, I’ve walked this floor.”

Many of the 85,811 on hand at Belmont Park June 9 had been here before, familiar with every hallowed nook and cranny of this historic structure. They walked its floors nervously waiting and hoping and believing, “With nothing on (their) tongue but Hallelujah.”

Just once they wanted to shout it to the heavens, but each time they fell silent. No Hallelujah. No Triple Crown winner. No history; just another Belmont Stakes and another fallen hero. But every time a horse wins the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes they keep returning, longing to see their star “moving like a tremendous machine,” as the fans did in 1973.

This year, they experienced a new disappointment. Their hero was never even given the chance to fall, as I’ll Have Another, the horse who seemed indestructible, was withdrawn from the race the day before due to tendonitis in his left front leg, as a stunned racing world hung its head in sorrow and disbelief. They truly believed that after 34 years, this was the horse who would be allowed entrance into racing’s pantheon.

But from the ashes of yet another broken dream emerged a new hero, who many had believed back in February would be the one on the threshold of Triple Crown immortality. His name was Union Rags, the horse who seemingly had it all. He was big and beautiful and extremely talented. He was trained by Michael Matz, who had brought Barbaro into national prominence in 2006. He was owned and bred by Phyllis Wyeth of Chadds Ford Stable, whose remarkable story seemed destined to have its own chapter in the history books. He had shown his class, his speed, and his stamina by overcoming trouble to romp in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and just failed by a head in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) after racing very wide every step of the way.

When he won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) in his 3-year-old debut, the words “Triple Crown” were once again on everyone’s lips. If the drought was ever to end, this looked like the horse to do it. But the fairy tale came to an abrupt halt when the colt failed to overcome a troubled trip in the Florida Derby (gr. I) and a disastrous trip in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

After the Derby, the son of Dixie Union – Tempo, by Gone West returned to his home at the bucolic Fair Hill training center in Fair Hill, Md., while I’ll Have Another captured the hearts of racing fans all over the country with his gutsy victories over a stubborn and game foe in Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (gr. I). A new hero had been born, with the stamina, courage, and toughness to conquer the elusive Triple Crown. The decades of waiting seemed to finally be at an end.

But with fame often comes fire, and the national media, as well as the racing media, went into attack mode by digging up and sensationalizing every transgression they could find on the colt’s trainer Doug O’Neill, who had been linked to a number of infractions over the years, including a recent suspension for a carbon dioxide (TC02) overage, in which he had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the California Horse Racing Board. But the media, most notably the New York Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and CNN, were relentless in their attempt to bring down O’Neill and besmirch the reputation of owner J. Paul Reddam.

After O’Neill’s suspension was announced, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board ordered all Belmont Stakes horses to be stabled in a designated “stakes” barn, beginning three days before the race. The turmoil surrounding the Belmont continued to mount with a threatened strike by New York Racing Association maintenance workers, I’ll Have Another being nearly run into by a loose horse one morning, the banning of I’ll Have Another’s nasal strips by NYRA, and licensing problems for the colt’s exercise rider. There was also the state takeover of the NYRA board. These unfortunate events overshadowed the feel-good, rags to riches story of jockey Mario Gutierrez, the hospital and youth club visits by O’Neil, the lighting of the Empire State building in Reddam’s colors, the overall accommodating and friendly nature of O’Neill and his team, and most of all the story that was unfolding regarding I’ll Have Another, who was turning in eye-popping “gallops” every morning and looked to be on the verge of superstardom.

While the firestorm surrounding the Belmont and O’Neill was dominating the headlines up in New York, a totally different scene was being played out at Fair Hill, with its forests and gentle rolling hills and winding horse paths, where horses frolic in sand pens and graze contentedly in paddocks. This is the home of Union Rags.

One morning, shortly after the debacle of the Kentucky Derby, Matz was applying ointment on the cuts the colt suffered on his pastern at Churchill Downs. A steady morning rain prevented Union Rags was going out in the paddock and he made his displeasure known. Matz had decided to skip the Preakness and point for the Belmont to give the colt time to recover from his ordeal.

“Everything couldn’t have gone any better except for the last two minutes,” Matz said. “And that was the only part we couldn’t control. I didn’t know what to say to Phyllis, she was so disappointed. You can’t criticize the horse if he isn‘t given a chance to run.”

It was pretty obvious at that point that Matz was seriously contemplating switching jockeys. Earlier in the year, the colt’s regular rider, Javier Castellano, elected to jump ship to ride the Todd Pletcher-trained Algorithms on the Derby trail, which prompted Matz to switch to Julien Leparoux. But that marriage wasn’t working out, and after the the defeats at Gulfstream and Churchill, it was time to change. Matz would eventually choose John Velazquez, who had ridden another “Rags” (Rags to Riches) to victory in the 2007 Belmont Stakes.

Union Rags, as most horses do, was flourishing at Fair Hill. Two weeks before the Belmont, he went out for a steady gallop following an early morning thunderstorm. His regular rider, Matz’ assistant Peter Brette, was taking his first day off in four months, and Paul Madden, an amateur rider who had competed at the Fair Hill races the day before, was given a leg up on the colt.

He walked in Union Rags’ stall, gave him a smack on the neck and said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to get on his back.”

After his gallop, Union Rags was put in the sand pen for a while before being turned out in a spacious paddock, as he is every morning. Matz was hoping to salvage one of the Triple Crown events and felt his best chance to do so was skip the Preakness and train him for the Belmont.

“I don’t know if a mile and a half is the place to accomplish that, but I feel he deserves to go in one of the last two Triple Crown races, and the Belmont looks to be his best chance,” Matz said.

Wyeth, meanwhile, had gone up to Maine with her husband, Jamie, a noted artist, to unwind from the bitter disappointment of the Derby.

“She was good right after the race, but as the week went on it started to sink in that it’s finished; that’s it, the Derby is gone,” Matz said.

Wyeth’s bloodstock agent, adviser, and dear friend Russell Jones, said, “She took it tough and rightly so. With all the attention she was getting, it put her on a level she wasn’t used to being on. She really doesn’t like all the attention. This colt has always been so special to her and to have the rug pulled out from under her was very tough. She went up to Maine and when I talked to her recently she sounded better, but she was whipped.”

The Derby wasn’t the way the fairy tale was supposed to end. The story of Wyeth and Union Rags had played out like some great saga and seemed destined to end the way all fairy tales do.

The story began on Wyeth’s historic Point Lookout Farm overlooking Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, scene of the Battle of Brandywine, fought in the Revolutionary War. Wyeth’s parents, James and Alice du Pont Mills, raced under the name Hickory Tree Stable, based in Middleburg, Va., and bred and owned such top-class horses as Devil’s Bag and Gone West. Phyllis, who would hotwalk her father’s polo ponies as a young girl, said she could ride before she could walk. She worked on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960. In 1962, she was injured in a car accident, suffering a broken neck, which left her unable to walk. For 50 years, she has moved about in a motorized scooter.

“Phyllis is the most remarkable person I have ever met,” said her close friend Rick Porter, owner of Fox Hill Farm. “Her life was turned upside down and she’s been prevented from doing the things she was always able to do, mainly ride and jump horses. As a person, she is in a class alone from anyone I have ever met. Every day is full of roadblocks that most of us can’t even fathom. Yet, she always gets to where she wants to go, no matter how hard it is for her. She needs to have action and is always planning something. She never looks at a situation and feels defeated. She meets the challenge every time.”

Wyeth always dreamed of having that special racehorse, and she thought she had found one in a young Union Rags, who was the last foal from her favorite broodmare, Tempo, who had difficulty breeding and maintaining a pregnancy. They even thought they’d lose her on a couple of occasions. Her foal by Dixie Union was so laid back and easy-going you could sit on him while he was lying down in his stall. But he showed great promise right from the start.

That’s why Wyeth was devastated when her accountant told her she had to sell the colt in order to show a profit and run the farm as a business. This was the horse she had dreamed about her whole life and she was forced to give him up. She admitted she never had such affection for a horse.

She wound up selling the colt at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale at Saratoga for $145,000 to IEAH Stable, who had won the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Big Brown. But she immediately began having seller’s remorse and the thought of losing the horse brought her to tears. This was Point Lookout’s and her family’s legacy, and he was gone.

She kept having a recurring dream that she was meant to have this horse and told Jones to see if he could buy him back. Then one day about six months later, Jones called her and said the colt was in the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sale at Palm Meadows. IEAH was having some financial issues of their own and had been pinhooking horses in order to create as much cash flow as possible.

They had sent Union Rags to Eddie Woods in Ocala to prepare for the sale. “He was such a big, beautiful mover,” Woods recalled. “He had the potential to be anything. And he was just the perfect gentleman to train.”

When Wyeth heard from Jones about her colt being in the sale, she was simple and to the point: “Get him.”

Jones told her she was going to have to pay a lot more than she sold him for, but she was determined to buy him back. Jones thought he could go as high as $400,000, and Wyeth told him to go to $390,000, and if she had to she would borrow the money from the bank. When the colt stepped into the ring, the auctioneer said, “Oh, boy, isn’t he beautiful?”

The bidding rose steadily in $10,000 increments, reaching Jones’ limit. He bid $390,000 and that was it. Down came the hammer. The auctioneer said, “Thank you and good luck,” and Wyeth had her horse back.

“It was as if it was supposed to happen,” Jones said. “She picked that number out of thin air and that’s what he sold for. You have to believe he was meant to come home.”

Wyeth turned Union Rags over to Matz and was a bit apprehensive when he entered him in a five-furlong maiden race at Delaware Park. Matz, who has never had a reputation for sending out precocious 2-year-olds, realized the colt needed experience and had been training well, so he decided to run him short. When the colt won, he and Wyeth knew they had something special on their hands. Romps in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Champagne followed, and then came the tough defeat to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

To Matz’ surprise and indignation, Hansen not only won the Eclipse Award, but won in a landslide. “I didn’t mind losing the Eclipse Award, but I didn’t think Hansen should have gotten four times as many votes,” he said. “It was one of those instances where you look at something and say, ‘How can I be so wrong?’”

If Union Rags was going to have any shot at an Eclipse Award at 3, he would have to win the Belmont Stakes.

The colt remained cloistered at Fair Hill while I’ll Have Another and O’Neill dominated the headlines. I’ll Have Another’s arch rival, Bodemeister, owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert, was skipping the Belmont, replaced by another lightly raced colt from the same connections named Paynter, who at one point was regarded as the more talented of the two.

On the Sunday before the Belmont, Velazquez went down to Fair Hill to work Union Rags, who breezed five furlongs in a brisk :59 flat.

“Michael just said he wanted me to get a feel for the horse,” Velazquez said. “As soon as I got on him, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘Man, he’s pretty strong,’ Michael said, ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be good for you in the race. He’s been a unlucky horse, so just try to get a clean trip and we’ll go from there.’ He did everything so easily in the work; I was very impressed with him. Hopefully, I can give him the trip he deserves. He’s just a big, strong, gorgeous horse, and I think people are going to be surprised to see him return to the Union Rags they knew.”

The common thread that makes racing such a powerful and passionate sport is the cross-section of human interest stories it provides, whether it be about Phyllis Wyeth or the rags to riches story of Mario Gutierrez or a simple bonding between father and daughter.

One of the partners in Donegal Racing, owner of Dullahan, is cardiologist Rick DeNardo, who became involved through his daughter, Michaela, following his divorce. He was intrigued with the bond that was created between father and daughter in the movie “Dreamer,” which they watched together countless times. That led to a trip to the Breeders’ Cup and eventually ownership in horses. Their experience at the Kentucky Derby was one he will never forget.

“To do the walkover in the Derby with my daughter on my arm, it’s absolutely one of those indelible memories that will be with me forever and always bring a warm smile and a moist eye; just an unbelievable experience,” DeNardo said. “I’m mentally humbled and unduly rewarded to be able to participate at such a level. As a parent, there are events that are woven into the tapestry; memories that we create with and for our children, and this will forever stay with me. And I hope if I’m no longer here, Michaela will reflect upon them and cherish them as much as I have. It’s been absolutely beyond my expectations.”

Although 12 were entered in the Belmont, only five were given a legitimate chance to win – I’ll Have Another, Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Dullahan, Union Rags, Paynter, and Street Life, third in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II). Atigun, trained by Kenny McPeek, who upset the 2002 Belmont with Sarava, looked to have the stamina to be considered a live longshot.

Then the day before the Belmont, all hell broke loose as O’Neill and Reddam announced at a press conference that I’ll Have Another would not run because of a tendon injury and was being retired. The news came as a crushing blow to a sport in dire need of a hero and to all those yearning to see a Triple Crown winner, many for the first time in their lives.

Although racing had just had the wind knocked out of it, there was still a Belmont to be run.

Ahmed Zayat was looking to snap a frustrating run of second-place finishes and some bad luck in the classics. He had finished second in three of the last four Kentucky Derbys and lost the overwhelming favorite, Eskendereya, to injury the other year. Bodemeister was nailed on the wire in the Preakness, Nehro was beaten a nose in the Pimlico Special the same day, and Justin Phillip was nipped right on the wire in the True North Stakes on Belmont day.

The morning of the Belmont, Zayat and his family and several friends gathered in their mobile home, which they rent and park on the backstretch overnight in order to observe the Jewish Sabbath. Following their morning prayers, they indulged in a feast of bagels and lox and whitefish and other culinary delights, including a cake inscribed with the words, “Power Up Paynter,” before preparing to head to the races. When TVG showed the stretch runs of the Derby and Preakness, Zayat let out one word: “Torture!”

Little did he know he would be in for more torture.   

Prior to the Belmont, I’ll Have Another was paraded around the walking ring to a warm round of applause and then brought to the winner’s circle, where the fans got one final look at the horse they thought was destined to be the sport’s savior.

“I think of the journey he’s taken me on,” O’Neill said. “He’s such a once in a lifetime heroic horse. This has been so special for the whole team.”

Dullahan was made the slight 5-2 favorite over Union Rags, also at 5-2. Paynter, as expected, went to the lead under Mike Smith, and after a lively opening quarter in :23.72, he slowed the pace down, getting the half in :49.23 and three-quarters in 1:14.72, while maintaining about a length advantage over longshots Optimizer and Unstoppable U.

Velazquez had Union Rags down on the inside in fifth after breaking from post 3 and was just biding his time, waiting for room. The longer the race went the more uneasy Matz and Wyeth became, seeing the same scenario as the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby unfolding.

“I was having flashbacks of the last two races and was starting to get nervous,” Matz said.

Paynter continued to lead, while under a comfortable hold by Smith and looked to be in control of the race, slowing down the fractions with a 1:38.85 mile. Passing the three-eighths pole, Atigun made a bold move on the far outside and looked to be a legitimate threat. Union Rags, meanwhile, had made steady progress without having to break stride at all, but found himself directly behind Paynter, with the outside sealed off by Atigun.

Smith could sense the danger from Atigun and went to a left-handed whip after turning for home. Paynter eased slightly off the rail, just enough to allow Union Rags a path, as narrow as it was. Velazquez jumped at the opportunity and came through the tight spot. Paynter had repulsed the challenge from Atigun and now had to turn his attention to Union Rags, who was creeping up on his inside.

“I saw the hole and I waited for it to open up,” Velazquez said. “I got lucky. The horse did it all.”

Paynter dug in again, but Union Rags kept coming and was able to just get up by a neck in yet another agonizing defeat for Zayat and Baffert. Paynter ran his heart out, especially considering the fact that he lost a shoe in the race. It was another 1 ¾ lengths back to Atigun in third. Dullahan never fired, finishing seventh. The final time for the mile and a half was 2:30.42, leading many to believe that the Belmont would have been ripe for the taking for I’ll Have Another.

But that will remain pure speculation. Union Rags had come through for Wyeth and Matz and closed out the 2012 Triple Crown by writing at least one chapter of the trilogy and turning the fairy tale into reality.

As Wyeth, seemingly overwhelmed by the experience, was wheeled into the winner’s circle, one of those cheering her on was her niece Sophie Derrickson, who lives in Bali with her husband Lance.

“I’m so happy for Phyllis,” she said. “She really needed this. After the Derby, she was great until she got home. Once she got home she crashed for several days and then left for Maine. Phyllis is like my mother. We’ve done everything together. We traveled together just the two of us when I was young and she was able to. Whenever she had something exciting to do she asked me to be there with her. It’s so wonderful to have such a great aunt who treats me like a daughter. I’m the only grandchild in the family. I only wish I’ll Have Never would have been here for us to beat him.”

Paynter’s connections took the defeat graciously, despite their bitter disappointment.

“Is there a Triple Crown for seconds?” Baffert asked. “I need a Triple Crown for seconds. I really thought he was going to win today. He was doing so well. I just feel bad for Mr. Zayat. The poor guy, he’s been tortured on this Triple Crown. Turning for home, I knew we had the horse to do it and that horse snuck up on him there. He’s still a young horse, still learning how to run. It’s over. When you get beat, you get beat.”
Said Zayat, “Heartbreaking defeat; just a heartbreaking defeat. He ran his guts out. What do they call that race, the ‘Test of the Champion?’ To go a mile and a half the way he did in only his fifth race I am very lucky to have him. I’m just very disappointed we opened the rail for (Union Rags).”

So, the tumultuous 2012 Triple Crown passes into history, with I’ll Have Another bidding farewell after coming one day short of possible immortality, and Union Rags, Bodemeister, and Paynter emerging as the stars of the summer and fall.

After the race, Wyeth passed on the post-race interview and was taken to the director’s room before heading back to the barn to see her hero.

“I want to see Peter and the boys,” she said, holding a half-smoked cigar. “I went upstairs, but it got so hot I was ready to pass out. I had to go out and have a little puff of my cigar.”

Union Rags had just been out grazing for a short while and Brette asked her if she wanted to see him out.

“No, if you tell me he’s alright, that’s fine with me,” she said. “You call me in two days and tell me if there’s any heat. I’m sorry I didn’t mention you (on TV); everything was out so of control.”

But Brette had the colt brought out anyway, and Wyeth wheeled herself over to him and gave him a pat on the forehead.

And so, Wyeth and Union Rags got to complete their fairy tale and live happily ever after. The horse was put on a van that night and returned home to Fair Hill.

“Tomorrow he’ll be turned out in a nice paddock,” said Matz, “and can stay out as long as he wants to.”   

The journey begins. I'll Have Another arrives at Churchill.  

I'll Have Another morning after the Preakness

I'll Have Another horsing around with Dennis O'Neill

Team O'Neill and Paul Reddam

Union Rags at Fair Hill

Union Rags at Fair Hill

Union Rags at Fair Hill

Breakfast at Belmont great for kids

Team O'Neill farewell photo with the Big Hoss

Proud Lava Man thinks the cheers are for him

I'll Have Another and crew one last walk


Leave a Comment:


Oh Wow!  I've waited all weekend for Steve's analysis of the Belmont and got that and a lot more.  Thank you Steve for summarizing the entire series of Triple Crown races, the highs and the lows.

I've been a huge fan of Union Rags since I first saw him race as a 2-yr old, and despite the disappointment of the Florida and Kentucky Derbys, I've never lost faith in this horse. Naysayers insisted his breeding "guaranteed" he couldn't get the distance of the Derby much less the Belmont.  They questioned his heart for not moving between horses and getting out of trouble in the Florida Derby and despite the fact he was moving as fast as any horse on the track after he got out from behind horses in the Kentucky Derby, he was given little credit for his 7th place finish and a lot of blame for being off of the board for the first time in his career.

I was as disappointed as anyone when I'll Have Another scratched on the eve of what very well might have been an historic moment for the wonderful sport of horse racing, and we'll never know if Rags could have prevailed with a healthy IHA in the race. While the "he can't get the distance" and "he has no courage" voices have largely been silenced, the slow race time is now being sited as proof Rags is only a mediocre horse who prevailed only due to inferior competition.  Many people believe that if IHA had been in the race, Rags would have had to eat his dust.  I believe that if IHA had run, the pace would have been faster and the final time as well, but I wonder if the outcome would have been any different.  There is no guarantee that after 2 tough races IHA could have held off a relatively fresh Union Rags.  You rarely see a horse able to noticeably quicken at the end of a 12 furlong race, but that is exactly what Rags did when the hole inside of Paynter finally opened.  He was running so strongly past the wire that he looked as though he could go around again.

I am very happy for Mrs. Wyeth and for Michael Matz and very thankful that Johnny V seems a good match for this horse.  I hope to see much more of this pair in winner's circles this summer and fall.

11 Jun 2012 9:22 PM

I know there's more in the hopper, but this was a beautiful coda to a mixed-blessing, roller-coaster week.  There's always a story behind every horse, and no one brings those stories to light better than you do.

11 Jun 2012 9:25 PM

Tremendous article, Steve.

Considering the heartbreak we had with IHA scratching the day before, I thought the race was extremely entertaining. I have to feel a little bad for Baffert and Zayat but the horse with the most, late won.

I am not sure if IHA could have run the final two furlongs any faster than Union Rags did (25.4 seconds). That is a decent come home time in the Belmont Stakes, especially because the horse had to wait for the hole to open. And a great ride by Johnny V. Note how he never asked the horse to make a move until the hole opened.

I thought both Paynter and Atigun ran big. I think Paynter may have won if the hole did not open up, because Johnny V committed to it. However, hole or no hole, if you have enough horse, you repel the bid. Paynter ran his heart out.

I think UR is a classic horse. It was there all along underneath, especially his tail line female with Nijinski being the sire of his second dam (as Matz said). My wallet wishes Paynter held on because that tri would pay better, but I am very happy for the connections of UR.

UR is the horse I thought would win the BS, even with IHA there.

11 Jun 2012 9:56 PM

Ah, but I WAS cheering for Lava Man!  He was right!  What a roller coaster ride this year's Triple Crown was.  Great story, thank you.

11 Jun 2012 9:59 PM

You're an awesome storyteller Steve. Great recap. I enjoyed every line.

11 Jun 2012 10:04 PM

Steve--Thank you so much for another superlative take on our favorite sport! This was truly a bittersweet Triple Crown. I had rooted 100% for Rags in the KD, but after IHA won, I so wanted him to be a Triple Crown horse. I nearly had a heart attack during the Preakness stretch run, but then, on to Belmont. How terribly sad for racing and for IHA's connections, but most of all, for the horse himself. He may not know he missed out on immortal glory, but he sure deserved it. My devastation was only eased by the fact that Rags returned to win. I was, once again, rooting for him but so disappointed by what had happened to IHA.

Well, maybe next year? Let's all hope........

11 Jun 2012 10:05 PM


11 Jun 2012 10:19 PM

Union Rags has a very distinquished pedigree.  I love him and have been following him since before his maiden win.  I'll Have Another unfortunately had soundness issues. He was bred for speed and his pedigree shows it, a lot of line breeding.  If you compare their pedigrees you will come to the conclusion that Union Rags was bred for stamina, not speed.  He is a big strong colt.  He will never have leg issues.  I'll Have Another on the other hand was bred for speed, a lot of line breeding.  Shameful IMO.  Sorry, but IHA was not triple crown winner material.  Too many soundness issues, that IMO his trainer was attempting to hide.  

11 Jun 2012 10:21 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Thank you for another spectacular article!

Michael Matz has been an idol for me since 1976 when I first saw an article about him and his wonderful jumper Jet Run in a show jumping magazine. The story and pictures mesmerized me. I was crushed when I heard that Mr. Matz had retired from the show ring, thinking that the equestrian world had lost an incredible talent. Thankfully I was wrong!

Michael is a true horseman and I think he is one of the classiest people in the horse industry. Any horse in Mr. Matz barn is a very fortunate animal. Fair Hill looks to be an equine paradise. His horses always show up looking like models with not a hair out of place. Sometimes I wonder if perfection is good enough for Michael. Yet he is quick with a smile, eloquent in his words, and I have never heard him be rude or nasty.

Barbaro and Union Rags represented their trainer as well as he presented them. Of course I am completely thrilled that Union Rags won the Belmont. Team Union Rags deserves it!

Doug O'Neill has been a fixture in So. Cal for many years and I've ridden the ups and downs of his career. I've never met Mr. O'Neill and have no idea about how he runs his barn. I know he has had his run-ins with the racing boards a few times and really hope that he does run a clean barn. Doug has been a delight and very gracious this whole Triple Crown run. Unfortunately the racing gods threw some ill-timed bad luck his way so close to the Belmont. The situation was handled with class and dignity and I'm proud to have Mr. O'Neill represent CA racing.

I'll Have Another and Doug were great ambassadors for racing (no matter what the mainstream media reported). Nobody knows the horse better than Team O'Neil and if they say it's best to retire I'll Have Another then it is time. However, it was Lava Man really put the O'Neill stable on the map and I find it so admirable that they listened when Lava Man said he wasn't ready to give up the atmosphere of the racetrack after his retirement.

The retirement ceremony of I'll Have Another in the Belmont winners circle left me with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. Me, along with everyone else, wondering 'what could have been'. Then Lava Man apparently decided that he wanted to be a bigger player in the ceremony. For a moment there I thought the Five Million Dollar Horse and his Derby & Preakness winning stablemate were going to start a kicking fight. Thankfully that never happened. Best of luck in your new career I'll Have Another!

Thank you Steve for another lovely article and pictures too! Thank you Michael Matz and Doug O'Neill for a really exciting Triple Crown trail in 2012!

11 Jun 2012 10:37 PM

Very good article, but I still have not found anywhere where you've addressed your use of the word "disgust" in your previous article referring to the scratching of IHA from the Belmont.  I thought there might be some clarification in today's recap since so many others questioned your word choice.      

11 Jun 2012 10:43 PM

Another great article, Steve! What a Triple Crown it has been. I am happy that so far all horses are pretty much OK with the exception of Take Charge Indy and IHA. Seems like they will both be just fine, thankfully. There have been some great stories and some great teams brought to the spotlight. If it couldn't be a Triple Crown with I'll Have Another, I was rooting for Union Rags, Wyeth, Johnny V, and esp Michael Matz. He's been a hero of mine all through my show jumping years.

11 Jun 2012 10:53 PM
Crown Prince

"The king is dead; long live the king." I can count on you, Steve, to capture the magic of the very highest levels of TB racing, the Classics. Thanks for sending I'll Have Another to his retirement in dignity and for ushering in the latest star.

11 Jun 2012 11:03 PM

Perfect article with the perfect title Steve.  Could not wait for it to come out today.  That describes pretty much how I felt standing there, wanting to scream hallelujah for the new king of the horse world, but it can't be voiced, yet.  There's next year.  This was not the Belmont I was so longing for but a great race anyway in it's own right.  IHA is just beautiful guys, so is Union Rags and Dullahan.  I'm still wreeling from the series of events since Friday's scratch of IHA.  The weather was frightful, dark and dreary when I left for Belmont Park and threatening downpours.  It was supposed to be a bright, sunny clear day in the 80's but we have been stuck in this oppressive and gloomy rainy weather pattern for weeks in N.J.  It's so depressing.  I guess reading back over the events in Steve's article this TC was not meant to be, the loose horse just missing IHA, the stakes barn, the oats, the tentative strike, O'Neill's trials and tribulations, the nasal strips, I'm quite surprised the 85,811 showed up, I really am.  It is strange, it is ususally 45,000+ with no triple on the line and it feels like 5,000 as they are spread out so wide.  

Congratulations to Union Rags and connections.  Ironic how things turn around, we were supposed to be hailing him by this time anyway.  It makes you kind of rethink 2 yr. old champ as much as I love Hansen.  

Farewell IHA, you gave us quite a run with you, we'll never forget you.  Go make little "others" for us and if they should reverse their decision and bring you back we already love you.  We all wanted the Triple so badly for you.

This is a tough one saying goodbye to IHA for all of us I am sure but what a testament to California racing he was.

The elusive Triple Crown, it remains ever so elusive.  I'm happy for Rags but still kind of heartbroken.

11 Jun 2012 11:05 PM
Princess Cecilia

Thanks for the article, Steve. After the drama and roller coaster rides with I'll Have Another, it was a fairy tail ending after all....

11 Jun 2012 11:08 PM
an ole railbird

i hate to see "ill have another" out of it. but 1 monkey dont stop no show. so the show must go on. its going to be a fun filled,& interesting year. icant hardly wait until breeders cup time. "an ole railbird".

11 Jun 2012 11:51 PM

This triple crown campaign has been absolutely splendid with three spectacular races and I salute you for what has once again been the finest coverage offered. Could not have been more pleased to see Union Rags redeem himself in such dramatic fashion and just as pleased to see his late sire, Dixie Union, honored with a triple crown race winner. Loved Dixie and will continue to greatly enjoy Union Rags racing but also look forward to him carrying on the awesome looks and class of his daddy in future generations.

11 Jun 2012 11:56 PM

Thank you for your synopsis of the Belmont and the triple crown trail.  It was a heck of a ride.  It was disappointing that I'll Have Another didn't get his sho, but Union Rags showed his class.  Hats off to the connections.  Thank you for the picture of Lava Man and his proud bearing.  He is one of a kind and clearly relishes his new career taking care of the young chargers before the races.

12 Jun 2012 12:05 AM

Thank you Mr. Haskins - this article made everything okay.  I took half a vacation day on Friday to make sure that I didn't miss a thing regarding I'll Have Another and then the bad news.   My poor daughter went to work and told her co-workers that she left her mother sobbing at the kitchen table over a horse race!  I had planned a get together for the Belmont to see history made and I wanted to cancel it, but, alas, I did not and rooted for the lovely colt Union Rags, and after all, it was the Belmont!  The race was great and  felt in my heart that it would have been something to see IHA and UR battle it out to the wire. I do not know what fates have in store for the great colts Union Rags, Bodemeister, and Paynter, but I believe we are going to see some great racing at Saratoga and at the Breeders Cup classic and Juvie.  I even read some projections for the Hopeful and already some possible Derby 2013 candidates. Here we go again!  

12 Jun 2012 12:07 AM
Greg R

That sums it up neatly!

The pics really round it out, too!

Having no Triple Crown seemed less of a downer when we knew ahead of time the Derby/Preakness winner would not compete.  Sure, it's disappointing, especially since it seems to me he would have had the hat trick, but it would have been worse to witness another failure in the race itself.  And Paynter and Union Rags still gave us an exciting race.  The rest of the 3-yr-old racing calendar will pique plenty of interest and stimulate plenty of debate.  I hope Bodemeister, Paynter and Union Rags will not avoid each other until the Breeder's Cup.

12 Jun 2012 12:17 AM
Rachel O

What a bittersweet ending to the

Triple Crown!

I'm so glad that Union Rags finally got the chance to show what he's got, though poor Bob Baffert, Mike Smith and Zayat had the dismal fortune of coming in second AGAIN!

Such irony. If IHA had run and won--that is, without the injury--everyone would have blamed O'Neill again for doping, etc. up to just before the race. If he had lost, same thing! I suppose now they are accusing O'neill of working the horse too hard. When will they stop torturing Team O'neill?

At the same time, though, Union Rags and Johnny V treated us to a sublime performance with their skillful win.

I really look forward to watching Bode, Paynter, and Union Rags later on this year, and I hope they all get to run against one another later on. And how about the BC?

Odd that so many of the horses everyone was really excited about early in the year just fell away from the competition early on. And where was I'll Have Another on those early lists? Steve, was he on your Derby dozen list? I don't remember.

Thanks for your wonderful article.


12 Jun 2012 12:19 AM

Thank you Mr. Haskin for yet another wonderful narrative of a story with ups and downs to challenge even the most extreme of horse racings' tales.

12 Jun 2012 12:24 AM

Steve, You have done very well here to summarize and tell the stories of two great horses.  One that most any trip handicapper would tell you he would have won, were he to race, perhaps in an epic quarter mile to the wire with the true winner, and the other, a determined and professional champion, showing his talent, grit and determination in shoehorning himself up the rail (with a handy rider) and redeeming his name, legacy and fealtious owner.  So much happened at this Belmont, so much that was and will be overlooked, but you in your unique and knowing voice captured the affair, the people and beasts party to it in a way that raises this bruising sport to the loftly levels it deserves.  Thank you for recapping such a great event, a whirlwind of hope, greatness and excellence, in such style and sincerity.  The racing world is fortunate to have you as its critic and friend.  I grew up reading Jerry Izenberg.  I admire him immensely.  If I didn't know better, I'd say you two went to different high schools together...maybe just a few classes apart.  

All the best Steve!  Great job.

12 Jun 2012 12:56 AM

Very nicely done, Steve, a stirring tribute to a race that was worth the wait after all, and to many of the people and horses involved.

12 Jun 2012 6:49 AM
Rachel NH

A lot of those cheers were for Lava Man, too. We cheer all our champions when we see 'em.

As an apology...I think UR is gorgeous, I admire Mrs. Wyeth and think MM is a great trainer....but...sure, you can win the "Test of Champions" with a career high 95 Beyer, but there are no more 12F races as 3 year-olds.

UR will have to really step it up to catch Bodemeister...and Paynter as he improves.

I was so impressed with Paynter...not surprised at his courage...I mean look at his pedigree.

12 Jun 2012 6:50 AM
John Boudreau

GREAT Read Steve Your the Best of the Best!!!Super Race from Rags>> BUT>> I've got to Think Bode will be a TOUGH Customer the Rest of the Year>> Considering the Beyer Number for Rags>>> and the Fact Trinni Couldn't get in Front of Bode  in the Derby and Trinni Went Wire to Wire in the Woody S.!!!  Good Luck>>

12 Jun 2012 6:54 AM

Thanks, Steve, for another great story and for all your superb stories and comments during this TC season.  

I am not "sold",yet, on UR...I think he needs to develop alot more speed in order to compete successfully in the remainder of the 3 year old season. Although he ran a great race in the Belmont, I believe they ALL got lucky on June 8th.  (But that's just my opinion and I certainly hope it doesn't open alot of bashing and bickering...we seem to have seen enough of the bashing in the last two weeks !)

I thought Paynter, being lightly raced, ran a wonderful race.  I was surprised and impressed with Atigun ... thought he closed well and he ran much better than I had thought he would.

My heart (as many)goes out to IHA and Team O'Neill.  Despite all the bashing from some of the media, the team made the responsible decision in the end and placed the welfare of the horse first and foremost.  No one can hammer them for that !  I think IHA and Team O'Neill gave us all great memories and Doug O'Neill handled the hammering with far more dignity and patience than I ever could or would have mustered!  My accolades to them!

So now it's on to the remainder of the season....less the brightest star.  I look forward to your continued great insights and coverage!

12 Jun 2012 7:46 AM
jim culpepper

All this and Leonard Cohen too? Keep it Up, I'm starting to be impressed. I picked The Leroi colt last year and IHA this year, in great part from reading your posts. Wow! You any kin to a Woodford county Haskins that moved to Smyrna Tn. Still, very sour grapes on the TC.  With the cookie monster gone the Bode monster will be cock of the walk I think.

12 Jun 2012 8:00 AM

Slow race looked like the Rebel all 11 colts were running in a compact field down the backstretch.Thats the best UR can run and he likes the surface at Belmont.The result didnt surprise me as the odd number horses were best in THIS FIELD even with scratch of IHA.IF UR is to be a serious contender for the best 3yo will have to run a LOT BETTER against a better group.He is still a good 2 yo that won a depleted Belmont.Theres no way he gets more than a minor placing in the Derby with a clean trip,he has NEVER run a 100+ Beyer.

12 Jun 2012 8:02 AM
Meydan Rocks

Great post Steve!

Mary -

I am not a horse professional. I assume you are one (or an equine expert in some capacity) when you say UR will "never have any leg issues". How can you be so definite about that?

ANd with regards to IHA being "bred for speed" and UR bred for "distance"...

My best friend is a practicing neurosurgeon. His wife is a horse breeder. He tells me that in his humble opinion, nothing definite can be construed from the "study of horse pedigree".

Just wondering...


12 Jun 2012 8:49 AM

I didn't realize until now that horses in serious training (Union Rags) are turned out in paddocks to romp and do as they please in between races.  Thought they were kept in stalls and closely monitored at all times; going to the track periodically for their exercise. Interesting.

12 Jun 2012 8:56 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

A beautiful read!  I loved it!  And the pictures are just great!  You certainly captured Lava Man strutting his stuff.  Thank you for sharing this story with all of us on the outside looking in.  Hope you enjoy this summer's racing.

12 Jun 2012 9:13 AM

Here's hoping Mary is right on the money in her assertion that Union Rags was bred for stamina, not speed - a bold claim for a colt by Dixie Union -and  will never have leg issues. She was certainly right to point to Nijinsky and Secretariat on the tail side of the colt's pedigree to refute the distance limitations fears and stigma attributed to a colt by Dixie Union. Matz himself mentioned Nijinsky in discussing the colt's ability to route. Love to see a horse escape the all to common brittleness of horses bred for speed that has become almost a plague today. Mary says UR was only beginning to run at the end of the Belmont. Shame the Jockey Gold Cup is no longer run as a two mile route as it was up until 1975 so that claim could be put to the test rather than just  floated as speculation. Suspect the outcome would further vindicate Mary's assertions about UR.

12 Jun 2012 9:38 AM
Fran Loszynski

Steve, what great pictures of Union Rags and IHA. With his head down he probably was sad, because I don't care what anyone says,

I say:  "Racehorses know, they just know". Especially ones with heart. Great stories follow great horses. On to next year. I love horseracing. Now back to Afleet Alex's stall. Go Alex.

12 Jun 2012 9:54 AM
Pedigree Ann


I don't know what standards you use for evaluating pedigrees, but I think most would agree that "by a Travers winner out of a mare by a Super Derby winner (in its 10f days)" is not bred for speed over stamina. Whereas "by a Met Mile winner out of a mare by a Withers/Gotham winner" is a bit more iffy over a distance of ground.

And I fail to see what size has to do with distance ability. Arts and Letters (Belmont, Travers, and JC Gold Cup) and his sire, dual Arc winner Ribot, were smaller horses. The great Hyperion, winner of the Derby and St. Leger, was barely over 15 hands at 3. On the other hand, champion sprinter Midnight Lute was huge. Size is not a determinant for stamina.

12 Jun 2012 9:59 AM
gw bushwacker

A really good recap Steve. I love the way you can put a nice spin on the Belmont which was really not much more than a glorified Allowance Race once I'll Have Another dropped out. I was terribly dissapointed in the lack of quality in the field. Considering outside of Union Rags none of them had ever won a Graded Race on Dirt it was not surprising to see such a pathetically slow race start to finish. Union Rags ran his first mile in around 1:40 and his last around the same. He reminded me of Editor's Note who was another plodder/grinder which is what Union Rags has turned into. Funny thing about those who say he's proven he can go the distance, they all went the distance folks, some slower than others but every last one of them slow including the winner. It's a clear case of somebody had to win no matter what. Good thing Union Rags finished his Ky Derby in time to make it to Belmont for the race. A top notch horse would have pulled away from such slow fractions. Remember Union Rags was never more than 5 lengths off the pace and finished horribly slow for any graded stakes on a fast track.

Look at who Union Rags has really faced in his career. He beat nobody in his Maiden and his "Graded" saratoga Special. He got beat in the BC Juvy by a distance challened horse. His Ftn. Of Youth win was over no top notch 3 yr old. Sure he faced Alpha but we all saw how weak he was when he ran in the Derby. Union Rags faltered in the Ky Derby while the field crawled home with a last qtr in 26 had he been good enough he was clear to run down the others but he just plodded along and finished just as slow. If he faces Bodemeister again he will get blown away and when this horse comes up against some of the better older horses he has a slim to nothing chance.  

The prestige of the Belmont has lost alot of luster lately. The field mostly ends up with New York Allowance horses and unaccomplished colts not good enough to make the Ky Derby. To call a race a G1 when only one of the actual participants had ever won a Graded Race on Dirt whether it be G1, G2, or G3 just isn't right. If the powers that be review races at the end of the year and assign Graded Status based on the competition that showed up that year the Belmont would get a G3 rating if that next year. I'm terribly dissapointed at the direction the Belmont has gone. If the Ky Derby winner doesn't show up what's left is an ordinary field in a "fake" G1 race.    

12 Jun 2012 9:59 AM
jim culpepper

Jon R - Fair Hill trainers seem to be somewhat progressive relative to the norm. Most trainers/owners think their colts too spastic or valuable to let them be a horse.

12 Jun 2012 10:02 AM
Love 'em all

Mr. Haskin, you sure do know how to perk up a fan even during the sad times in this sport, and this recap is a classic.  Sad time for many of us ... but we're happy for UR and his good people.

But, the one thing that helped the most for this fan was seeing the pic of Lava Man strutting his stuff before the crowds ... looking fantastic!  Love that ol' fella!  Will miss "Cookie" terribly ... and all his good folks.  We definitely had a blast!

Thank you.

12 Jun 2012 10:14 AM
an ole railbird

well it was a belmont that will stick in all of our minds for a lifetime. iam sure it affected us all, but in different ways i have a hay crop that has lost a lot of vaule, because i became so in volved in the belmont, that i didnt bale it last week its on the ground this morning, & getting wet. my mexican farm hand wont speak to me, because of it. i actully won money on all 3 races,& had the time of my life watching it all on computer & simlacastcast.   i just have 1 little thing stuck in my craw. mike smith, i think i have figured out how it all came down  when atigun made a run @ you at the top of the lane. i understand the need to eye ball him a little. but before you moved out, didnt it occur to you that there was going to be horses on the rail behind you. you never looked back. atigun wasnt even looking that strong. its been 30 years since i rode a race but at that stage the foremost thought in my mind, before i moved off the rail to engage atigun would have been, WHERE IN THE HELL IS THAT PUERTO RICAN.   after thinking about it for a couple of days, here is what i think happened. with paynter on the lead & running so easy& well in hand. you were in that feel good zone that you get in & forgot that this was the belmont. in your mind you were shooting a scene for "JOCKEYS", & that was chantal coming up to your inside. you were waiting for someone to holler "CUT". if you are goin to continue to compete. GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT!!!! or retire & become a movie star. you cant do both at the same time. thats all i got to say. "an ole railbird"

12 Jun 2012 10:15 AM
Rachel O

Jon R,

Very few horses in training are as lucky as Union Rags, who gets to romp and roll in the paddock between races.

Zenyatta was in her stall during her years as a racer, and when she realized she was truly free to run at Lane's End, she whooped it up, squealed and put on a great show, which she always did, in her own way. You can find the video here on Bloodhorse. It's one of my favorites.

Back to UR, he deserves to be spoiled. He's a sweetheart.

12 Jun 2012 10:28 AM
Don from PA/DE

Amazing quick out of the box write up again Steve! I lost my previous note,so here goes 2nd time...So happy for UR, "ragtime" indeed. Race Gods denied us IHA show, so UR took center stage as I hoped n thought he would in Belmont..early Sat AM on my way to DP, once again past the Wyeth farm and had the belief he would do it, in fact this race turned out just about exactly how I bet it, winning every exotic w/p/s,ex,tri/super and despite keying Paynter n UR on top, gladly took the lesser payout to see UR win, Bravo!. As for two other thoughts..IHA, the line and name is so perfect for him now if as reported his stud career begins soon...above his office (stable) sire door should read the following

"I'LL HAVE ANOTHER", NEXT! May his racing talent be passed on, and his name is well assigned...as for the rest of the 3yr old campaigns, wide open and yet I still believe and hope that if healthy, my fav boy to do most favor and be on or near top of the crop will be "Gemologist", he will be back soon and we will see what he proves to us all, "What could have been, may still be....." Enjoy,Don

12 Jun 2012 10:58 AM
Age of Reason

Wow, what a year it's been. I'm one of those who have yet to see a Triple Crown in my lifetime, and despite being a relatively unemotional person, I literally wanted to throw up Friday when I heard the bad news. I was in a neighboring town and flipping through radio channels when I just happened upon the Dan Patrick Show as they were breaking the report. What a bizarre Triple Crown this has been--a 43-1 longshot bursts on the scene in February, takes two major preps in a take-no-prisoners march through the first two legs of the Triple Crown, only to be derailed and forced into retirement as the first Derby/Preakness winner to miss the Belmont in over 70 years. Plus the loose filly at Belmont, the combined effects of one arbitrary NYRA fiasco after another (detention barns on top of nasal strips on top of cooked oats), etc. Thanks for putting it all in perspective, Steve.

Ranagulzion, Mary, et al: Congratulations, your loyalty to Union Rags has paid off. I'm glad for you. Nothing is more rewarding than sticking by a horse through thick and thin to finally see it deliver a great performance. (As far as my personal fan preferences go, I think I'm about to ditch Mr. Commons for Data Link in the Turf Miler category. And Tapitsfly...wow! A Breeders Cup winner at two still going strong at five and turned in her career-best effort to finally nab that elusive Grade 1(T) ). Once again, however, I must take exception to Mary's comments that I'll Have Another is somehow "bred for speed". The sire, Flower Alley was a Grade 1 winner at 10 furlongs and runner-up in the Breeders Cup Classic; the grandsire, Distorted Humor is the sire of a Derby winner; and the damsire Arch needs no introduction as a stamina influence. Just ask Blame, and Zenyatta is also from that same Kris S line. But of course everyone's entitled to their own opinion...

12 Jun 2012 11:08 AM
Melissa P

As always, Steve, fabulous read. Thank you for bringing forth all the stories behind the stories. I was a Union Rags gal ever since I first saw him last year, and was terribly upset by the ride he got in both the Florida and Kentucky Derbies. Still, both the Derby and Preakness were heart-stopping and I, too, began to hope for a Triple for IHA - especially when I saw that his fifth dam and my first mare's sire's dam were the same mare. The stories behind IHA were so compelling, too. I was truly gut-punched when I heard IHA was out of the Belmont and retired. I felt sure at that point that the big, beautiful boy from Michael Matz's barn would prevail - especially without the human anchor. There aren't many jockeys out there that know "Big Sandy" like Johnny V. When I saw Union Rags break, I knew he had a chance. I truly held my breath when he was down on the rail with seemingly no place to go. Johnny V had it, though. He was in Mike Smith's blind-spot. He knew that Mike was going to hit him left-handed (when Mike goes to the left hand - seems horses pick up a stride or two). Of course, that left-handed whip also drives the horse off the rail. That's all it took. Redemption!

Now I wonder, will Lava Man stay at O'Neill's barn with a new youngster or will there be a "coupled entry" at a breeding facility sometime in the near future?

12 Jun 2012 11:12 AM

I know when I see an article and px come up by Steve Haskin, I'm in for a treat. The sport of horseracing has the best columnist of all!

12 Jun 2012 11:12 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks to everyone. Every race has a story, whether it's the one you were hoping for or not, and to tell it in a way that people enjoy is extremely gratifying. Thanks for all your comments throughout the entire Triple Crown trail, especially all the regulars who give their time to make these blogs all the more interesting.

12 Jun 2012 11:25 AM

I believe that I'll Have Another would have won the Belmont Stakes if he had been 100% as the race was run with a leader for him to run down in the stretch, just as he did in the Derby and the Preakness. I don't think Union Rags would have gotten by IHA. I think he would have been a strong second, but this is just my opinion. It was a good race, but the letdown from IHA's withdrawal and subsequent retirement was there. IHA is not an unsound horse as someone posted here. He got injured and will heal.

I am glad that Michael Matz got some redemption with Union Rags. The horse just missed nipping Hansen in the BC last year and his Derby was full of problems. Mr. Matz will always be associated with Barbaro, but now he has a horse that will allow his training talents to shine once again. Congratulations to Mrs. Wyeth also; dreams can and do come true.

12 Jun 2012 11:27 AM
The Legend

Great recap Steve although I would have written Belmont Recap: Rat Time.

Steve all this praise about Union Rags winning the Belmont is making me ill. This had to be the worst field ever assembled in any Triple Crown race or for any Grade 1 race. Union Rags was life and death to get by Paynter who has never won a graded race and look at the rest of that field it was filled with one other than rats and a horse that is 0/5 on the dirt. I am so looking forward to Union Rags next start so I can bet against him! And that bozo Privman writing for the DRF thinks Union Rags can win 3 year old honors. What is he smoking?

12 Jun 2012 11:27 AM

Steve, please don't ever stop writing. You are an absolute magician.

I am surprised by all the disparaging remarks out there regarding Union Rags. I don't recall any Belmont winner every receiving so little respect. He ran a very determined race and was not the pace setter during the earlier slow fractions. In my opinion, another horse and jockey may not have been able to take advantage of that tight hole on the rail.

I remember Michael Matz very well from his show jumping days and feel that he is a consummate horseman. It is refreshing to see a horse who is actively racing and also still living the kind of life that keeps him happiest.

After all the heartbreak and disappointment regarding IHA, it was some consolation to see such an exciting finish in the Belmont. Both Paynter and Bodemeister demonstrated their quality even without having won. Looking forward to the rest of the season.

12 Jun 2012 12:01 PM
Mike Relva


Great read as always. Thanks!

12 Jun 2012 12:33 PM
Smoking Baby

gw bushwacker.  I tend to agree with some of your points about Union Rags.  I also think he's sort of a grinder like Dialed In and Editor's Note.  While I will concede that a win's a win (a Belmont win to boot)and you should tip your hat to him I do find it interesting that the same people who last fall said "Union Rags ran farther than Hansen therefore he MUST be better and deserves the championship" are not saying the same thing about Atigun who I'm sure ran much farther than Union Rags Saturday.  It would appear that argument only applies when it suits your favorite horse.  

I also agree with some of your opinions on Grade 1 status.  Take a look at Rachel Alexandra's beaten Kentucky Oaks field.  NO WAY that race gets Grade 1 status if they grade them after the fact.  I'm not saying that they  should grade them after the fact I'm just saying not all Grade 1's or even classics come up as tough as you might think.

12 Jun 2012 12:38 PM

I am so sorry for IHA but i really, really wanted UR to prove himself i wanted to see that white blaze cross the finish line first in at least one of the jewels and he did!! Even though we had a devastation in my opinion we had a great TC this year!! Two great colts!

12 Jun 2012 12:39 PM
big john t

Great article!

I love the fact that Matz turns his horses out. Most trainers keep their horses couped up in stalls their whole life and that is the thing I like the least about the sport. I race horses and I turn my horses out as often as possible. They perform much better when they are happy.

12 Jun 2012 12:42 PM

"It makes you kind of rethink 2 yr. old champ as much as I love Hansen." (Alex's Big Fan 11 Jun 2012 11:05 P.M.

I agree. I'm thinking that for the future, voters for the Eclipse Awards (2YO category) should consider traditional Stakes races such as the Champagne equal to the Breeders Cup Juvenile (the latter has far less impact on the Triple Crown events).  

12 Jun 2012 12:49 PM
Karen in Texas

Steve----Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' is one of my favorite ballads and always evokes much emotion for me. It is profoundly appropriate as a final comment on this year's Triple Crown run.

Regardless of the Belmont outcome, much 3y/o racing remains throughout the summer and fall. There can be no sense of entitlement for any of these horses; each must earn their respective accolades. That Bob Baffert accomplished as much as he did with two late-comers is quite amazing to me. I hope IHA finds his optimum fit as a stallion. Perhaps Three Chimneys, where he can be ridden every day.

Doug O'Neill appears to be resilient and I hope he is back on the TC Trail soon. Lava Man alone is testimony to his training ability and understanding of a horse's post career needs.

The second half of the racing season is on the horizon...

12 Jun 2012 1:07 PM

I have always believed in Union Rags' ability, and the Derby did nothing to change that. The speed at which he was closing, after that terrible trip, was amazing. If the Derby had been a couple of furlongs longer, I believe he would have won. And he is one gorgeous horse!

12 Jun 2012 1:10 PM
Smoking Baby

Ranagulzion.  THERE YOU ARE! Congrats.  It was impossible for me to watch those horses galloping out after Saturday's Belmont without thinking of you proudly watching your boy and being stoked that he added a classic to his resume.

12 Jun 2012 1:30 PM
Old Old Cat

Another gem, Steve.  I would think that the Haskell and the Breeder's Cup Races will have more audience and intrigue this year with the general population knowing so much more personally about the horses.  Shame that some have retired to the breeding shed so early.  I hope that the media comes out with some positive stories.

I agree with some of your other bloggers that Mike Smith should have been aware of his left side threat, but seemed to be preoccupied with his right.  A quick glance under his shoulders would have probably sufficied to give him the winning tactics.  

12 Jun 2012 1:54 PM

Never a Rags fan, I said before the race to the company I was in that I hoped he didn't luck into the only trip he's willing to run.

Afterwards, after condolences, I said "No, he won it fair and square. He never got to the outside, which is where he wants to run, and he went through when he had to and won his race."

Still, it was NOT that tiny a hole and if Atigun had been where Rags was he'd have been in front at least a sixteenth sooner. Also, Rags did his "visit the grandstand" number soon after the break. Don't look for a reformed character in the rest of the season.

12 Jun 2012 2:07 PM
an ole railbird

ii would like to offer this story,but i dont want to sound like"I been there & done that". but in order to try to let the unknowing newbies, try to understand team oneils decision to scratch ill have another. i will  not use any names or names of places. i dont want to speak ill of the dead, or wake any sleeping dogs. because ,im still subject to show up @ a racetrack, with my verision of a race horse.   40 odd years ago ,i was still a young man with 15 years of being a jockey, already behind me. just meat & taters racing required touring several states ,in order to get a chance to run for decent purses@ the chance to run in the company of the best horses. futuritys& derbys, & added money stakes races. ($10000. added was the majestic number ). i took a green broke # yr.3 old filly, whose connections had paid a penlity to enter this derby. the timeline in which i was hired to train this filly, forced me to haul her 300 miles& run in a trial heat , in merely 8 hour time line. upon arrival, i made a mad dash to the racing office to fill out a licence apilaction. upon making my request for application, it was handed me by an old competeitor of mine. he was an old jockey whom  i had ridden against a lot. i had handed him the defeat that prompted his retirement. after he became a racing offical i had won an appeal on a riding infraction, that he had handed down. i was granted a license but tooeasy.( i should have smelled a rat).  the filly qualified with a middle of the pack time. but came back off the ordeal in fractured peices. not so much phyically, the most of was her nerves& her pea brain.  constant destractions were implemented as soon as word got out how big of an idiot this filly was. maintence moved their mixing of mulch opperation to wihin 100 feet of this mares stall. front end loaders & dump trucks& a couple of bob cats, all with back up alarms. & they worked 10 hr days. an averege of 5 or 6 loose horses every morning that we went to the track. garabge cans turned over on my shed row. loose dogs in the barn area. disturbances of any & all kinds. imagine my suprise 2 FINDING A SECURITY GUARD,trying to hide of the rafters of the barn. upon appealing to the general mang. (who was a friend, i had ridden many races for his family) advised he to put that mare in someone elses name& let them run her for me. because they were out for my scalpe. & nothing short if my scalpe would satisfy them. his words" they intend on deleting you from racing". my reply to him were the words of a youthiful ex jockey. i answered "it will be hard to make a name for myself as a trainer, if i am running them in somebody elses name".  however i did heed his advise. i killed them with a smile& agood morning, yes sir & no sir. holding the doors for all. even made a show of praying over my meals in the track kitchen. I rarely left the stall, because i had to keep my filly as calm as possible. i kept her ears stuffed with cotton,& would sometimes walk & graze her for hours. she hated that stall& would not eat in it. i fed her in a morsel & stood & held her outside until she ate all she would. which was about 1/2 a normal horses ration. at times i could intise her to eat a little more by adding raspberry coolaid to her feed. i slept with her &spent every minute trying to keep her calm. by race day i had lost so much weight that i could have ridden her myself. when race day came she was32. to 1on themorning line & closed @ 56 to 1. she was so much better than the rest of the fieldthat she out ran them by daylight, the rest of the 8 horse field could have covered with a blanket. we cashed our tickets & cooled the filly & then we moved on out of town without even a celebration. 3 days after we were comfortable in our stalls in another state, the filly settled down & was cleaning her tub. when the news came. BAD TEST, PURSE REVOKED.!!  the test came back POLYETHENEENE-GLOYCAL. it was an ingredient in KOOL-AID.  after reliving this story in my mind. i dont blame reddam & oneal 1 bit for taking a sore horse & getting out. i will always believe if given the chance, in his own barn, without the fuzz breathing down his neck. i believe oneal is horseman enough to have run IHA with the tendon problem, and won the triple crown. & horse wise i dont think he would been any worse from the wear& tare. new york states so called finest brought us to this point. now we will never know. many poxes on you, newyark,newyark

12 Jun 2012 2:10 PM
Soldier Course

In Paolo Coelho's book "The Alchemist" he talks about how we often give up on our dreams at the very moment when they're about to be realized.

I thought about this when I saw Phyllis Wyeth in the winner's circle after the Belmont Stakes. How easy it would have been for her to give up on Union Rags after the Kentucky Derby. She was exhausted and vulnerable to

despair. But she remembered her dream and held fast. What a powerful message.

12 Jun 2012 2:21 PM


In general I agree with you that this Belmont did not test stamina and was not an outstanding field.

I have a problem with your logic however when you would deny Grade I status to a race won by a horse dominating its division. The winner counts too, in fact, most, when considering the class of a race. Should our dominant runners be described as never having won a Grade I because they were so good nothing could challenge them? Should Secretariat's Belmont be an (O)? It says something about a horse's quality when many good horses are afraid to face him/her. Walkovers are tributes. The odd thing about this one was the scratch of IHA who was the one being ducked.

12 Jun 2012 2:47 PM
Curlin 1:53.46

To all the naysayers that say Union Rags didn't beat anything or ran bad, I say just wait until Union Rags (hopefully) runs against Bodemeister and runs him down on the outside. I can't wait until he actually gets to run free on the outside to really show his ability!!.

12 Jun 2012 2:53 PM

Why say I'll Have Another has been "prematurely" retired? What purpose would be served by running him?

He has fully displayed the genetic package he has to offer. His stud value would not be boosted by a Haskell win, minimally by a Classic win. He's demonstrated speed, stamina, heart and toughness, putting hard, close races together and emerging bouncing.

As a source of entertainment, he had a bright future, but why should he be risked to entertain us? What entitles us to that?

12 Jun 2012 3:10 PM
Bill Two

I just wonder which course{s} Baffert will take with his two speedsters.  It doesn't seem likely he will run them as an entry given their identical running styles.  I guess he'll point one towards the Jim Dandy and the other towards the Haskell...or might he keep one in California??? Tough decisions to make, but who wouldn't want to be in his position with 2 of the 3 best 3yr olds in the country?

12 Jun 2012 3:15 PM
Union Buster

wanschural I have no idea what you are talking about when you claim union rags was finishing so fast he would have won if the Ky Derby went a couple furlongs longer. Let me set you straight, rags was 1 length behind Went The Day Well at the 3/4 mark and finished 5 behind him at the end, rags was 2 1/2 behind dullahan at the 3/4 mark and finished 6 3/4 behind him at the end, rags was 3 behind creative Cause at the 3/4 mark and finished 4 1/2 behind him at the end. They were pulling away from him and he would never have caught them much less caught the winner. Both Dullahan and Creative Cause lost a ton of ground and momenteum on the far turn going 7 and 8 wide matching any problem rags had in his finish. He just ain't that good. This Belmont was a sham for a supposedly G1 race.

12 Jun 2012 3:15 PM
Soldier Course

I just saw I'll Have Another's retirement ceremony on YouTube. He looked so sad. And when Doug O'Neill unearthed him it felt like I was watching a loved one being taken off life support. It brIke my heart.

Brendan Gill in "Racing Days": History abounds with the almost.

12 Jun 2012 3:26 PM
Soldier Course

In my previous post "unearthed" was supposed to be "unsaddled". Very sorry about that. Spellcheck is a stalker, you know.

12 Jun 2012 3:29 PM
Mary in VT

Great read, Steve.

Like the world, I'm VERY sorry that we lost I'll Have Another for the Belmont and the Triple Crown. Hats off to his people for putting him first with nothing less than a Triple Crown on the line.

I think some industry personalities are making far too much of the Beyer that Union Rags earned in the Belmont being no better than what he did at 2 because he was boxed in behind horses for almost the entire race. I find it odd that the same people say the pacesetter for the admittedly slow Belmont ran a great race. It seems like they hold the pace against the winner who was only able to squeak through on the rail at the very end of the race but not against the controlling pacesetter who led every step of the way except for the last few seconds.

I don't disagree with the Beyer assigned. It just is what it is based on the final time and the track variant. But .. it is a bigger reflection on the pace that Mike Smith used to control the race than it is on what Union Rags is capable of at 3. Union Rags distanced himself from several nice fields as a 2 YO earning figs in the mid 90's. At 3, he earned a 96 being kept in a tight little box for the vast majority of the Belmont Stakes and only squeezing through a hole at the very end. He barely got to use his best weapon - that big stride of his - until the very last of it - but it looked to me like Union Rags was poised to make a move from the top of the stretch if he could have found running room. We will never know if he could have distanced himself from the field as he did in those memorable 2 YO races if he could have gotten out sooner, or what Beyer he was capable of on the day.

But we do know this .. we are in for some excellent horse racing this summer. : )

The entire 3 YO crop has more to prove if they hope to challenge I'll Have Another for year end honors. Racing luck to all of them.

12 Jun 2012 4:24 PM
Karen in Texas

Smoking Baby----Good point on your "who ran farther" observation!

an old railbird---Thanks for sharing that story. I especially love the "many poxes" comment at the conclusion.

Cassandra.Says---AMEN to your 3:10 P.M. post!!

12 Jun 2012 4:39 PM

Union Buster; Union Rags didn't get clear to run until the last quarter mile of the Derby; therefore, where he was at the 1/2 mile pole relative to Went the Day Well, Dullahan and Creative Cause is really immaterial.  I've watched the race replay many, many times, and one thing I'm certain of is that no horse gained on Rags in the stretch run and it does not appear to me the horses in front of him were pulling away. Can you tell me from the 1/4 mile pole home how much ground was gained or lost?    

12 Jun 2012 4:41 PM

Yes the disparaging remarks about Union Rags is shocking to me.  He ran the last two furlongs really quick and showed unbelieveable determination and courage. Paynter was setting a slow pace and other horses were not pressing that pace.

Actually Union Rags would have benefited greatly with a quicker pace.  He was just getting started when he crossed the finish line.

Union Buster, you must have lost a lot of money on the race, otherwise, there is no real reason why you would make such ridiculous, completely false remarks about this magnificent animal. Try watching the race again; particularly near the end.  Union Rags passed the test of a champion.  You might want to consider taking your classless remarks to another blog.  

12 Jun 2012 4:43 PM

Age of Reason, thank you for your kind remarks.  You sure have shown a lot of class.  Are you related to Michael Matz?  LOL.  Union Rags is the first horse I have followed so closely from day one.  I always thought that he had the pedigree of a champion, and when he won his maiden I knew I was looking at something special.  Thank you again.

12 Jun 2012 4:50 PM
jim culpepper

I'll stop riding my grouch about IHA long enough to say that despite my sympathy for those displeased with the outcomes, whomever had better colts should have run them; since I only have racing pigeons, they won't let me enter.

12 Jun 2012 6:20 PM
Criminal Type

Mary, I'm disgusted by the lack of respect Union Rag's is getting. He ran his heart out. Im also sick of all these people who were backing Dullahan and Paynter now saying that Rag's beat nothing. Lot of double speak if you asked me. HE WON, GET OVER IT !  (Jason is somewhere reading this, laughing)One thing for sure, Union Rag's is going to add some much needed stamina to the breed when he goes to stud. This obsession with speed speed speed needs to stop before it destroys whats left of an increasingly fragile breed.

FYI people, I heard that IHA was being scratched on Thursday.  Ever wonder why he was 6th in the Hopeful and then took 5 months off ? Do I need to say it ? Tendon issues. I believe IHA has had them all along and they did a brilliant job getting him as far as they did without injury or anyone finding out. However, they were afraid the horse was starting to bow and they had no choice but to make up a plausable story and retire him. Check it out, it's true. I don't care if you believe me or not and I don't care what the vet said. I would have preferred Larry Bramledge had examined him instead of O'Neills vet, so at least we got an impartial story, as it was Dr Bramledge only consulted with the O'Neill vet and did not see the horse. I gotta give them credit, I'll Have Another performed amazingly for all of 3 months. Now he will go to stud and sire babies with soundness issues. Just what we need. <sigh>

12 Jun 2012 6:25 PM
Mike Relva


First, Mr. Haskin didn't spin anything. Second, there's always a few crying sour grapes when a bet doesn't work out for them. Don't care if UR ran a 59 beyer- a win's a win. Simple as that!

12 Jun 2012 6:26 PM
jim culpepper

To "An Ole Railbird." Wow! Been there and done that have you? What a story. I'll read it again tomarrow. My only skin in the game was left in the saddle, when I rode from Knoxville Tn, over into the Nashville Basin. Sometimes not even guts and perseverance are good enough, but you worried them anyway. I guess the real lesson here is that you have to handle stock as individuals to get the rsults you did. Some of the folks in NY are a pox unto themselves, no need to wish it on them.

12 Jun 2012 6:38 PM

Mary; I too love Rags whole-heartedly, but if those of us in his corner are to have any credibility on this blog, we have to be realistic regarding the slow time of the Belmont.  You say the last 2 quarters were really quick, but in fact (as is usual in long races) the last 2 quarters were the slowest quarters of the race, and not s single quarter was particularly quick with only the first quarter shading 24 seconds.  That said, I believe Rags is capable of a faster time; he didn't set the slow pace, Paynter did. Johnny was committed to sitting off of the pace and had no where to go until that hole opened, at which point Rags showed what he was made of.

12 Jun 2012 6:41 PM
Bill Two

I see where the NY Times is doing another number on our sport.  They have an article in today's paper about Mexican cartel money being laundered in American quarter horse racing.  Unfortunately, the newspaper failed to distinguish between thoroughbred and quarter horse racing.  The headline simply stated, "Drug Money From Mexico Makes Its Way To The Racetrack" leaving most readers to believe or at least wonder about thoroughbred racing and all of the other swarmy stories The Times has been running lately.  Seems like Joe Drape and Co. have a vendetta going here....

12 Jun 2012 7:38 PM

Union Rags is a very nice colt who just added a win in the Belmont Stakes to his list of accomplishments. Yes, the time was slow but he did just what he had to do to win - My guess when the races shorten up a bit, he will be faster. Sad that so many people can't seem to find a nice thing to say about such a special horse. I only wish IHA had been healthy enough to run in the Belmont.

12 Jun 2012 7:48 PM

Great Man with a big heart for the sport you love. Thanks for your wonderful writing through it we can all love it too. Especially if you are like me and never been to a race,but love it so much. One day I have plans to see one and go to Kentucky. Until then I will settle for you Steve. Thank you again.

12 Jun 2012 7:56 PM

Paynter was setting a slow pace. Actually Union Rags would have benefited greatly with a quicker pace. Mary 12 Jun 2012 4:43 PM. U.R. has had 4 races this year the, (Fountain Of Youth, Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes). Can you show which of these races do claim to you saying that a quicker pace would have benefited him?  

12 Jun 2012 7:58 PM

Thanks so much for all your amazing triple crown coverage Steve!  It has been a thrilling few months.  I am still sad about I'll Have Another not getting to complete his triple, but I guess if we made it through Zenyatta's retirement we can make it through this.  I really do think he would have won...    Please keep the wonderful articles coming... you can take us there like no other!

12 Jun 2012 8:13 PM

Steve, you've woven so many back stories masterfully in a portrait of a singular day at Belmont.  Thank you for your vision....and you willingness to kindly share so much with us.  

Of course I'm unhappy IHA didn't make it.  But UR won it fairly, and lovely Paynter ran his heart out.  All of these teams deserve our thanks.  Say what you will, it was an exciting close race, and I enjoyed the heck out it.

12 Jun 2012 8:15 PM

Thanks Steve! Another great story about my Beautiful Boy Union Rags!

12 Jun 2012 8:45 PM

Mary: Your horse finally won, but you keep spewing sour grapes nonetheless.  You do nothing but criticise the competition, and anyone whose opinions differ from your own.  

Velasquez rode well,gave UR a great trip, and both succeeded in winning a G1 Classic...the Belmont, in the last jump to the wire...by a neck.

I'll Have Another has a pedigree with plenty of stamina.  He wasn't fragile as you claim...and he just happened to also possess speed.

As far as predicting whether or not a horse will break down...there are no absolutes..no guarantees.  Best to remain silent on that issue.

As far as Union Buster being classless...you should know...

One thing Belmont did right...brought back Frank Sinatra's New York, New York.  

As far as a 2nd place Triple Crown trophy, sorry Mr. Baffert...It would go to Alydar...the only horse to come in 2nd in all 3 legs.

You used 2 different horses.

12 Jun 2012 8:53 PM
Mike Relva


That's simply too absurd to respond with a rebuttal.

12 Jun 2012 9:22 PM

A big thanks to Steve Haskin for such a fabulous series of articles for the Triple Crown this year.

Anyone who is critical of Union Rags surely can not be critical of his owner, trainer, or his amazing pedigree.                          I am thrilled for the Farishs at Lane's End as well as Mrs. Wyeth and her late parents in their role in producing Union Rags. As AP Indy is pensioned, I think Lane's End will look to acquire UR after he retires.

And what a fitting ending for Johnny V, especially after the Life At Ten aftermath. What a way to go into the hall of fame. He's top class all the way.

Changing the subject, does anyone think he is going to visit the two queens in Kentucky after he retires?

12 Jun 2012 10:03 PM

Honestly, I don't believe we have seen the best of most of this year's three-year-olds, save I'll Have Another who will show us nothing more, and who may have more to offer at a distance but we will never know.  I understand the financial part of the decision to retire him, and maybe that is the problem I have with it.  Regardless, whether Union Rags, Paynter, Bodemeister, Dullahan, Went The Day Well, or any number of others in the class go on this year (or next) to exceed, or fail to reach, our expectations, only one won the Belmont.  Say it was slow, say he beat no one special, say he should have won with more separation, he still outran all the others participating and did what he had to do, and in doing so overcame a previous limitation when running through a pretty small hole.  I perceived it to be smaller than what he was presented with in the FL Derby.  Maturity, training, jockey, or just a different day/track may be the difference, whatever made the difference, he advanced as a race horse, and all concerned have plenty to be proud of.  He may not have thrilled by lengths, but he did absolutely thrill by doing what he had to do to win while providing the stretch run we all wondered whether he was capable of.  Really, what more do we want from him?  That he be Secretariat II?  Does anyone actually expect that to happen anytime soon?  It has only been 39 years since the "Powerful Machine" opened 31 lengths on the rest of the field in the Belmont - rendering it no longer a GI by some standards based on the comparison between the winner and everyone else - far from a lifetime for many of us.  Big Red was a once in a lifetime horse, and Penny Chenery is still here, and Dr. D. and I are still here to tear up every time a replay of that stretch run shows up on TV, for another three-year-old to even approach that realm of superiority.  Sorry.  Maybe in another 20 years or so.

12 Jun 2012 10:25 PM

Pedigree Ann,

I would agree with your assesment of IHA, especially with Arch underneath...

However, UR's tail line is certainly stronger than IHA's IMO, and its not just what distance the sire and damsire won at, it is what have their progeny done...

Gone West has sired a Belmont Stakes winner and is now the damsire of another...

13 Jun 2012 12:17 AM
Greg R

What would any other 3-yr-old colt have to do the rest of the year to displace I'll Have Another from the divisional championship?  Could it be done without winning the Breeder's Cup Classic?  If UR adds the Travers, that wouldn't do it, and if Bodemeister adds the Haskell, that wouldn't do it.  If the Eclipse winner is a horse other than IHA, he'd surely have to beat the other top contenders more than once AND defeat older horses at least once.

13 Jun 2012 12:22 AM

"A top notch horse would have pulled away from such slow fractions. Remember Union Rags was never more than 5 lengths off the pace and finished horribly slow for any graded stakes on a fast track."-GW Bushwacker

Are you sure about that? Actually, your reasoning is flawed. UR was not really asked until the eighth pole. His come home time of 25.4 is actually in the top 5 from the last 10 years. The time was slow but faster than the last two. Nice try...

The fact is none of these horses are really bred to run FAST at 12f, including IHA. You have no idea what he would have done. Aside from his tendon issue, he was looking like a tired horses the last 4 days before he was declared out.

BTW, only Afleet Alex, Curlin and Rags for Riches sped up in their final 2 furlongs in the past 15 years...

13 Jun 2012 12:23 AM

"FYI people, I heard that IHA was being scratched on Thursday.  Ever wonder why he was 6th in the Hopeful and then took 5 months off ? Do I need to say it ? Tendon issues. I believe IHA has had them all along and they did a brilliant job getting him as far as they did without injury or anyone finding out. However, they were afraid the horse was starting to bow and they had no choice but to make up a plausable story and retire him. Check it out, it's true."

Good point, Criminal Type. That was the race IHA received a 59 BSF for, correct? They were giving him some shock wave therapy for his back prior to the Derby? Funny how that is the preferred treatment for tendon issues...

Look, it just makes the job they did getting the horse back on the track that much more special, and IHA was a very nice horse with a will to win. However, I think the tendon issue flared up AGAIN at the worse time and they were forced to retire him. I agree they were afraid it was started to bow.

Decisions were made at breakneck speed, including retirement, to make the day before story a bit hard to swallow to anyone who is not a syncophant of the turf media and merely repeats what they are told. It makes no difference when he was injured originally anyhow, either way they did the right thing by the horse. But the truth would be nice every once in a while.

We are rarely told the entire story, and the horse did miss 5 months of training because they wanted to give him a "rest?" No, there were soundness issues he obviously recovered from. There is no other reason to give a horse 5 or 6 months off (see Big Drama post BC Sprint championship)...

If, by some remarkable feat that Thursday was the first IHA had tendon issues, than his hurt "back" and 5 month rest between his 2 and 3 year old seasons make me believe he was a horse with some issues and saw the Vet often.

Which is a shame...what a great stride the horse had. Just like with Big Brown, all that speed and heart, and yet he was cursed with brittle feet! The racing gods giveth on one hand and taketh away on the other IMO.

13 Jun 2012 12:42 AM

Can you show which of these races do claim to you saying that a quicker pace would have benefited him (UR)?

Are you serious? The Florida Derby and the pedistrian fractions set by Borel on Take Charge Indy...no one pressed TCI and when it came time for running he had plenty in the tank to repel any bid.

Pace makes the race.

BTW, Smarty Jones AND Birdstone both actually ran a slower final 2 furlongs in the BS than UR. However, Smarty did hit 10f in 2:01 and change, meaning that Smarty ran the 10f faster in the Belmont than he did in the Derby.

13 Jun 2012 12:48 AM


Leonard Cohen wrote in the same song:

"There's a blaze of light

In every word

It doesn't matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah"

When Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes my shout was the holy, not the broken Hallelujah! It was absolutely exhillarating and I look forward to a few more such breath taking performances from the Dixie Union colt before the Summer is out.

13 Jun 2012 1:26 AM

Unless someone knows for a fact that IHA has previously battled tendon issues, I believe any speculation should clearly be stated as such.  It certainly is not obvious to me that this was a flare up of an old injury.  I'm certain I heard his problem at 2, after the Hopeful, was "shins" which I do not believe is related to the tendon.

If his connections say the shock wave therapy was for his back, again, unless you can prove otherwise, I don't think it's fair to say, essentially, that the "O'Neill Team" are a bunch of liers.

13 Jun 2012 3:14 AM
Criminal Type

Geronimo, I don't pay any attention to Beyer figures. They mean nothing to me. This obsession with speed and greed is destroying the breed. Thank you for pointing out that electroshock therapy is the preferred treatment for tendon issues. There needs to be some kind of reform in breeding. Starting with taking the chronically unsound out of the equation. UB Song is infamous for siring horses with soundness issues. I would be very interested to know how many of his sire sons are also passing these issues along. I mean LOOK at them, Winslow Homer (injured & never the same) Zensational (injured & retired) Old Fashioned (injured & retired) Dunkirk (injured & retired) Rockport Harbor (injured & retired) 8Belles (dead) Even his daughters are passing on those traits, look at Out of Bounds. UnBS certainly sires good looking foals and The ironic thing is I love Unbridleds Song, he is a beast, but damn, the fragility of his offspring is ridiculous. It's like continuing to breed a German shepherd bitch you know has hip dysplasia. Unethical at the least, perhaps criminal in the extreme. It needs to stop.

13 Jun 2012 5:13 AM

Robinm: I agree with you.  In 2011, IHA's problem in the Champagne was sore shins.  It been widely publicized for over 6 months.  Why all the speculation?

13 Jun 2012 6:31 AM
Criminal Type

Robin, This is not a personal attack on IHA. He is a beautiful talented colt. This is not about liking the horse or not liking the horse. Like I said he performed brilliantly for 3 months and made his connections a lot of money. Obviously this is quite a lengthy campaign for a hourse with no soundness issues.

It's very possible that "shin" issue wasnt about the shins at all, it was about the tendons attached to those shin bones. It wouldn't be the first time a trainer spun a story about a horses condition to minimize the publics knowledge of the seriousness of an injury. Until the report of the Electroshock therapy came out, there was no mention whatsoever about IHA having back issues. Considering, as Geronimo pointed out, that Shock therapy is the preferred treatment for tendon issues, I tend to believe that this is the true nature of his infimities.

13 Jun 2012 8:27 AM
Criminal Type

Slew, I wasn't aware I'll Have Another ran in the Champagne. In fact, I'm sure he didnt.

13 Jun 2012 8:45 AM

Cassandra Says, how can you possibly think I'll Have Another should be retired because "he has fully displayed the genetic package he has to offer." What exactly is that garble suppose to mean? Thoroughbreds are born to run, horses like IHA are winners because they love the game, they love competition. Anyone ask the horse if he wants to be turned out to pasture for the next 20-25 years? I'll Have Another is being carted off to the breeding shed far too soon. We don't need more ponies in the oven, we need more heroes on the track. By the way, you are being kind of rough on Rags, aren't you? These horses  deserve more respect than some people give them, take a hint.

13 Jun 2012 9:23 AM

Could I change the subject please?

You did a great article called "Girls Gone Wild" about the great fillies and mares who have dominated the sport of kings.

What about an article or two about the great ladies (i.e. owners and jockeys) in racing?

And speaking of ladies, I wish that someone would send you to Royal Ascot to cover the current queen of racing--Black Caviar.

Thanks and may your shelves be bursting with awards.

13 Jun 2012 10:44 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve, I knew there was a tremendously gut wrenching story behind Union Rag's Win before. Already knew about some of the issues and life experiences for Mrs. Wyeth.  I voted for John F. Kennedy when i was 21. It was my first vote for any President, but i did not tell my dad who was a died in the wool Republican. I reverted in the next election.

I saw John F. Kennedy the day before he was killed. He was in

San Antonio, i stood on the corner of I 10 and Broadway as his motorcade left the San Antonio Airport to go to festivities down town. As his motorcade slowed to turn the corner onto Broadway, i was standing not 5 feet from him. I was all by myself having left work to take the mail as i did each day. Mr. Kennedy rolled his window down and looked right at me and smiled. At 21 i was thunderstruck. Within 20 hours he would be gone. I took leave from my job as Time and Attendance Clerk at the Air Route Traffic Control Center on Broadway, which was near the airport, from the minute i heard the news in the control room until the next week. I can still envision his smile and his eyes that pierced right thru me.

So i understand why Phyllis Wyeth's intuition and passion run deep in everything she puts her heart into. And i am truly happy so happy for her for the win of her Union Rags.

The media just earned several more black eyes. To try and use their

stage to garner support against horse racing sucked. Totally sucked, sorry for the unladylike word, but there is nothing that can

be substituted as unfavorable and is strong enough. For the media to rehash so many stories on one owner and trainer was so obvious. Hope you !$%^&$@* are happy. I am even more turned off with the news services Steve mentioned. All in an effort to misdirect people's choice of I'll Have Another.

And not to exclude the antics of the New York Racing Authority. 85,000 plus people evidently don't read your news articles.

And the obscene efforts on behalf of all the liberal news organizations in their efforts to squash horse racing enthusiasts.

It didn't work.

You either love horses and horse racing and anything horse. Or you


If you don't, move the hell on and

leave the rest of us alone.

Horses are here to stay.

And Steve when you spent the day with Union Rags taking photos before the Belmont, the second

photo of him standing sideways in his paddock in step made me truly gasp at his powerful muscled mass of power.

I thought my word, that will be a big horse to beat for I'll Have Another. Then the scratch. No words to describe it for me. None.

Gifted you are Steve. And you always win your races! And you have some very loyal fans from all walks of life who believe in you and all that you stand for.

I have missed 3 days of reading Bloodhorse.com due to a side line

job i have posting and selling foreclosed homes, so it keeps me trucking around 22 counties in the center of my state. I don't feel

grounded unless i can read Steve and Bloodhorse every day.

So today i read this article and some of the comments and I am appalled at those who find fault with a winning horse. Boggles my mind. And Kentucky Vet where ever you are, you bashed the heck out of Union Rags all along.

You insulted "you people" til it was nauseating.I hope you bet everything you owned and lost. I guess that is why you have not posted lately, you are choking on crow and your computer is out of electricity.

I am at peace with the winner Union Rags, his devoted caregivers the Wyeths and his trainer Michael

Matz who saw something in UR and he was right. And Johnny Velazquez

did a magnificent job. Getting thru on the rail was amazing. And

Mike Smith don't beat yourself up.

You all ran a clean race and had you pulled Paynter to the rail, that would have prevented Union

Rags from showing he could do what he did. I have nothing but admiration for Mike Smith for his

fairness. And i love that silver haired trainer from the left coast. Just glad he is still with us to continue his life long love of training race horses. Paynter and Bodemeister are amazing and

they are not finished.

Thanks Steve.  

13 Jun 2012 10:48 AM

Robin shin issues are tendon issues. But he did terrific things in spite of his past injury.

Let's cellibrate that he will ok and that nothing happened to him in the Belmont.

And let's not dismiss the importance of the Racing Gods. It was their decision for Union Rags to win.                           I know when I was at Gulfstream when Union Rags was running, I felt the presence of the spirit of Barbaro. And the horses sensed it too; I never saw so many horses act up in the show ring.

13 Jun 2012 10:49 AM
ceil rock

Just for the record, Zensational was retired sound after the Breeder's Cup Sprint. Mr. Zayat wanted to stand him at stud and breed some of his own mares to him. (The fact that all of his races were on synthetic tracks may have helped keep him sound.)

13 Jun 2012 11:00 AM
Age of Reason

jim culpepper,

Great to see a fellow Tennessean on the blog! Did you know Tennessee is tied for 3rd place on the list of states which have produced the most Kentucky Derby winners, tied with California, despite not having any substantial thoroughbred industry to speak of since before the Great Depression?

13 Jun 2012 11:13 AM

Some people here are making disparaging and unsubstantiated comments about I'll Have Another's soundness, and they seem to be some of the same folks that are singing the praises of Union Rags.  Just remember this... physical perfection is not a requirement for a horse to be a champion.    

From the writings of Steve Haskin:  "Forego was one of the most unsound horses you're likely to see, with sesamoid problems that plagued him throughout his career, as well as calcium deposits. When Frank Whiteley took over his training in 1976, he told owner Martha Gerry that Forego had the worst legs he'd ever seen on a horse.  It was said about Forego that he had one good leg. Whiteley would sit outside his barn every day hosing down Forego's legs for several hours. The resulting puddle was so large it was known as Lake Whiteley."

13 Jun 2012 11:23 AM

And thank YOU Steve, for a wonderful spring of writing and pictures of the Triple Crown trail.  You are an integral part of this spring time celebration of the sport.

I did like your entry about "Wyeth, meanwhile, had gone up to Maine with her husband, Jamie, a noted artist...."  True, certainly, but quite an understatement!  A little like saying Secretariat could run a bit!  Perhaps relevant to this spring would be his portrait of one of Phyllis'  hats


Anyway, let's rest a bit and get ready for summer.  And may Union Rags race as long as Cohen's "Hallelujah", which is what, about 100 verses now?

Thanks again Steve!

13 Jun 2012 11:25 AM
Karen in Texas

It is impossible to know if I'll Have Another had anything other than "shins" prior to his time off without copies of his treatment/veterinary records being made public. It is irresponsible to speculate otherwise. To refer to him as "unsound" is equally unfair and irresponsible. If this were anything other than the cyber age, we would all be responsible for libel with all this discussion.

Slew's 8:53 P.M. post last evening touches on some of my feelings and observations regarding the most ardent Union Rags supporters. He did win the Belmont and a win is a win, but there is a lot of racing to go before the year-end honors. The horse (UR) is not sacrosanct as  a few seem to believe; he is flesh and bone and subject to the same life circumstances as every other animal on the planet. Comments such as his emanating the "spirit of Barbaro" only serve to further the notion that he is entitled, somehow, to almost deity status. I rather think those sorts of remarks tend to stimulate more backlash by his most vocal detractors as well. So, here we are at the close of the spring classics, and Rags has plenty of opportunity to go forward and prove his prowess on the track. Let him, in fact, do that; if he EARNS his way by performing, it will not be necessary for him to be constantly defended by those who support him.

13 Jun 2012 1:27 PM

Linda In Texas: Loved your post. I can't imagine actually seeing President Kennedy one day and learning that he had been murdered the next. Incredible! Also, I agreed with what you wrote about the press and their focusing on drugs and cheating in horse racing. Well, you know the press. They are absolutely rentless when they discover anything negative and hardly ever cover both sides of an issue. Look at how they cover politics. Sickening. I don't understand some people's unwillingness to give credit to a horse when that horse has won a big race either. Listening to NBC's not so great coverage of this year's Triple Crown races was irritating at times. I'll Have Another was dissed by most of the talking heads, even after he won the Preakness. No respect. They discussed Bodemeister in a far more positive way than IHA. Jerry Bailey picked Dullahan to beat IHA in the Belmont. We all know how that horse ran. Some horses never are accorded the respect they deserve and I have no idea why. Union Rags won the Belmont, fair and square, yet some continue to dismiss him. No matter how good a horse is, no matter how he/she performs and wins, they will always have critics. I am looking forward to the rest of the racing year. It will be fun to see how this 3 year old crop goes on.

13 Jun 2012 1:52 PM

TerriZ  - "shins" (shin splints) are NOT tendon issues.  Look it up.  It is simply a stress fracture of the front of the cannon bones.  I understand "shins" is also used to describe the development of bony spurs between the splint and cannon bone.  Again, NOT a tendon issue.  I think it is unfair to the connections of IHA to state as fact, that this horse previously had tendon issues they were trying to hide.

13 Jun 2012 2:06 PM

Good for you I like Candy!  I personally am a huge Union Rags fan but see no point whatsover in trying to tear apart another horse.

13 Jun 2012 2:09 PM

Actually, "shin problems" usually means bucked shins. (Human runners call them shin splints.) This is a cannon bone problem which is very common with 2-year-olds who have just started training and racing. It's not really a soundness issue, and it's definitely not related to IHA's tendinitis. The cannon bone has to remodel itself during exercise to become denser and stronger. Old time trainers used to blister or pin-fire the legs - cold water and rest is more commonly used now. Tendinitis means that the tendon is losing its elasticity. Scar tissue may form in the tendon and it becomes more prone to serious injury, like a bow. Once the tendon is stretched, it doesn't ever go back to its original condition -its like an old flabby rubber band. There was nothing suspicious about IHA's injury. It was a very unfortunate thing to happen, and no one is more disappointed than the trainer and jockey of this wonderful horse. After the Eight Belles tragedy, horse racing has to err on the side of caution.

13 Jun 2012 2:42 PM
Criminal Type

Linda in TX, Im a Realtor too, All I do is list REO properties (for ten yrs). I love it, since I dont have to deal with the public much and I can work from home. This allows me to spend a lot of time with my horse. I have an agent I refer all my buyers to and collect a 25% referral fee off of every sale. My brokerage's home office is in Austin.

13 Jun 2012 3:06 PM

Well as for me the end has come triple crown is over, interest really wanes, although i may periodically check back on UR because this horse is starting to peak,Have other people here on this site acually been on Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Tracks, i mean physically, i never gallope a horse on them but have walked them,this year a walked on Churchill Downs track fri morning it was like 1-95,Pimlico is always fast and hard, Belmont is like a plowed field, deep sandy,loose, that is why Dullahan didn't race good he was like a fish out of water. There a really certain bunch of people who are ranting about what IHA would of done this or that, won by ten, first of all he had to be 100% in this race which from Tues on he was not,Not racing him was a no-brainer call, he was unraceable, come First, he was trying to bow a tendon guys, is everyone aware what that is? Had he only had tendonitis they maybe could of raced him, but would of had to medicallu help him, course state of new york coventiently took O'Neil right out of the equation, don't touch the horse, if you plan on breeding him then you certainly don't want to have him bow a tendon, this colt has had issues right from square one that pointed to potential problems, O'Neil is on record  saying that when he described his long sloping pasterns as could of been a contributing factor to his tendon issues.I can't see this horse getting millions to be a stud, young horse buyers aren't dumb if he passes on his issues to his ofspring, he only raced 7 times, and was on the downhill side of the mountain.why do i say that because he boke down I wouldn't want to be gamling a ton of money, I am 71 years old have galloped horses in New england in late 50's, all on the bull ring tracks, shoveled more horse manure than i reallywanted to , worked as a gopher for vet in 64 at Rockingham park, where our calling card at night when we treated horse racing next day was if he had halteer on we leave it off,had one off we leave it on, then they knew we had been there. You know I loved this horse and I have not got over the way it all turned out,I though sure he had an exellent chance, please stop talking about those stupid and i mean stupid beyer figures, and the time, you know UR did beat 2 horse with more faster figures, This is one very handsome nice horse who on the move,  For all you IHA guys who have been beating up UR, better get used to it, Great trainer, One more thing since this is my last time hear, racing needs more integrity in this sport did anyone listeen to DW Lucas?, great story on horse, jockey was absolutely sensational, owner is a really classy guy, horse was great, trainer to much bagggage, and please do me a favor go on Throughbred Times and read article Milkshaking leaves a sour taste. Rember O'Neil is carryin a pryer form Illinois he took 15 days and 1000 dollar fine

13 Jun 2012 3:46 PM
Karen in Texas

c/rock----Nice, concise, sensible, knowledgeable post at 2:42 P.M. Thank you!

13 Jun 2012 4:28 PM
Paula Higgins

Nice story Steve and great pictures. I was so happy for Michael Matz and Phyllis Wyeth. Union Rags is one handsome horse. Bob Baffert is an absolute hoot. I loved the Triple Crown for Second Place comment.

13 Jun 2012 6:26 PM

The trainers are becoming adept at answering the media questions in a polictically correct manner.The notion that UR compares to Barbaro is utter nonsense.It will come in handy if they decide to pursue a political office maybe in Horseracing or for the conference calls for a CEO where he is grilled by analysts(although sometimes they already know the questions so it is more of a performance than real.

13 Jun 2012 6:44 PM

How can I be sad and happy at the same time?

Thank you so much Steve for such an incredible finish to this year's Triple Crown.

You are one special horse lover and writer.  Don't go away, ever.

13 Jun 2012 7:08 PM

thanks c/rock - you explained shin issues better than I did.

13 Jun 2012 7:15 PM

Criminaltypr: I stand corrected. I meant to say the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, the ONLY race IHA finished out of the money.

There are sore shins, bucked shins, and shin splints.  Azeri's colt, Take Control had bucked shins at 3, and has not raced since.  Sore shins is common in 2 year olds because of the constant pounding on the legs produced by training.  

And Criminal Type...there is a world of difference between Electro Shock Therapy (ECT) and Shock Wave Therapy.  There is no electricity involved in Shock Wave therapy.

"Contrary to what its name implies, shock wave therapy does not use electrical pulses, but rather high-energy acoustic pulses, much like sound waves, that have the ability to travel readily through soft tissues to effect hard material and tissues such as mineralized deposits or bone."  It has been used for minor stress fractures and to enhance bone growth and minimize pain in horses.  It has been effective for years in treating kidney stones in humans, by breaking down the stones.  

I think it would be most positive to not doubt everything O'Neill has accomplished with IHA.  Innuendo and speculation is driving this blog into the ground, all for nothing.  The horse was retired while he was still comfortable, and will not have to face the complications and pain of a bowed tendon, which would have occurred had he run in the Belmont.

And for crying out loud, give Union Rags credit.  He won the Belmont fairly, and deserves the accolades for that.  He did everything he was not expected to do, and he did it right.  It was a G1, 12f Classic, and it was an exciting race.

What might have been no longer exists.  What actually happened is now part of racing history.  I'll be looking forward to seeing more in the rest of the year.

13 Jun 2012 7:50 PM
Eric Rickard

Let us be real, people! The Belmont was a grade III at best. Paynter has never won a graded race. Union Rags has never gotten faster since his two year old campaign. Dullahan is a turf/synthetic runner. IHA, Bodiemeister and most likely Creative Cause win easily.

If Union Rags wins against an older Horse in a Grade I or II or III, I will be very surprised.

However, it made a great story.

13 Jun 2012 8:09 PM

Horse racing is a tough business. Glad to see UR's team have a dream come true. Watching the field it was clear it was IHA's race to lose. On to the next series. If anything BB has proven how great a trainer he is. His horses are right there every time. This must be driving him crazy.

13 Jun 2012 8:15 PM

Another great Triple Crown season in the books- thanks for taking us on the ride Steve.

Mary is taking a lot of heat, and deservedly so, stepping into the shoes of the all-knowing Draynay and KY Vet as she does her Ochocinco touchdown celebration dance.  To say I'll Have Another doesn't have any stamina influence in his breeding is a pretty questionable thing to say after he left the field in his dust at 10 furlongs AFTER breaking from the 19 hole in the Derby by Yum.  And thanks for informing me that Union Rags will never have any leg problems.  Please explain to me why you weren't surprised when Michael Matz' freak Barbaro broke down in the Preakness.

Time for Baffert to ditch Mike Smith on his front runners.  Bejarano and Martin Garcia are superior speed riders to old man Smith.

CHRB ruled that O'neill wasn't guilty of milkshaking, so time to let that one go.  He won't serve a day of the suspension they handed down. Take a quart of gatorade and add a tablespoon of baking soda and you have yourself a delicious milkshake- doesn't sound too dangerous to me.

Penny Chenery can kiss my a** for disrespecting Doug O'neill! I felt sorry for her husband when she was yanking his chain around in that cheesy movie Secretariat.

Penny seems like the kind of elitist snob that thinks people are so stupid that they shouldn't be able to select a soda pop over 16 ounces due to the inherent risks.

13 Jun 2012 8:35 PM

And Charlie Cigar, I am sure you must like a kindred cigar smoker--Mrs. Wyeth. God bless her she is a hoot. She smokes a cigar in celebration every time Union Rags wins.

13 Jun 2012 9:12 PM

Union Rags ran a sensational race and should be celebrated for acheiving what scant few racehorses are capable of. And with such classy connections, including a trainer in Michael Matz, a true hero who helped to safety those terrified children from a crashed, burning airplane, represented our country as an Olympian with grace and dignity and sets a standard as a trainer in our industry that few can match in class and dedication to the care of his horses.

As to the comments regarding prior health issues of I'll Have Another, only the owner and/or trainer are going to have intimate knowledge (stating from experience) of exactly what is and has been taking place with the horse. It's part of what can be maddening about racehorses because they all go through little niggling injuries and you're just trying to keep them from manifesting into something more serious. Whether IHA was dealing with this tendon issue before Thursday is pure speculation and sure, it is certainly a possibility. There are legal medications that can tighten down a bowing tendon temporarily to get them through the next race that perhaps, could not be used once IHA was admitted to the detention barn. I do not think this is the case but it would also not surprise me in the least considering the "timing" of the stated injury. Regardless, he is a terrific horse with a ton of talent and if he was fighting this tendon all along, then it makes his performances even more impressive. Retirement is absolutely the right thing to do with a bowing tendon because his likelihood of further and much more serious damage would be a near certainty which would be much more tragic than losing a triple crown.

Time to pop a cork and celebrate both of these terrific racehorses  as well as Bode, Paynter and all the hard trying TC participants and it's not too early to begin generating some excitement over the promising two year olds getting ready to fly through the lane at Saratoga, Del Mar, etc.

13 Jun 2012 9:18 PM

Robinm - great post at 3:14 and great post also to you c/rock at 2:42!

And to some people...can't we keep it positive here?  Jason and Dray are gone so do we really need to take their places or act like the mainstream media on here and continue the negativity?  Stating "opinions" as if they are facts and making accusations without proof do nothing useful and to be honest I always worry that somebody new to racing will get on here and read what some of you write and turn away forever...

13 Jun 2012 9:31 PM
Mike Relva


Don't think Mrs Chenery loses alot of sleep over what you think. Typical of attempting to slam someone that's a credit to the game.

As for your pal Dougie, he put himself where he is. Let's be clear about it.

13 Jun 2012 9:50 PM
Greg R

I would never talk that way about Mrs. Chenery or anyone else, but I would have to agree that her comments were uninformed and uncalled for, to put it nicely, and she lost some class in my estimation.

14 Jun 2012 12:34 AM

In regards to supporting I'll Have Another's run for the Triple Crown, the classiest supporter was the owner of Affirmed. Mrs. Patrice Jacobs Wolfson was always a fine horsewoman and owner, and she certainly stepped up to the plate for Team O'Neal and I'll Have Another.

14 Jun 2012 4:38 AM

I'm not much of a handicapper, but I observed one thing at the track. Great trainers know when their horse is ready to step up in distance and to step up in class. That's where I have made and lost some money at the track--LOL. And Matz is surely a first class trainer.

14 Jun 2012 4:53 AM

Charlie Cigar, I invite you to visit the pedigrees of Barbaro and Union Rags.  Also look at I'll Have Another's pedigree.  They all have Mr. Prospector close up on the tail side of their pedigrees.  

I can't stand the Mr. Prospector line; many of his offspring had front leg correctness and soundness issues.

Fortunately Mr. Prospector was bred to a Secretariat mare to produce Gone West, broodmare sire of Union Rag's.  Secretariat's broodmare sire, Princequillo evidentally had the unique ability to cure soundness issues.

Unfortunately, Barbaro and I'll Have Another did not fare so well.  They both were great race horses, but I think that they were bred more for speed; Union Rags was bred for soundness, durability.  

14 Jun 2012 10:20 AM
Bill Two

I wouldn't be so quick to denigrate Union Rags. Admittedly, I didn't think a lot of his chances in the Belmont and obviously underestimated the colt.  He may not have run the fastest Belmont in history - far from it - but to flatly say this horse doesn't have much of a future as a racehorse is ridiculous.  Lots of folks thought the same thing about Drosselmyer and were tearing up tickets on his competition after the BC Classic.  Looking at Union Rags record he hasn't run many bad races and those were the result of poor rides apparently.  Let's not be so hasty judging this horse.

14 Jun 2012 10:41 AM

Geronimo, in the Florida Derby, Union Rags was blocked by Javier Castellano and El Padrino.  When UR's finally got through, he was running TCI down, but unfortunately he ran out of real estate.  In the stretch, no horse has ever passed Union Rags.  

14 Jun 2012 11:43 AM

Geronimo, of course a quicker pace would have benefited Union Rags.  I don't know what your talking about.

14 Jun 2012 11:44 AM
Smoking Baby

Bill Two.  With the possible exception of Union Buster I don't think anyone is denigrating Union Rags.  I believe we all would agree that he's a real nice colt and I for one was glad to see a "big name" horse win the Belmont as opposed to some horse we'll never hear from again.  I think the point some are trying to make is that so far we haven't seen anything to show us that he's the SUPERHORSE that we've been told he is by some.  This is just my two cents worth.  I would agree wholeheartedly that yes, he did have excuses in his two losses this season but had he been the GREAT horse some are saying he is he'd have overcome his trouble.  The Belmont win (as nice as it was) certainly didn't appear to cause any of his detractors to change their opinions of him.

14 Jun 2012 12:40 PM
Soldier Course

Did anyone notice that the sound seemed to be better this year for NBC's coverage of the Belmont Stakes. The sounds of the crowd going wild as they were loading the horses into the gate was loud and clear, not muffled as it usually is. Added a lot to the excitement for TV viewers. Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York " was not tinny, as in previous years. It occurred to me that NBC could have made sound improvements in anticipation of a Triple Crown.

14 Jun 2012 3:25 PM

Mary - take your blinders off! Flower Alley, Distorted Humor, Sadler's Wells, Arch, Kris S., Roberto, Pleasant Tap, Pleasant Colony, Nijinsky - Are these the speed-favoring influences you think you see in IHA's pedigree? You also realize Mr. P is going to figure prominently in European pedigrees in the future since he sired Miswaki, the dam of Urban Sea. This means that Galileo and Sea The Stars are descendants of Mr. P. Urban Sea herself won the Arc (1-1/2 miles no less) and both of her above-mentioned sons won the Epsom Derby, also at 1-1/2 miles.                                                                

Union Rags has a miler's pedigree. Dixie Union was a sprinter/miler and Gone West best wins came at a mile. This is not a bad thing, since many breeder's have always thought that milers make the best stallions. That's one reason horsemen want to win the Met Mile. Wanting something to be does not make it so!

14 Jun 2012 4:49 PM

Mary: You keep disseminating misinformation as though that alone would make Union Rags a superior horse.  Cut it out, already.

I'll Have Another has Mr Prospector in his sire line, along with Sadler's Wells and Danzig.

His dam traces back to Roberto, Princequillo, Danzig, Alydar, Pleasant Colony, and Nijinsky II.  That looks stamina laden to me.  

IHA is not a lesser horse just because you want him to be.  He's well bred, top and bottom.

And you keep repeating the same crap every time you post.  Enough already.

14 Jun 2012 5:13 PM

Mary, I don't know if you are a "numbers" gal. I'm guessing "not" because the DI (dosage index) and CD (center of distribution) are so close for the 3 horse you are comparing (Barbaro, Union Rags and I'll Have Another) to be almost negligble, with I'll Have Another actually having the lowest of the 3 horses.  Low numbers in these categories tend to predict more stamina versus speed.

14 Jun 2012 6:33 PM
Bill Two

Point made, Smoking Mary.  Just want to give the horse his due.  After all, he beat everybody that showed up to run.  You know after a lot of recent Belmonts I've had to fight the urge to diminish the accomplishments of the winners only because the horses didn't really figure and a lot of them never did anything afterwards.  The thing about the Belmont is that none of these horses are really bred for the trip.  We're all guessing when it comes to this race.

14 Jun 2012 8:27 PM
Karen in Texas

Interesting that you bring up the DI's, robinm, as I made a list of all  those numbers for the Belmont horses this A.M. I'll Have Another had the lowest of any in the field except Five Sixteen, with IHA's at 2.11 and FS's at 2.00. UR's (as you said) was slightly higher at 2.14. (Haven't compared Barbaro's) The DI's were fairly predictive of order of finish, actually, with Paynter at 2.50 and Atigun at 2.33. Optimizer, at 3.24, and Dullahan, at 4.20, were the highest in the field. IHA should not be suspect in the stamina department. That misinformation needs to stop being put forth, since neither his performance record nor his DI support the notion.

14 Jun 2012 8:34 PM

thanks for the additional dosage info Karen.  I've got to admit I am very curious by what method Mary is analyzing  IHA's pedigree and finding it wanting in the stamina department.

14 Jun 2012 11:36 PM

I always love your insight, Steve, but I do think you've lost a few points this time, notwithstanding your lovely description of Rags' human connections and their stories. It seems our sport is so desperate for a TC winner that we will deify any horse on the cusp (IHA) and damn any horse who ruins it (Rags). Your comments early, particularly "...the national media, as well as the racing media, went into attack mode by digging up and sensationalizing every transgression they could find on the colt’s trainer Doug O’Neill, who had been linked to a number of infractions over the years, including a recent suspension for a carbon dioxide (TC02) overage, in which he had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the California Horse Racing Board. But the media, most notably the New York Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and CNN, were relentless in their attempt to bring down O’Neill and besmirch the reputation of owner J. Paul Reddam." O'Neill himself admitted on several national interviews that he looked back on his earlier days and would have done some things differently (good for him to own up). Given the FACTS of the past I, like yourself part of the media, thought both O'Neill and Reddam were treated with kid gloves by the media and NY sought to keep O'Neill clear of any hint of transgression with the (unfortunate but, in the end, wise) detention barn. You went out of your way to praise IHA and rub the polish off Rags' win. I have no problem feeling good for the horse (we'll know soon, but the Belmont time meant nothing as UR ran on the pace set by Paynter, so blame him for the time, and Rags is in almost the same place as - ahem - Curlin at this point in his career)), for Michael Matz - easily one of the cleanest guys in this or any sport and deserving of a phoenix like Rags to help erase the bad memories of Barbaro, and for Phyllis Wyeth, wife of "noted artist" (are you SERIOUS, Steve? That's like saying Picasso was a "good" at drawing!) and a grand dame in her own right (hey, what brand of cigar is her favorite? I'll Have Another!).

As for some of the comments in response to this post, also running down Rags and propping up IHA, it seems some of the commentators have drifted over from Yahoo! news. People! Let's respect each other, our sport and its deserving victors!

15 Jun 2012 3:20 AM

Richard Gross:  Instead of scanning comments, perhaps you might take the time to actually read them.  No one on this site (except for Union Buster) has denigrated Union Rags or his accomplishment.

Mary, on the other hand, has gone out of her way to discredit IHA by opining mis-information.  Of course, misinformation has been the key ingredient in her many posts.

As to drug violations, perhaps I should clue you in.  there is a website that is the International Fund for Horses..


It lists the top trainers with the most violations since 2010. Only 2 trainers have no drug violations...Christophe Clement and Graham Motion.

However....far ahead of O'Neill on violations (which the information states are sometimes unintentional overages) it goes:

1...Jamie Ness

2...Rick Dutrow

3...Bob Baffert

4...John Sadler

5...Bret Calhoun

6...K McLaughlin


8...Mike Maker

9...J Hollendorfer

10...Steve Asmussen.

11...Dale Romans.

The information is presented not as quantity of violations, but number of horses run and violations per those starters.

Now, wouldn't you find it odd how the media zeroed in on O'Neill, but left Dutrow and Baffert unscathed? Or how the media never praised Clement and Motion?  I know I found it slanted.

Steve Haskin and most commentors certainly did give Union Rags credit.  He deserves the praise for a gutsy and fantastic win in a very tight and difficult race.

It was the TV commentators who opined what might have been had IHA been in the race, mostly because disappointment will happen whenever a Triple Crown is on the line and not achieved.

To you Yahoo may be a website,  but the term was coined by Swift in Gulliver's Travel to exemplify crude and uncivilized barbarians. It is most definitely not a term I would use to describe the commentors on any Haskin blog.

15 Jun 2012 10:11 AM
Stellar Jayne

Steve, Thanks for another well done informative article.

Criminal Type, 12Jun 2012 at 6:25pm and Mike Relva, 12June 2012 at 6:26pm - right on with your comments!

Let the Union Rags naysayers eat crow!  I was there and he looked fabulous!  He has the pedigree, class and conformation for winning the Belmont.  He and John V. were great a great team and courageous to go as close to that rail as they did.

Paynter ran a good race, but he set the slow fractions, not UR. This was a year of very good three year olds - it is too bad some people have to be so negative!

15 Jun 2012 11:26 AM

Union Rags reminds me a lot of Quality Road (without the high Beyer speed figures). A big, grand-looking horse who looks like he should be a Triple Crown winner. When he lost to Hansen in the BC Juvenile last year, everyone said he should have won - it was Javier's fault he lost. He was the immediate favorite for the Triple Crown. However, he has just not progressed from two to three. And like Quality Road, he really is not at his best at longer distances. I certainly don't think anyone (especially Steve) has been denigrating him. Nobody had to build up IHA - he did it himself with great performances in the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby & the Preakness. No reason to think he wouldn't have won the Belmont if he'd made it into the starting gate.

15 Jun 2012 11:55 AM

I admit I'm partial to horses from Gone West such as Awesome Feather,Smarty Jones, Quality Road, and Union Rags.

And I'm partial to Chris S horses such as Zenyatta, Blame, Arch Arch Arch, and I'll Have Another.

And if I see a beautiful big chestnut at the track, my heart skips a beat--especially if the thoroughbred resembles Big Red.

Let's all support the wonderful horses and their connections. And let's support the Sport of Kings and Queens.

15 Jun 2012 2:17 PM
Mike Relva


Do you actually think Quality Road could get 12f like UR did last weekend? Doubt it.

15 Jun 2012 5:00 PM

Mike - No, I don't think Quality Road could get 12 furlongs, or 10 furlongs for that matter. But I don't think UR is a natural distance horse, which is why most handicappers questioned whether he could win. This year's Belmont didn't have one legitimate dirt stakes winner other then UR. The time was slow. Union Rags highest lifetime Beyer is 96. Paynter is going to be a very good horse but he is an allowance winner. Dullahan is a turf and synthetic specialist. IHA won 3 legitimate Grade 1's on the dirt. His best Beyer was 109. If Union Rags had beaten him, then I'd have been impressed. If UR wins the Travers I may still be impressed. As of now, the jury's out.

15 Jun 2012 6:47 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

A big congrats goes out to I'll Have another for being such a great champion!. He will be sorely missed on the track.  He would have lit up this Belmont field if he was in the gate, but thankfully they retired him before he injured himself more. Union Rags is a nice horse, but he is fooling nobody with that horrendous 2:30 4/5 finish.  Third slowest belmont in the last 30 yrs I believe.  Infact he would have been beaten by DaTara if you put each of their runs together on the same surface which I believe was fast main track.  Oh well.  I feel Bodiemeister would beat Union Rags at any distance and hopefully we see Union Rags at monmouth for the Haskell.

15 Jun 2012 7:40 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Stellar Jayne- Give me a break. Paynter actualy set very decent fractions. But he had no foundation. Union rags beat an allowance horse by a neck. Start tooting your horns UR fans...

15 Jun 2012 7:44 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

So if trinniberg wins the Belmont in 2:40 does that mean he can get the distance too ?....

15 Jun 2012 7:55 PM
Mike Relva

PhysicallyImposingFifty Proof

It means less than zero! Like I've stated-a win's a win. Not big on numbers, all I know is UR beat everyone in the gate. Sorry you didn't have him.

16 Jun 2012 1:37 AM

It's been 34 years since a Triple Crown was scored, the longest US drought in TC History.

It's been about 80 years since a TC contender scratched out of the Belmont. (Unless you want to include Big Brown who was pulled up and DNF.)

It's quite understandable that people are disappointed.  IHA wasn't just running for a TC;  he was bringing hope back to racing fans.  Some fans have NEVER seen a Triple Crown won.  Some have, and miss the day when...

The scratch of IHA was like a giant balloon suddenly deflating.  There's a bitter taste left on one's tongue, and that bitterness sometimes is spit out on blogs in a knee jerk reaction to a major loss to racing.  Time alone will salve that tongue with honey...


But some of us, even in our loss, have taken notice of new stars emerging.  Union Rags just ran the race of his life, along with Paynter.  He did everything right, everything I never expected of him.  The Belmont Stakes was one of the most exciting races of the day, right down to the wire.  He finally got the dream trip under a jockey who knew how to draw out the best in him.

I have no problem with the time.  It's a 12f race, a distance never run by these 3 year olds.  The time was under the control of Paynter, the pace setter, who had a jockey who knew how to conserve Paynter's energy.  IHA would have stalked Paynter just As Union Rags did.  It would not have been a faster race, even with the tactical IHA.  I thought it was a damn good race, and I'm so glad I watched it.

Union Rags and Johnny V deserve all the accolades for the win. No one has to enhance what they so expertly accomplished. Trying to diminish any other horse in the race or scratched from it simply tarnishes the day.  I've heard of "Sore losers", but we seem to have our share of "sore winners".

And who expected Atigun to be so close to the pace?  or Dullahan to be so...lost.  The racing gods have spoken.  No Triple Crown this year...but there's always next year..(unless the Mayans are right...but then...they never really discovered the wheel, did they?)  And Union Rags emerged victorious, with a new-found maturity.  I can't wait to see how he does next out.

And my condolences go out to the connections of Giant Ryan, a horse I always enjoyed, and hated to lose.

16 Jun 2012 8:49 AM

Some of you on this blog have no idea what you are talking about.  Paynter set the pace and none of the other horses pressed it.  Union Rags of course would have benefited from a faster pace, he switched off when the pace slowed and Dullahan was cooked at that point.  Union Rags was a man running against boys.

16 Jun 2012 11:11 PM

Pedigree, through Union Rags broodmare sire's female line soundness issues were cured.    Unfortunately this is not the case with I'll Have Another.  The top and tail side of his pedigree is suspect.  The inbreeding is unconscionable.  He was an accident waiting to happen.  

We have melted down the pot in the thoroughbred horse to pretty much all Northern Dancer and Raise A Naitive, which have in common the unsoundness of Native Dancer.

I want to see Buckpasser mares, Secretariat mares, Damascus, Hail To Reason in pedigrees.  AP Indy is being washed out with Mr. Prospector crosses (son of Raise A Native)

If you want to see another triple crown winner, look for a horse that is not saturated with Native Dancer blood.

Barbaro suffered the same fate.  His broodmare sire, Carson City is by Mr. Prospector, and Carson City's dam, Blushing Promise is a great grand daughter of Northern Dancer.  Barbaro, sadly, was bred for speed, there is nothing in his pedigree to suggest otherwise.

16 Jun 2012 11:38 PM

The posts continue to damn Rags with faint praise. He wasn't responsible for the time - blame Paynter who set the pace. Would IHA have won if he made it to the gate? Perhaps. But perhaps would Eskendereya would have won the KD IF he had made it to the gate. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. c/rock: Comparing Rags with QR is just plain uninformed. Why not compare Curlin with Benny the Bull? Apples and oranges. To everyone: Union Rags won Belmont 144 against the largest field in 16 years. Deal with it.

17 Jun 2012 12:33 AM

Really, Mary?  Barbaro was bred for speed?  Nothing in his pedigree to suggest otherwise?

Sire Dynaformer, Roberto, Hail to Reason (whom I believe you say you LIKE to see in pedigrees), Nashua, Round Table. Granted these horses are in Barbaro's sire line and I personally would rather see stamina in the dam line, but to say "nothing in his pedigree to suggest otherwise", you are again, woefully inaccurate.  Further, Barbaro has only 2 crosses to the dreaded Native Dancer bloodline in his pedigree and you have to go back 5 generations to find him.  No "saturation" in his case.

17 Jun 2012 3:03 AM

p.s  Union Rags has 5 crosses to Native Dancer; at least 2 of them closer up in his pedigree than Barbaro.  Yet you feel that Barbaro was bred for speed and unsoundness because of the Native Dancer blood but Union Rags is bred for stamina and soundness?

17 Jun 2012 3:08 AM

robinm:  It is a shame but Mary seems to have no concept of logic or fact.  Misinformation is her favorite mode of travel...and I'm beginning to feel that real life will never intrude on her imaginary kingdom, as myopic as it might be.

17 Jun 2012 8:43 AM
Karen in Texas

If Union Rags' broodmare sire's female line "cured" soundness issues, then what happened with Awesome Feather? She was out in early 2011 for tendon problems. Gone West is her broodmare sire as well, and her DI is even lower than Rags' (stamina.) Gone West is close up in the pedigrees (top or bottom) of numerous unsound horses. It is foolhardy to declare that any horse cannot or will not ever injure a leg, regardless of pedigree. Really, it's almost tempting fate.


17 Jun 2012 10:57 AM
ceil rock

When I was comparing Union Rags to Quality Road, I meant that both of them have been overhyped - neither lived up to the hype. Quality Road was a brilliantly fast horse. Too bad he wasn't campaigned as a sprinter/miler instead of trying to get 10 furlongs. Union Rags has basically been a slow horse who loves Belmont Park. I don't think Beyer speed figures are perfect but they are a measuring stick. Union Rags is going to have to get a higher Beyer than 96 to get any respect. (As a comparison, Quality Road's highest Beyer was 121.)

17 Jun 2012 1:02 PM

On the subject of RAGS the newest Rags is not as good as the previous RAGS that won the Belmont.Sorry chums but Curlin would smoke BOTH at EQUAL weights,and laugh about it in his stall after the race.

17 Jun 2012 7:02 PM
Mike Relva


Exactly! She ruined one racing site, now she's intent of ruining another.

17 Jun 2012 8:05 PM
Mike Relva


That's only an opinion when the fact is Curlin is retired and there's no way of truly knowing the outcome.

17 Jun 2012 8:08 PM
Mary Zinke

M.R., She's not me. (LOL)

17 Jun 2012 9:02 PM
Mary Zinke

Other Mary, do you have a last initial that hopefully is not Z?  Maybe it's R for Rags?

18 Jun 2012 12:53 AM

I love to see all of the different points of views, I love a good, well-founded argument and I love the opportunity to learn more about race horses and horse racing.  But when people spout off misinformation I go a little nuts.  I don't mean to offend anyone, but when you make an opinion or more importantly, state something as fact, please provide the basis of your opinion or proof of fact.

18 Jun 2012 4:29 AM

Chief: And Secreatariat would have smoked everyone...what's the point?  Rags won...fairly.  Accept it.

Mike..2 different Mary's.

18 Jun 2012 10:13 AM

Mike Relva Opinions is what this is all about.I have opinions about medication issues,and a reduction in the number of races, but do you think the business people that make a living on this game give a hoot.They will say anything to keep status quo, which is IMO a problem here as well as the country in general.All they want from me is my pari-mutual dollar.

18 Jun 2012 10:15 AM
Karen in Texas

I totally agree, robinm, with providing a basis or citing a source for information, especially if it is offered as a concrete "fact". When other(s) are able to refute those "facts" with a reliable source, then credibility is lost. The "fact" is exposed as a very subjective opinion only.

18 Jun 2012 11:08 AM

Mike Relva, you have ruined a few sights yourself.  I'm not living in fairy tale land.  There are many people out there that did not like the Dynaformer/LaVille Rouge breeding.  Look it up.  All of Barbaro's brothers have gone several months without racing, and Nicanor more than a year.  They have issues.  I loved Barbaro, but I don't like the location of Mr. Prospector in his pedigree, so whatever.  

Simply don't read my posts, problem solved.  I love Union Rags, and am getting a little tired of the disrespect he is receiving from some of you.

18 Jun 2012 9:43 PM

Karen In Texas, the saturation of the Northern Dancer/Raise a Native line in horse pedigrees is a fact.  If you look at the pedigrees of Eight Belles, I'll Have Another, Big Brown, etc. you will find that they were accidents waiting to happen.  The inbreeding of these lovely horses is absolutely immoral, and that is a fact.  If you have no problem with such reckless and unconscionable activity, then so be it.  We don't do this with other animals, including humans, for a good reason; it creates all kinds of genetic malformations.

18 Jun 2012 10:07 PM
Mike Relva


Unless you're Mary Z wasn't referring to you. BTW I'm a fan of UR. Perhaps you should re check.

19 Jun 2012 10:12 AM
ceil rock

Mary - you left out Frankel. By Galileo (Northern Dancer on top of Mr. Prospector) out of a Danehill mare (Danzig, Northern Dancer line). Do you think he is an accident waiting to happen?

19 Jun 2012 10:57 AM
Karen in Texas

Mary---A lack of logic is shown in your assertions as evidenced by robinm's attempt to point out to you at 3:03 and 3:08 A.M. on June 17 that Union Rags has 5 crosses to Native Dancer (2 close up) compared to 2 distant crosses for Barbaro. ND can't be a source of unsoundness only for the horses of your choice. Your statement on June 14 at 10:20 A.M. that UR, Barbaro, and IHA all have Mr. Prospector "close up on the tail side of their pedigrees" is simply false. Maybe you should recheck that. Throwing out glittering generalities doesn't work when others are more careful and can see specific errors in a given statement. As robinm and I both noted, checking and citing a source is always helpful and gives veracity and credibility to any assertion.

19 Jun 2012 11:47 AM

Mary, I am a fan of Union Rags as well.  I don't happen to think that the 5 crosses to Native Dancer in his 5 generation pedigree make him "an accident waiting to happen" any more than I feel the 2 crosses in Barbaro's made him "an accident waiting to happen".  I agree with Karenn in Texas that ND can't be a source of unsoundness only when you choose it to be.

19 Jun 2012 3:42 PM

Robinm and Karen: ditto!

19 Jun 2012 5:28 PM

This is Bloodhorse.com so there will always be multiple characters on here posting about breeding.IMO if you want to use breeding to make your pari-mutual wagers,you are using a non-definitive manner of betting on one race.I would think you are actually involved in breeding,buying,consulting, owning or possibly even writing about bloodstock, for me to consider you an expert on this.

19 Jun 2012 5:33 PM


Some of us are equally tired of the constant disrespect you give to Mr Prospector, Raise A Native and Native Dancer!  You regularly make statements with no science to back it up.  Ya Eight Belles and Barbaro may have had their blood, but so have the many THOUSANDS of others who have not had injuries, including your dear Union Rags.  When your blood runs through almost every horse that is racing, there are bound to be some injuries!  If you don't like them, just be sure to never buy a horse with their blood - if you can find one.   And one last point about stating your OPINIONS as facts.  The FACTS do NOT say that Native Dancer was an unsound horse.  Since he is my all time favorite I have done EXTENSIVE research on him and his "unsoundness" that you keep harping on was nothing more than FOOT BRUISES which are unforseen injuries not an inherent unsoundness. He never had any physical problems and was nearly perfect in conformation.  So get you facts straight or state that you are giving OPINIONS that are not based on fact!

21 Jun 2012 8:54 PM
Mike Relva


Ditto! Problem is some don't think before they speak.

21 Jun 2012 10:06 PM

Racingfan and Mike...I have yet to see Mary post a correct fact, or admit she's wrong when confronted with an actual fact...she just keeps repeating the same nonsense.

I already pointed out earlier that researchers started questioning Unbridled's Song genetic soundness when Eight Bells broke down.  

U's S has averaged 66% starters of racing age, compared to a national average of around 70%.  However, it hasn't been proven, and he's had a heck of a lot of stakes winners who compete for years without injury...and that's the first of the RAN line I've seen questioned about soundness in progeny.  Perhaps it's more of a fact that he tends to have very large colts and fillies who are more difficult to keep sound in a racing career.

23 Jun 2012 8:05 AM
Mike Relva


Agreed! Enjoy reading your comments-at least you back yours up with FACTS.

23 Jun 2012 5:19 PM

Well now it looks like we have a "Kentucky Derby" playoff with heavy weight being assigned to preps that don't typically produce a Kentucky Derby winner (i.e., the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby).  The Breeder's Cup Juv gets left out at 10 points assigned to the winner.  Who cares, if "post postion" continues to be random.  Draw post 1 as the Wood Memorial winner and continue to lose.  

27 Jun 2012 3:56 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs