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Union Rags vs. Paynter Pace Graph

Here's a quick follow-up to our pre-Belmont post on pace, where the take-home was that flatter pace lines do best in the 12-furlong classic. This year's race gave another example where the winner had the more consistent pace.

Mike Smith wanted the lead with Paynter, but to get there they had to run a very quick opening quarter (:23 3/5), one of the fastest opening quarters in the last 20 years of the Belmont. Immediately, this wasn't a good thing for Paynter, but similarly to Touch Gold (TrueNicks,SRO) in 1997, they slowed the pace considerably in the second quarter. But where Touch Gold was able to switch off down the backstretch and save himself for the stretch, Paynter didn't get the same breather. From the six- to five-furlong pole, Unstoppable U moved up to Paynter and forced him to run a quick 24-second fourth quarter-mile. This early move ultimately cost Paynter the race.

Meanwhile, John Velazquez gave Union Rags a more patient ride, quite similar to the winning ride he gave Rags to Riches in 2007. Remember that his entire career, Union Rags has been criticized for a lack of acceleration in big races—he couldn't run down Hansen (TrueNicks) or Take Charge Indy after having dead-aim on them in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby, respectively, and he wasn't nimble enough to escape traffic in the Kentucky Derby. But in the Belmont, he didn't need that kind of acceleration. Instead, his relentless, steady running style was finally rewarded.

Union Rags vs. Paynter, 2012 Belmont, lengths per second at each call (click to enlarge)

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