Here are some notes from Saturday's 144th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Without Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, retired due to injury, Union Rags was victorious, ediging Paynter with a tremendous stretch run.
Shadow of I'll Have Another hangs over Belmont Stakes | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
I'll Have Another was in his stall at his barn when 11 horses were led into the starting gate under darkening skies. The finish was déjà vu all over again for Paynter's trainer, Bob Baffert.
Before I'll Have Another's retirement ceremony, fans cheered as he walked laps around the paddock. Some waved "I'll Have Another" signs. The background music: Don't Stop Believin' by Journey.
He was taken to the winner's circle. Jockey Mario Gutierrez, wearing not his silks but a white shirt and tie, mounted I'll Have Another. Gutierrez stroked the back of the horse's neck. After Gutierrez dismounted the horse, trainer Doug O'Neill removed the saddle. He patted the horse three times on the backside.
"He's had an incredible run. In any sport you have to stay injury free. Unfortunately he came up with a slight injury. Could we have run him? Yes. But would that have been the right move? No," said O'Neill.
"I was proud of the whole team. It was unanimous in not running him. It's been such an unbelievable run. He's a once in a lifetime horse. We're just focused on all the great part of this journey he took us through."
Mac's Layup Drill: A fine Belmont, but the thrill was gone | SILive.com
Call it the Belmont Stakes that wasn’t.
Officially, the record books will show that Union Rags and courageous jockey Johnny Velazquez rode the stretch-run rail yesterday, slipping past a game Paynter late.
And the race was honest, and exciting, and solid from start to finish.
Claire Novak - What could have been - ESPN
The Belmont Stakes was a thriller, all right -- just not as thrilling as it could have been.