After Union Rags earned the victory Saturday in the 2012 Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, his handlers are left to wonder what might have been.
Union Rags was ridden by Julien Leparoux in the Kentucky Derby, finishing a disappointing seventh. In the Belmont, John Velazquez — the rider trainer Michael Matz seemed to want all along — was aboard.
“He rode a brilliant race today,” said Matz. “He’s a strong rider. He knows Belmont and that was some of the things that figured into picking John.”
Matz admitted to initially wanting Velazquez aboard Union Rags in the Kentucky Derby. Velazquez, however, was committed to riding Animal Kingdom in a race in Dubai and could not commit to all three Triple Crown races.
“I guess I’m the lucky one. I guess that’s the only way to describe it. I guess what is meant to be for you is meant to be for you,” said Velazquez. “We’ve been being looking for a long time if the opportunity would come up for me to ride the horse, I guess it worked out good for me today.”
Matz was, of course, asked about the absence of injured Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll Have Another from the race.
“We always thought this horse had Triple Crown potential when we trained him,” Matz said. “I do really think that this horse, when he has a clean trip and can show himself, he is one of the best three-year-olds of this crop. And whether he could have done something against I’ll Have Another, I don’t know, but it sure would have been fun to see.”