Union Rags, who finished seventh in the Derby and sat out the Preakness Stakes, will also enter the Belmont Stakes with a new jockey. Julien Leparoux, who rode the Michael Matz-trained colt in his previous three starts, will be replaced by John Velazquez. Union Rags has found himself in some traffic trouble lately, so a clean trip, a fresh horse and new jock may show us the Union Rags we saw last year. Leparoux will not sit out the Belmont and has picked up the mount on Atigun.
The $1 Million Belmont Stakes is I’ll Have Another’s race to lose. From all accounts, the horse is doing well, seems able to handle the track, and should be ready to go on Saturday. His jockey, Mario Gutierrez, is studying the quirky Belmont oval and will have some mounts leading into the weekend in which he can practice his trip for Saturday’s big race. Trainer Doug O’Neill has his lucky shamrock tie that he wore for the Derby and Preakness that he will wear again on Saturday, so everything seems in place for a big day on Saturday.
The list of Triple Crown near-misses in the last 34 years includes a collection of horses whose names are just as notable as the 11 Triple Crown winners, including Spectacular Bid (1979), Alysheba (1987), War Emblem (2002), and Smarty Jones (2004), just to name a few.
So, whether or not I’ll Have Another becomes the twelfth Triple Crown winner on Saturday, he’s piqued the interest of casual fans and gives all of us something to look forward to as the summer racing season begins.
Triple Crown coverage starts Thursday with a special 30-minute program entitled, “I’ll Have Another—Charging Toward History” which will air at 7:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network. Following the special at 8:00 p.m., is a rebroadcast of the two-hour NBC Kentucky Derby coverage which will be followed by the two-hour Preakness coverage at 10. The NBC Sports Network continues to gear up for the Belmont on Friday with “Belmont Stakes Classics” from 4-5 p.m. which will be followed by a live broadcast of the Jaipur and Brooklyn Stakes from 5-6 p.m. Saturday coverage of the Belmont begins at 3:00 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network with coverage switching to your local NBC affiliate from 4:30–7 p.m. If you haven’t had your fill by then, switch it back to the NBC Sports Network for a 30-minute post-race show at 7 p.m. The scheduled post-time for the Belmont Stakes is 6:40 p.m.
Photo: Courtesy Belmont Stakes