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Monday, June 11, 2012

Waving The Flag for Union Rags!

You know how I was just complaining about the high cost of higher education? Well, I guess I should have taken all the college savings out of the bank and staked it on a Win ticket for Union Rags, because I woke up Saturday morning just KNOWING that horse would come out ahead. And by Johnny, that's exactly what he did!
A masterful ride by Johnny Valesquez enabled UR to get his head out in front in the nick of time. Mike Smith, who was aboard Paynter, apparently is beating himself up for letting them through on the rail, but I think UR was going to get there no matter what.
Actually, I decided UR was my pick on Friday night when I found out that I'll Have Another would not be running. I meant to check on the last-minute Belmont news Friday afternoon while I was working at the slower half  of my pasted-together job, but I didn't get around to it. Nor did I catch anything on CNN while walking by a TV in the break rooms at work. No, it was left to, of all things, my People magazine app on my phone to inform me of this development at about 9:00 PM. My shriek of dismay carried all the way downstairs, prompting my husband to text me with the words, "I'm sorry about the horse." (Guess it wasn't hard for him to figure out why I was yelling) He knew right when the announcement was made but figured I would also find out immediately, so he didn't say anything earlier.

*insert gnashing of teeth and hair-tearing*

Doggone it, I thought the horse had a legitimate chance. What a crying shame! On one hand, of course I'm very glad he wasn't run on an iffy leg. At first I was annoyed because it seemed like such a minor injury, but after doing a lot of reading of comments from more knowledgeable folks over on the COTH Racing forum, I found out it's really not so minor. Think of it as a pre-bow condition. Clearly, running a mile and half could very well have resulted in a complete bow or worse. I particularly appreciated this statement that someone made: "A little bit of a tendon is like being a little bit pregnant." It would have been just unbelievably bad for I'll Have Another to pull up in the race (Shades of Big Brown. That was despicable.).

Another person said that scratching from the race was actually not up to Doug O'Neill or Mr. Reddam; given the results of the scan they had done of IHA's leg, the track vet would not have allowed the horse to run. I'm unsure about that since other people said plenty of trainers WOULD run a horse with "a little bit of a tendon." This doesn't surprise me in the least, alas... but you just can't do that in a race that long, with a world-wide audience tuning in. DON's shady reputation didn't help, either. No way in h*ll was that horse going out on the track.

Retiring him/sending him straight to the breeding shed now also ticked me off, and I said so on the COTH forum. However, I got my hand gently slapped and I have to say I actually agree with the person who set me right. She pointed out that it's well within Mr. Reddam's rights to try and earn back some of the millions he has put into the sport of TB racing. True... guess I'm letting my general distaste of the man color my thinking.

At any rate, Union Rags did win, and it was a magnificent race. Slow, though - a full six seconds slower than Big Red's record-breaking 2:24! I still think he's a terrific horse and boy, I can't ask for any nicer/better connections than Mrs. Wyeth, a true life-long horse lover with a hobby stable and Michael Matz, who needs no introduction. Class acts all the way.

Here's a gorgeous photo of UR that my friend Wendy (EquiSport Photos) took of him while he was in training at Keeneland:
I have not looked into or heard anything about where Rags will go from here, but hopefully he'll be pointed towards the Travers or another Grade 1 stake coming up in a couple of months. Mrs. Wyeth adores this horse, and is thoroughly enjoying the ride of her life as an owner, so I am confident that whatever is planned will be in the best interest of the big guy. I have hope that we'll get to enjoy him as a four-year-old, too!

And now I have a confession: I didn't watch the Belmont Stakes live. Nope, I was at a polo match. I'd planned to skip it and stay home for the race, but with IHA out I decided I'd go to the biggest charity match of the year. Tomorrow I'll tell you the highs and lows of this experience - it was quite a day.

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