I wanted to wait a day to write this out of respect for
a popular victory by Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. The winner once
again proved to be one of the best horses of his generation and fully redeemed
himself for losses in the Florida and Kentucky Derbies. I was happy for Union
Rags. He’s a nice horse, but it did not take me very long after the finish to
come to the realization that a healthy I’ll Have Another would have cruised to
I heard the Beyer figure came in at a 96 for Union
Rags, confirming what I had already seen with my own eyes, that I’ll Have
Another was too good for the field that competed in this year’s Test of a Champion.
Union Rags had the entire stretch to get by a tiring Paynter but could not do
so until the final few yards. Union Rags won the Belmont more with his class
rather than a burst of speed down the lane as his challenger couldn’t muster
anything better than a 52 second final half mile. Imagine what the race would
have looked like if our Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner had not been
scratched on Friday morning? Believe me, I have.
I picture I’ll Have Another sitting comfortably on the
outside not too far behind the pacesetter with Mario Gutierrez waiting
patiently to give him his cue. Somewhere on the far turn I’ll Have Another
would have gotten the OK to go and quickly collared Paynter. Coming into the
homestretch, a quarter mile from history, I have no doubt that the little
chestnut would have spurted clear and would have opened up daylight as Union
Rags could only rally for second.
His Santa Anita Derby was gutsy, at Churchill Downs he
announced himself to the world, and in the Preakness he proved himself a star.
Any of the three performances would have been plenty to carry him to victory in
the Belmont, but a similar run to his last one could have seen a runaway Triple Crown for the colt bred to run long. I can only imagine what the scene at
Belmont Park would have felt like yesterday if that was the case. The crowd
would have transformed into one pulsating force of nature as I’ll Have
Another’s cheers grew louder and louder with every stride down the Belmont Park
stretch. It’s been 34 years since I saw the last Triple Crown winner in person,
so that electricity would have been an exciting new sight to behold.
Agree with me or not, no one will change my mind on this. I’ll
Have Another would have been the horse to bust through racings long-standing
barrier. Unfortunately, we are only left to wonder what if.
What if I’ll Have Another won the Belmont stakes by
a big margin? What if the world of racing was able to celebrate a brand new
Triple Crown winner? What if I’ll Have Another was around to race another year
Congratulations to Union Rags, a worthy Belmont stakes
winner, but wouldn’t it have been nice if we all could have had Another.