"He ran tremendous," a downcast Smith said. "(Union Rags) just shouldn't have gotten through on me. I'd like to see what the outcome would have been if he wouldn't have. I haven't had the chance (to talk to Bob Baffert). I'm sure he doesn't want to speak to me right now."
Atigun swung wide rounding the turn and put in a game run on the outside to take third by 5 1/2 lengths over Street Life. Five Sixteen came in fifth and was followed under the wire by Unstoppable U, 5-2 favorite Dullahan, My Adonis, Ravelo's Boy, Optimizer and Guyana Star Dweej, who was eased.
"I'm not going to make excuses for him," trainer Dale Romans said of his beaten favorite, Dullahan. "I said all along I thought he could handle the dirt.
"I think it puts Union Rags in the picture for an Eclipse Award, I would think. There's a lot of year left, and with I'll Have Another out, it's definitely in his own hands."
Some of the Belmont's luster was lost when I'll Have Another was withdrawn and retired on Friday due to a tendon issue, but that didn't stop Union Rags connections from celebrating their colt's victory. Highly touted at the beginning of the year, the bay returned from his first career loss, a head second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, to take the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes by four lengths on February 26.
Matz kept his charge at Gulfstream Park to continue preparations for the Kentucky Derby and Union Rags next showed up in the Florida Derby, where he suffered traffic problems and wound up third, 1 1/4 lengths back of the winner. He was squeezed at the start of the Run for the Roses and found himself in traffic in the rear of the field, but put in a nice rally to be seventh on the wire.
Union Rags opened his racing career with three straight easy wins, taking his maiden debut at Delaware Park before traveling to New York to add the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 1 Champagne Stakes to his resume. His record now stands at 8-5-1-1 and he's banked $1,798,800 in lifetime earnings.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Union Rags is out of the winning Gone West mare Tempo, making him a full brother to the stakes-placed Geefour. Union Rags is also a half-brother to the winning Tempo West, the dam of French stakes hero Vertiformer and stakes-placed War Pact.
With his second dam being Grade 2 queen Terpsichorist, Union Rags hails from the family of Grade 2 winner Satans Quick Chick and Grade 3 victress Pratella, the dam of multiple Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Angliana.
Terpsichorist is herself a full sister to English Group 2 hero Gorytus. They were produced by 1965 Irish champion juvenile filly *Glad Rags II, winner of the following year's One Thousand Guineas. Other Glad Rags descendants include classic-winning millionaire Colonial Affair, victor of the 1993 Belmont Stakes and the Grade 1 Whitney and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1994.
Horses in the Belmont Stakes on June 8 will face tighter security for the second straight year.