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Even without a potential Triple Crown champion in the field – I’ll Have Another had been scratched from the race just a day earlier – the 144th Belmont Stakes (G1) was a worthy final leg to this year’s Triple Crown series.
Paynter, ridden by Mike Smith, led the 12-horse field from the start of the grueling 1 ½ mile race while Union Rags, with John Velazquez aboard for the first time, stalked the pace in fifth. In mid-stretch, Paynter seemed comfortably ahead despite the gains Union Rags had made to move up to second. But then, a gap opened up along the rail and Union Rags shot through it, coming even with Paynter with just yards to go and then winning by a neck in a time of 2:30.42.
Union Rags paid $7.50 for the hard-fought victory, while Paynter paid $5.10 for the runner-up spot. Atigun paid $10.60 to show.
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