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'Union Rags' wins 144th running of Belmont Stakes race

Belmont Stakes Horse _Pata(12).jpg

June 9, 2012: Union Rags, right, with jockey John Velazquez, holds off Paynter, with jockey Mike Smith, to win the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. (AP2012)

Union Rags nipped Paynter at the wire in a photo finish Saturday to win the Belmont Stake, beating a field without Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, who was retired with an injury the day before.

The finish was another thriller in the final leg of the Triple Crown, and trainer Bob Baffert was on the losing end each time.

I'll Have Another used two stirring stretch drives to beat Baffert's Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. In the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, it was Union Rags who provided the thrills.

A crowd of 85,811 cheered as the horses battled down the stretch, and Union Rags barely caught the front-runner at the end.

Trained by Michael Matz, Union Rags finished a disappointing seventh in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. Jockey John Velazquez replaced Julien Leparoux for this race.

Union Rags was along the inside in the middle of the pack until it was time to make a move for the lead. Velazquez guided Union Rags to the inside of the front-running Paynter and relentlessly closed the gap and won by a neck.

Union Rags, the 5-2 second choice behind Dullahan, covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.42. The colt owned By Chadds Ford Stable's Phyllis Wyeth returned $7.50, $4.20 and $3.40. Paynter, with Mike Smith riding, paid $5.10 and $3.90. Atigun was third and paid $10.60.