To say the least, many people were surprised when I'll Have Another dropped out of the Belmont Stakes due to an injury. The new victor in his place was contender Union Rags -- a horse with several interesting stories attached to him. After reviewing news stories and interviews, five prominent oddball stories about this horse easily float to the top.
Union Rags was sold, returned
Have you ever sold something on Ebay and soon wished that you had not sold a prized possession? This was certainly the case with the owner of Union Rags. Sports Illustrated says that when he was sold in 2010 at a Kentucky horse auction, the decision was immediately regretted by breeder Phyllis Wyeth. Although he was sold for $145,000, Wyeth paid $385,000 to get him back in 2011.
One of the Churchill Downs favorites
Unlike other years, getting favorites and early odds from oddsmakers before the 2012 Kentucky Derby was like getting blood out of a rock. Like everyone else, the official Churchill Downs oddsmaker could not make a decision. When Mike Battaglia spoke to USA Today before the 2012 Kentucky Derby, he was did not have one choice but two -- and I'll Have Another was not his choice. Instead, it was a tossup between the Bodemeister and Union Rags.
Want to buy a t-shirt at UnionRags.com?
Fans of horse racing are all too familiar with the phenomenon of individual horses having their own web sites. One only needs to recall the odd first person blog posts found at Zenyatta.com or the style of FunnyCide.com in order to fully grasp this prevalent publicity tool. Interestingly, there is already a UnionRags.com established.
Having nothing to do with horses, this is a website that supplies the world with union labor related products. In other words, you can buy a t-shirt that supports the IBEW (who represent Belmont Park workers) at UnionRags.com, but you cannot buy a shirt for the horse that won the 2012 Belmont Stakes -- yet.
Union Rags is taking cues from 'Twilight'?
Some children are born vampires and like to sink their teeth into everything. According to headlines, this issue also extends to three-year-old horses like Union Rags -- or does it? Commonly reported, many media sources stated that the photo finish shows that Union Rags is a little nipper.
Finishing in second place at the Belmont Stakes, Paynter was not nibbled by Union Rags as the race was reaching its end. Instead, news stories that repeated that "Union Rags nips Paynter" were referring to a close win and not a biting incident.
Worst winner in four decades
One of the strangest articles published about Union Rags is that he was slow. According to the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, "Only two of the past dozen Belmonts have been won in a slower time than the 2:30.42 Union Rags needed to stick his neck ahead of front-running Paynter at the wire. Slow? It was the 38th-slowest winning time for the mile-and-a-half race in the past 42 years."
Conversely, one can observe from the times of the Belmont Stakes winners over the past 10 years that this is (as the FEI states in their Code of Fairplay for journalists) a bit over-dramatized. While they may be correct about the times being the slowest in four decades -- the reality is that all of these finishing scores are differentiated only by a matter of seconds.
More from this Contributor:
Winner of 2012 Belmont Stakes