06/09/2012 8:19PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Smith takes the blame for Paynter’s defeat

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Tom Keyser
Jockey Mike Smith finished second in the Belmont Stakes aboard Paynter. He finished second in all three legs of this year's Triple Crown.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Mike Smith took the blame for Paynter’s neck loss to Union Rags in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, a result that capped a torturous Triple Crown series for him, owner Ahmed Zayat, and trainer Bob Baffert.

This loss came five weeks after Bodemeister – ridden by Smith, owned by Zayat, and trained by Baffert – lost the Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths to I’ll Have Another and three weeks after he lost the Preakness by a neck, also to I’ll Have Another. Essentially, they lost all three Triple Crown races by two lengths.

Smith, who had Paynter in front from the outset, said it was his fault for allowing an opening along the rail large enough for John Velazquez to slip Union Rags through in deep stretch, catching Paynter with about 50 yards to go.

“I’m going to take the blame,” Smith said after he got off Paynter. “I’m an old veteran, no one’s supposed to get through on me, and he did. I thought I had it for that one moment; he stepped out just enough and he got up in there.”

Smith hit Paynter left-handed three times in the stretch, and Paynter drifted off just enough to let Velazquez get through.

“I wish I had made him go around,” Smith added. “Maybe, it would have been a different story.”

Actually, it was the same story for Smith throughout this Triple Crown. As was the case in the Derby and Preakness with Bodemeister, Paynter, making just his fifth career start, made the early lead. He set fractions of 23.72 seconds for the quarter, 49.23 for the half, 1:14.72 for six furlongs, and 1:38.85 for the mile while maintaining a one-length lead.

[BELMONT STAKES: Replay, chart, full DRF coverage]

Baffert said turning for home “I really felt good about this horse.”

Baffert, who was not angry as he spoke in the Belmont Trustees Room, said he thought Smith “got excited, hit him left-handed, and he drifted off [the rail] a little bit. That’s horse racing; what are you going to do?”

Baffert, who has won nine Triple Crown races, including the 2001 Belmont with Point Given, took the three narrow losses in this Triple Crown series rather calmly.

“They ran their race and they got beat,” said Baffert, who suffered a heart attack in late March in Dubai. “Once they hang the official, it’s over; there’s no more crying or complaining. He ran a great race. I was trying to get this horse to the classics, and we got him to one.”

Zayat, who has yet to win a Triple Crown race, but who has finished second in the Derby in three of the last four years while finishing second in this year’s Preakness and Belmont, was apoplectic.

“Torture,” Zayat said while sitting with his family in the box seats at Belmont. “How much can I take?”

Zayat’s emotions were a mix of frustration and anger because he said he gave Smith instructions to keep Paynter on the rail.

[BELMONT DAY: Full stakes results and video replays]

“There’s one instruction I personally gave to Mike Smith, ‘Please hug the rail and stay on the rail,’ ” Zayat said. “This is a very young horse; going a mile and a half this is a monstrous effort, but to come this close. Maybe I can cry this time.”

Zayat, then pointing to celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who was sitting behind him, said, “I’m going to flip hamburgers.”

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a lot of respect for Zayat because after the derby he hugged MS and said its ok, after the Belmont he publicly blamed Mike Smith and to me that is so u professional, you don't do that, that's something you do privately in any business calling out an employee.. He took 2 lightly raced horses that I believe did very well considering not much exp. Now Bob Baffert over this summer I've gained a lot of respect for him, I always respected him as a trainer but his comments were what a professional does. He did not publicly blame Smith he said each ride Mike did a tremendous job, even If he might of also been frustrated.. Zayat is a cry baby who can afford 250,000 solar horses and I'm sure will temple that w these 2 horses..
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
History is full of Derby longshots who made an eye catching late run in the Derby, only to come back and bombed in the Preakness or the Belmont as severely overbet wiseguy picks. Longshots mean odds of over 10-1 in a 20h Derby field, or over 6-1 in a 14h Derby field. These horses almost never work out. Handicapping is never this obvious. If it's too obvious, then you shouldn't be excited about the horse at all because it means that the price will probably suck. This is only true for Derby longshots, Derby favorites who endured a rough trip or just failed to get there usually will come back and run well in the next TC race, and that's very often true unless it's affected by other factors such as slop or injury, for example Union Rags and Bodemeister this year, Lookin at Lucky in 2010, Dunkirk in 2009, Curlin in 2007 just to quote recent examples. Fast closing Derby longshots almost never work right back for a number of possible reasons: - they were just picking up tired horses at the end of the race, their first at 10f for the entire field. - fast closing 2nd or 3rd or 4th is an illusion. Most handicappers succumb to the fallacy of believing that they would have won with a little bit more distance. That's totally untrue. You can expect a good horse to give you a sustained rally for 3 furlong but not much more than that. Only a very special horse can give you a strong kick for a half mile. In a longer race, the jockey has to wait longer to ask the horse for run, and the result would be the same - late running 3rd. A race horse is not a machine, you cannot ask him for a sustained run for an unreasonable distance. - they could be synthetic or turf horses. The Churchill Downs dirt oval has proven statistically over the years as the dirt surface in America which is most conducive to the transference of turf and synthetic form. I have been doing this a long time to know that no one is right all the time, and no one is wrong all the time. Everyone is entitled to their own handicapping angle, and no matter how stupid or brilliant that handicapping angle sounded, there's always a chance, however slight, of them getting it right. I never ridicule because personally I have been humbled more than enough, there is no real right or wrong handicapping angle before a race - it is to be proven during the race. I wouldn't even talk about doing this full time anymore because I know the reply would be "are you still living with your mother?". Despite knowing full well about that classic overbet Derby longshots, it was only 2 years ago back in 2010 that I was convinced that Ice Box would break the trend. In fact, Ice Box looked so much better than Dullahan on paper that it's not even funny. Comparing the two: - Ice Box had validated dirt form, he had previously won 3 two-turn races on dirt at two different race tracks including the G1 Florida Derby. In comparison, Dullahan was 0 for 4 on dirt with two 3rd place finishes. How could anyone expect him to win the Test of The Champion? - Although both Ice Box and Dullahan have below average Distance Tomlinson Figure for 12f, Ice Box had a Dosage Index of about 3.0, much better than Dullahan's 4.2 (the lower the better). Compared to Tomlinson, Steve Rowan's Dosage takes into account a lot more other factors than the direct sire and dam sire. Dullahan was penalized for being a 3x3 in-bred. 4.2 Dosage is horrible. In comparison, Union Rags' Dosage was 2.13 which is the same as I'll Have Another and the second best in the Belmont Stakes field behind only Five Sixteen - we know there's some validity to the Dosage Index because Five Sixteen actually ran on well for 12f, he's just slow but he gets the distance as his pedigree suggested. Dullahan was a throw out for the 12f distance because Tomlinson and Steve Rowan may not always be right, but they are almost never both being wrong at the same time. Those were simply my personal handicapping insights. I have been doing this too long to realize that I could never be 100% sure. Although in this case, I was 95% sure after looking at Dullahan in the paddock. He looked as if he hadn't retained his weight. He was his usual unruly self but this time in a strange way. He was doing this turtle neck movement the entire time that he was in the paddock, he would duck his head down then swing forward in a rising pendulum movement, a far cry from his tough guy chest-pounding stance in the riders up ring at Keeneland before the Blue Grass. Union Rags was a much better bet. There were as many unanswered questions about Dullahan yet Union Rags went off at half of his Derby odds while Dullhan went off at 20% of his Derby odds. Steal of the month so far! The pari-mutuel pool is all about spotting the overlays and underlays consistently over a long period of time, and one should come out on top if he could sustain his passion and the bankroll.
OnTheFence More than 1 year ago
You and Doug are neck and neck for the biggest BS'ers of the year award. Now you're a Vet, plus a Pro Gambler? You sir are a legend in your own mind. Sorry, just had to say what everyone else is thinking, maybe that will save you some embarrassment in the future, by not over-doing it.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Are you talking about Vietnam vet or veterinarian? I am neither. But you can find me in owner's box E9 at Belmont Park 3 times a week and definitely every Saturday. I'm the very good looking guy immaculately dressed in suit and tie every day, you will smell $$ even if you're not a woman. There's no need for me to toot my own horn at all.
LadyZen More than 1 year ago
I do agree with some of the other posts, Mike Smith rode his race. Paynter rode his race and the outcome was the result of the best horse winning. If Paynter was the best horse, then he would have re-rallied after Union Rags got up to him and won by a nose. Zayat can act like a crybaby since he only got second, but he is not going broke anytime soon. The uber-rich can complain, but that's horse racing.
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
Now, Everyone that gave me a hard time about me commenting about Smith's bad ride must now give Smith a hard time for saying the same thing. Tell him he's crazy because there was nothing he could do. Go on and tell a jockey about his job
robert More than 1 year ago
I kind of have to laugh out loud(lol) at the fact that everyone believes this garbage. Doesn't pay attention to what goes on in a race or do they just wait to read what is being said by this person or that person. Mike Smith takes the BLAME pretty much every time one of his mounts lose. He took the BLAME when Zenyatta didn't win because he gave her too much to do, He took the blame when Bodemeister lost the Derby because he may have moved too soon(but his phantom Trinniberg was making him run too fast). He too the blame when Bodemeister lost the Preakness cause he couldn't get Bode home in time. Now he takes the blame for not locking off the rail even though a horse to his outside was breathing down his neck. Sack up Mike tell the truth you can't win every race. You rode as hard as you could every time and got beat that's all there is to it. Try as hard as you can every race and that's all anyone can ask of you. You rode some really nice races and your mounts just tired at the end nothing to be ashamed or apologetic for. Next time just come out and say you got beat by a better horse and leave it at that.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Mike made a split second choice to engage atigun rather than pin union rags on the rail.... rags never won inside of a horse until the belmont. everyone ran and rode a great race/
606 More than 1 year ago
Total rookie mistake letting Union Rags get through. Watch Leparoux on Atigun though, you can tell he would have kept Union Rags pinned to the fence if Smith hadn't allowed Paynter to drift out. Yeah, it's just wonderful that Smith accepts blame. But it means nothing to the owner, trainer and bettors who he cost money. Have a nice day.
freecharm More than 1 year ago
Hey, Ms or Mister moderator - Any chance you might want to put a word and/or a character lmit on these posts? They're too long and mostly repeat what your columnists have written Plus, the posts seem too much like you see in chat rooms. There seems to be a lot of knowledgeable folks on here (the DRF Comments sections, but I've never read anything that couldn't have been written in 100 words or less. A spell/grammer checker wouldn't hurt either. :) Thanks
t-crunchy More than 1 year ago
I think you'll find it's spelt 'Grammar'....Thanks
freecharm More than 1 year ago
Thank you! I'll be sure to let you know when I need a proofreader, but in this case, I guess I only needed a spell checker
Lucifer More than 1 year ago
Zayat has some nice colts. Can't win them all. UR ran his heart out, good for their team/owner. Run like a turf race, sprint to finish. Attigun ran to his double top and finished 3rd.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
I had $3000 to win on Union Rags, $2000 to win on Paynter, and a $200 exacta UR, Paynter with UR, Paynter, Atigun, plus a $20 trifecta same as exacta with Paynter, Atigun, Optimizer, Five Sixteen, Unstoppable U in third. I was in the box seat area but had to run outside to the paddock to place my bets online because I couldn't get any reception on the iPad right before the big race. I watched the Belmont Stakes from a twin HD flat screens mounted on a pole between the paddock and the clubhouse side entrance. From a monetary stand point, I should be pulling for Paynter but I thought Union Rags totally deserved it: 1) Mike Smith is the owner of the patented left-handed stick. A race horse is not a machine, most only responds to rigorous urging for 1/16 mile/half furlong or less. After a few full cracks of the patented left-handed stick, Paynter was fully extended and there's nothing more you could get out of him by hitting him. 2) It was the right move to drift slightly to the 1.5 path as Smith and Paynter approached the 3/8th pole because at that point Unstoppable U, who had already started to move earlier but with not much progress, now pressed harder because My Adonis was also coming three wide. So Mike Smith made them go a little wider by shifting slightly, I'd say the 1.5 path not exactly the 2 path. Both UU and My Adonis lost a lot of ground going wide all around the huge Belmont turn, equivalent to about 3 times the ground loss of going wide at most other North American tracks. Then between the 3/8th and 5/16th pole, we could see that Leparoux had a lot of horse on Atigun, who was still on hold before Leparoux asked him to go 4 wide near the 5/16th pole. Had he waited just one more second, he could have just sneaked inside My Adonis who had succumbed to the ground loss. 3) Past the 1/8th pole, Atigun still looked as if he was the main threat. That's when Smith unleashed the patented left-handed cracks. But in a matter of a few strides, Union Rags sneaked his big nose between the rail and Paynter's rear end. Mike Smith felt his presence then, and that's what he meant when he said, "I certainly didn't want to let the stewards decide the outcome." This is a horseracing. Paynter was still in front, the right thing to do was to continue riding to the finish, let the best horse win. This is not soccer, a game which the players are often taught to take down the opposing striker at any cost if he happens to be the last defender. 4) The Belmont rail concaves outwards. Mike Smith did not leave a gaping hole, his horse wasn't even on a clear 2 path, but somewhere between the 1 path and the 2 path. There really wasn't much room at all. I watch over 1000 races a year. Over the years I have seen dozens of horses refusing or hesitating to squeeze through the rail. Even a slight hesitation would have cost Union Rags the win, but he didn't hesitate at all and I know why. I watched him in the paddock. Union Rags was his normal beautiful self but a little shy. He just stood there between the middle gap of the paddock. He looked like he just wanted to be left alone, he was ready to run a big race and he was just tired of the drama of the past couple of months. Paynter behaved quite differently in the paddock. He was very high strung with a feral look to him like a powerful warhorse, he reminded of So You Think when I saw him last year in Kentucky and in England, but not fully grown yet. Union Rags will be heard from again. I look forward to the second half of the year. This is a horse who had won 5 out of 8 starts, now a multiple G1 winner, and has still not been passed in 8 starts. I hope to be able to get a good price on him still. Today's handicappers are in love with secondary things like running time and speed figure. If Union Rags runs up against a horse like Bodemeister in the Travers, he will definitely be a distant second choice to the favorite who possesses the flashy speed figure and splits, a surefire chalk at even money or less regardless of his 2 for 6 record.
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
congrats. what do u make of Paynter loosing a shoe somewhere. could it have been a little loose in the race? effect the outcome?
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
what do u make of mike smith blaming himself for the loss? and zayat saying he told smith to keep paynter on the rail for sure?
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Who knows? Mike Smith took a little bit of heat too for not drifting Bodemeister out slightly in the Derby and the Preakness.
Lucifer More than 1 year ago
Certainly, other than Dullahan who is a looker and belongs back on Turf, the best looking colts in the flesh ran 1,2, vice/versa.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Dullahan did not look that great on Saturday. He looked like he's not carrying as much weight. Always a handful before a race, Dullahan kept doing this turtle neck type of movement with his head - push down and forward and then up, quite unlike the chest thumping head held high confidence that he displayed before the Blue Grass. I was also there, I was supposed to leave after the Vinery Madison on Thursday but missed my flight to Little Rock, couldn't find another one so I just stayed for Maker's Mark Mile Friday and Blue Grass Saturday. I'm glad I missed it, I caught Daisy Devine in the Jenny Wiley which parlayed into a similar setup of Tapitsfly in the Just a Game.
OnTheFence More than 1 year ago
If BS was a dollar a pound you would make a living off the horses like you claim. How long did it take you to come up with this BS story? If you say you bet UR then it might be said you didn't have the best horse, right? So you come up with "you bet both" "they looked like they would hit the wire together" Wow what a handicapper. To bet two of the first three choices to win (with a little bit more on UR of course). If you were the Pro that you claim the bet would of been obvious, 2,000 exacta box and 500 Trifecta key. But that might of been over the top. You are no pro because you write posts all day like a groupie, not a Pro Gambler. Most are wise to you but you still amaze me with your BS stories. How many do you have to tell to get attention? -poser
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
If you are a pro who lives with your mother, then you do stupid things like exacta boxes. Don't make me laugh, an exacta box in the Ogden Phipps with It's Tricky and Awesome Maria wouldn't even work and it was a 5 horse field, I make money betting fairly priced favorites with real $$. Stop by Belmont Park owner's box E9 on any Saturday and I'll show you my online wager history. Real pros risk $100k or more to make $20-$50k a month, pipe dreamers risk $50 to make $10k.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
I love Paynter going forward. Union rags is better the slower the pace is. Paynter is versitile he can run fast slower run on or off the pace. He runs competitive in ky md ny cal. He doesn't need to carry his racetrack in his back pocket. This Year a three year old can win the classic. I like paynter in the BC Classic especially at SA. he's my early pick.
STEPHEN MERCIER More than 1 year ago
Bring on Saratoga and Del Mar baby ...summer time and the livin is easy!