06/10/2012 12:33PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Union Rags will rest until Jim Dandy or Haskell

Tom Keyser
Union Rags, with jockey John Velazquez, will get a brief vacation before preparing for his next start in late July at either Saratoga or Monmouth Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Union Rags, who won the 144th Belmont Stakes here at Belmont Park on Saturday, was back in his stall at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland by 1 a.m. early Sunday and will get a brief vacation before pointing for major summer races, trainer Michael Matz said Sunday.

"He was out in his paddock from 7 to 9:30,” Matz said in a conference call with reporters on Sunday morning. “He went for a roll, then was eating some grass, was watching the other horses go out and train.”

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

Matz said the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28, or the Haskell at Monmouth on July 29, are the next likely options for Union Rags. After that, he will be aimed at the Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 at Saratoga, Matz said.

Union Rags was a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby in his previous start, and that will turn out to be his only head-to-head meeting with I’ll Have Another, who won the Derby and the Preakness and then was retired on Friday on the eve of his scheduled Triple Crown bid in the Belmont. Matz said he believes Union Rags still has a chance to claim the 3-year-old male Eclipse Award, but realizes he must build a stronger resume, while fending off challenges from the likes of Bodemeister, the Derby and Preakness runner-up.

“It all depends on how we finish the season,” Matz said. “I’ll Have Another, we raced one time against him. He was very impressive in those two races,” he said, referring to the Derby and Preakness.

Matz added, “We’re not throwing in the towel by any means.”

Union Rags was second in Eclipse voting last year for champion 2-year-old male to Hansen, who narrowly beat Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Matz said both Union Rags and jockey John Velazquez deserved credit for their brave rally along the rail in the stretch of the Belmont.

“It was an awfully small hole for such a big horse to fit through,” Matz said. “You’ve got to give him and Johnny credit. They got it done. When I saw the head-on, it wasn’t that big a hole.”

Paynter, who finished second in the Belmont, also came out of the race in good order, according to Jim Barnes, the assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. Owner Ahmed Zayat said on Twitter Sunday morning that Baffert told him Paynter came back without his left shoe, and while Barnes confirmed that, he said there was no damage to the hoof, and theorized the shoe came off late in the race, or even after the race.

“He tried to come out of his stall this morning,” Barnes said at Belmont Park. “This horse is unbelievable. He takes so much training, runs a mile and a half, and he’s still aggressive.”

Dullahan, who finished seventh in the field of 11 as the favorite, “came back fine,” trainer Dale Romans said Sunday morning.

“He didn’t seem like he was handling the track,” Romans said. “It was deep and cuppy yesterday.”

Romans said Dullahan may go back to the turf in the immediate future.

“That’s a good option. We’ll look at all our options,” Romans said. “He’ll get a little freshener. He’s going back to Kentucky tomorrow.”

I’ll Have Another is scheduled to fly back to California on Monday, and will stay at trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn for the time being.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch