"I wasn't sure he was going to get through," Phyllis would say later while sipping champagne in the Trustees Room.
When Atigun and, ironically, jockey Julien Leparoux, ran at Paynter, Mike Smith had to guide his mount outside a bit to fight off the challenge. That was all John Velazquez needed. Union Rags, showing the toughness many doubted he had, pushed right through the hole and came out the other side in front a few strides from the wire.
As Union Rags was making up that ground, slowly but inexorably, the noise around the Wyeths went from hopeful to belief to a crescendo so loud nobody in the vicinity had any chance to hear anything.
Union Rags, the horse Phyllis had sold in 2010 and bought back in 2011, the horse she believed could win the Kentucky Derby (before whatever could go wrong did go wrong), had won the Belmont Stakes by a neck.
Phyllis' longtime friend and adviser Russell Jones wrapped her in a bear hug. Phyllis was somewhere between disbelief and euphoria.
It was just 20 minutes before when jockey Eddie Maple, who had ridden many of Phyllis' parents best horses, had come up to her in the paddock. It was Maple who would have ridden Devil's Bag in the 1984 Derby, a race the heavy favorite never got to run.
"Your parents would be really proud of you," Maple told her.
When it was done and she was asked about Maple who she did not think she had seen in decades, Phyllis said: "that was an omen."
It was, indeed.
"It's very emotional for her," Jamie said. "She was in tears before the race, saying, 'Can you believe we're here?' Her mother and father, the ghosts and all that, Eddie Maple coming up to us in the paddock. It's a tsunami of emotions right now."
Beyond the horse having to find a way to get through in the stretch, Phyllis, in her motorized scooter, had to find a way to the winner's circle. She got an elevator to the first floor grandstand and was going well over the scooter speed limit as she whizzed around fans who were scrambling to get out of the way, not really knowing who it was that was in such a hurry.
She tried to get in the winner's circle one way, but it was not accessible. She told the security with her that "I am going this way."
She knew the way, rolling to a little incline that led to the place where her horse was waiting. Trainer Michael Matz greeted her at the entrance, with a hug - of relief and joy.
"We needed every bit of it," Matz said of the stretch run.
Union Rags had run the mile and half in 2:30.42, time that won't win any awards. But they don't pay off for time. They pay off for wins and 85,811 got to see a serious horse win a serious horse race.
Union Rags had more than $2.9 million bet on him to win. He was the second choice behind Dullahan. Those who still believed were rewarded with $7.50 for each $2 bet.
Paynter was second. Incredibly, owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith had the second horse in each Triple Crown race. Like Bodemeister in the Derby and Preakness, Paynter was loose on the lead, looked like a winner in the stretch and got run down in the stretch.
It was not Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, retired with that tendon injury. It was the horse who would be king - Union Rags.
Jamie led Union Rags into the winner's circle, the sweat pouring off his sides, his veins bulging. Phyllis had those white carnations in her lap, her right hand in the air, as she posed for dozens of cameras and a winner's circle picture she will be able to cherish forever.
Nothing went right in Louisville. Everything went right on Long Island.
"Your heart stops," Jamie said. "I'm so happy to get back to painting, I can't see straight."
Can Jamie paint a scene where he was in the middle? He said he could.
"I'm going to be the Gilbert Stuart of Union Rags' paintings," Jamie said.
Six years after he trained Barbaro to win the Derby, Matz had his second classic with a horse he loved from the moment he laid eyes on him last spring.
"Whether he could have done something against I'll Have Another, I don't know, but it sure would have been fun to see," Matz said.
Phyllis was taken to the interview room down by the jockeys' quarters, but she was more interested in the Trustees Room, a place to celebrate. As she cruised into the room, she went right past the corner where the pictures of all the Belmont Stakes winners hang. There is an open spot on the bottom right corner for the winner of the 2012 Belmont Stakes.
Hanging together with champagne glasses in their hands, they all watched the replay and heard track announcer Tom Durkin say, as the horses were running down the backstretch, that Union Rags now "51/2 lengths off the lead, not the 20 lengths back he was in the Derby."
Union Rags, under his new rider, had broken perfectly. "Johnny V" secured early position, in fifth, then fourth, third and second as the field hit the quarter pole.
Then, they all got to watch the stretch drive like it was happening for the first time. And got to scream all over again.
Contact Dick Jerardi at firstname.lastname@example.org.