Belmont Stakes Results 2014: Winners and Losers from Belmont Park
Make it 36 years and counting.
There’s nothing quite like waiting three weeks, sitting on a horse whose had all the stars align for the best possible run at the Triple Crown only to see it melt away under the Peter Pan Stakes exacta. The Peter Pan Stakes is the local prep for the Belmont Stakes run at 1 1/8th miles.
The Belmont Stakes had an honest pace (48.52, 1:12.84, 1:37.13, 2:02.43 and 2:28.52). It gave everyone except the deep closers something to run at. The race was a perfect recipe for California Chrome and he just didn’t have the acceleration.
In the end, it was the freshest horses that won out.
There’s plenty of California Chrome to relish from the past and into the future, but first let’s put the Belmont Stakes under the compound microscope and look for winners and losers.
All quotes, unless otherwise specified, came from NYRA-issued press releases.
Winner: The Peter Pan Stakes Exacta
The Peter Pan Stakes, Belmont's local nine-furlong prep race for the Belmont Stakes, won in a major way Saturday. Tonalist, winner of the Peter Pan on a muddy, sealed track, had the perfect trip and ran away with the Belmont Stakes.
Commissioner, second in the Peter Pan Stakes, ran on gamely to earn second place behind Tonalist.
Many circles, including many slideshows written by yours truly, wrote off the Peter Pan exacta as minor league compared to the Derby horses. Derby/Oaks horses had won nine out of the last 11 Belmont Stakes. That’s a strong trend to bet against Tonalist and Commissioner.
That’s why they run the race.
Loser: Steve Coburn
And it's not because he lost, it's because he was a sore loser. As Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman tweeted, "Steve Coburn needs to learn that if you win with grace, you need to learn how to lose with grace. That display on NBC just now was pathetic."
Sure, the emotion after a big event sometimes can get the best of people. That certainly happened moments after the Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn lashed out a bit after the Belmont, calling the horses that didn’t run in any or all of the Triple Crown races cowards.
"This is not fair to these horses that have been in this thing running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them, to have some somebody come out like this—this is the cowards way out, in my opinion, this is the cowards way out," Coburn said, according to Sports Illustrated's Marc Weinreich.
There wasn’t mention of a tip of the cap to Tonalist. It was all about Coburn and how they were coming after him.
Our horse had a target on his back. Everybody else lays out one, or they won’t run in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, they’ll wait until the Belmont. You know what, if you’ve got a horse, run them in all three. If you’ve got a horse that earns points running in the Kentucky Derby, those 20 horses starting in the Kentucky Derby are the only 20 eligible to run in all three races. This is the coward’s way out.
Well, of course your horse had a target on its back. But if you really want to see a horse with a target on its back, watch the 2004 Belmont then call us in the morning once you’ve had to time to digest the day’s events.
Tapit won the Wood Memorial in 2004 and was a formidable foe to win the Derby. He didn’t amount to much after the Wood. Where Smarty Jones became an iconic racehorse and a dud in the breeding shed, Tapit became the stud breeders dream about.
His daughter Untapable won the Kentucky Oaks and may very well be the most talented three-year-old in the country, male or female. Then, Tapit’s son Tonalist goes and ruins everything for everyone in the Belmont Stakes. But seriously, Tonalist ran a hard race and validated Tapit as the best sire going.
Tapit sired a champion two-year-old in Hansen and it appears he’ll have a champion three-year-old filly this year. It’ll be hard to dethrone Chrome, but if Tonalist smashes him head-to-head over the summer and fall, it could be California Chrome’s Eclipse Award to lose while Tonalist just keeps on winning.
Loser: Tom Durkin
Tom Durkin is now 0-for-8.
Durkin, the legendary race caller for the New York Racing Association, is calling it quits after the Saratoga meet this year. The 2014 Belmont Stakes was his last. He’s had some of the best race calls you’ll ever hear and many of them came right at Belmont Park in the Belmont Stakes.
In the Belmont Stakes racing program, Durkin said: “I’d like to [call a Triple Crown winner] mostly in a sense of being a fan. And to say I was there, and that I had the best seat in the house."
Nobody had as good a view of the homestretch than Durkin. He didn’t miss a horse. He didn’t muff a word. He saw a thrilling finish and a great horse in California Chrome meet his maker: one and a half miles.
And the call was great, by the way.
With the exception of California Chrome, the top four finishers all had at least four weeks' rest. Tonalist, Commissioner, Medal Count and Wicked Strong all had four-to-five weeks on the shelf getting ready for the Belmont. In that same window, California Chrome ran three races to their two over the most taxing pair of two-turn races these horses will ever see.
Today’s racehorses might be able to wheel back on two weeks just once, as is the case with the Preakness, but to ask them to run three races in five weeks is all too taxing. That’s also why the Triple Crown is so darn hard to win. That's why there have only been 11.
It’s possible, but it’s hard to even say that with a straight face after Chrome’s loss.
Loser: The 7 Derby Horses
Derby horses had done exceptionally well in the Belmont Stakes over the past few years. Boy, did Tonalist and Commissioner make a mockery of that trend.
The seven Derby horses—California Chrome (fourth), Wicked Strong (fourth), Medal Count (third), Samraat (fifth), Ride On Curlin (11th), General a Rod (eighth) and Commanding Curve (ninth)—were weaker than expected.
The Belmont distance schooled all these horses in a major way. Their order of finish speaks for itself. (It’s hard to be too critical of Medal Count, Chrome and Wicked Strong; they were in the thick of it late.)
As a group, they weren’t very impressive, but running 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs in just over a month’s time is nothing to be ashamed of. These horses will all have great summer campaigns and it will be exciting to see where and how they perform.
Winner: Todd Pletcher
Todd Pletcher is known for emptying his clip at the Derby. (Not necessarily his fault. He has a reputation for getting two-year-olds on track for great three-year-old campaigns. Clients like this. He’s the best. They hire him. The cycle continues.)
Pletcher continues to have great success in the Belmont. He won the race twice with Rags to Riches and Palace Malice. He finished second with Bluegrass Cat in 2006, Dunkirk in 2009, Stay Thirsty in 2011 and Commissioner in 2014.
He has a formula of skipping the Preakness and aiming for the Belmont. Coburn doesn't like it, but it appears to be working for Pletcher.
Loser: Rose Napravnik
Rosie Napravnik did not have a great Belmont Stakes and, for that matter, did not have a great Triple Crown. She rode three different horses: Vicar’s In Trouble in the Derby, Bayern in the Preakness and General a Rod in the Belmont.
Were it not for winning the Kentucky Oaks aboard Untapable, Napravnik would have had one of the most forgettable runs through the Triple Crown in recent history. And technically, that win aboard Untapable doesn’t count in the Triple Crown.
Napravnik is world class, but she didn’t have world-class game through this Triple Crown.
Winner: Joel Rosario
Joel Rosario made the right move, before the race and during.
Rosario rode Ride On Curlin to a brilliant second-place effort in the Preakness. It was a strong finish. It was Rosario-ian. Then, he jumped off Ride On Curlin for Tonalist, a colt he rode to a win in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes.
That was before; you won't believe what came next! (Buzzfeed Headline alert!)
He made a great move around the turn to get Tonalist up into contention. He met up with Commissioner down the lane and nosed him out at the wire. It avenged his 2013 loss in the Belmont aboard Orb. Rosario said afterward:
This is very important to me like always. This is the Belmont, so this is great. This horse, he did very good today. I'm a little bit upset about California Chrome. If I was going to get beat, I wanted to just get beat by him. Yes [it's bittersweet]. [Tonalist is] just kind of a big horse, and he has one long stride, and he just grind it, and keeps on going and going, keeps on coming, and he got the job done today.
Belmont Park was filled with shoulder-to-shoulder people. People stumbled around and into each other. They cheered for horses and they roared—I mean, roared—when the horses turned for home in the Belmont Stakes.
They yelled for Chrome to the tune of that Gorillaz song everyone knows: Chrooo-O-O-O-ome!
Then, Tonalist came running up the two-path and stabbed us in the heart. At first, there was confusion: Did Chrome lose? When there wasn’t a collective roar from the finish line, fans surmised that Chrome had lost and they got the heck out of there.
Racing fans got a great card of action and though there was no Triple Crown winner, Dale Romans, trainer of Medal Count, loved what he saw:
It's unbelievable the way this New York crowd came out here and supported our sport, and I want them to know how much we truly appreciate it. It's about being around greatness, and California Chrome is greatness. He couldn't get it done today like the last twelve that tried, but he's greatness, and it proves people here still appreciate the greatness of this game. It's always an honor to be a part of a great event like this.