Tonalist dashed California Chrome's Triple Crown hopes in a stunning victory in the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday in Elmont, New York.
No Triple Crown here! Tonalist wins the 2014 Belmont Stakes. California Chrome finished fifth. pic.twitter.com/fknTYi59JC— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 7, 2014
Jockey Joel Rosario pulled off the improbable upset over Commissioner by a head. Meanwhile, California Chrome settled for fourth place in a dead heat with Wicked Strong at Belmont Park, failing to seize the ultimate achievement in horse racing. A win would have made California Chrome the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978, but the decades-long drought continues.
Here is a look at the results, as Commissioner settled for second and Medal Count placed third just one length off the pace to round out those that finished in the money:
|1||11||Tonalist||Joel Rosario||Christophe Clement||-|
|2||8||Commissioner||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||Head|
|3||1||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||1|
|4||2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||1 3/4|
|4||9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkins||1 3/4|
|6||7||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette||4|
|7||10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||5 1/4|
|8||3||Matterhorn||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||10|
|9||4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||12 3/4|
|10||6||Matuszak||Mike Smith||Bill Mott||55|
|11||5||Ride On Curlin||John Velazquez||Billy Gowan||87|
Source: NBC Broadcast
Mark Rutherford of CardChronicle.com felt Tonalist was destined to win in observing him before the starting gates opened:
Tonalist looked as good as a horse can before a race. Not sure this is ever going to happen.— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) June 7, 2014
Some controversy arose after the race, when California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn expressed frustration at the entrants who didn't participate in all three Triple Crown races: per the New York Daily News:
"If you've got a horse, run him in all three...This is the coward's way out." -California Chrome owner Steve Coburn— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) June 7, 2014
CNBC's Jane Wells weighed in on Coburn's heated rant:
California Chrome's owner makes a valid point, but this is not news. It may be his first rodeo, but he knew the deal. Will regret remarks.— janewells (@janewells) June 7, 2014
Tonalist didn't run in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, but had placed first in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes on May 10 at Belmont Park. The combination of that win and Rosario in the irons boded well for Tonalist to pull off another victory.
This was only the second Triple Crown race ever for trainer Christophe Clement, but he evidently felt that Tonalist was the one who could deliver him a Belmont Stakes winner.
The proliferation of competition in horse racing has often led to larger fields in the Triple Crown season, making it even more difficult for one star to shine above the rest. ESPN Stats & Info observed how history was against California Chrome beating out his other 10 competitors at Belmont Park:
No Triple Crown winner has beaten more than seven horses in the Belmont to win the Triple Crown.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
Commissioner jumped out to an early lead and looked as though he could have gone wire-to-wire as an improbable, long-shot winner. Traffic wasn't a problem for California Chrome at the start, as he broke rather well from the second post. But at around the one-mile mark, California Chrome was still three lengths off the leading pace, unable to fight out in front of the pack.
It was a five-wide race at the top of the backstretch, with California Chrome failing to generate enough boost through the final few furlongs for jockey Victor Espinoza. The thrilling conclusion saw all those who finished in the money vying for first.
However, it was Rosario and Tonalist who came from the No. 11 post, farthest from the rail, to surge down the final stretch and into the winner's circle. Below is an overview of the payouts for the top three finishers:
Source: NBC Broadcast
The $2.00 exacta paid $348.00, while the $1.00 trifecta dished out $3,390.50. Due to the dead heat for fourth, the scenario featuring California Chrome (11-8-1-2) paid $3,808.00, while Wicked Strong's (11-8-1-9) paid $5,728.50.
California Chrome trainer Art Sherman said before the race that he felt something significant was in store.
"He's a good horse, just needs to have a good trip and I really think you'll see the next Triple Crown winner," said Sherman, per USA Today's Jennie Rees. "...He just might be that extra special horse that you need...He's done everything that I ever could want a horse to do – and more."
Although there is a definite letdown for horse racing since California Chrome couldn't finish the Triple Crown, his story is still fascinating. Just to get to this point was rather miraculous, considering California Chrome's owners made just a $10,000 initial investment on him. Even Sherman's comments imply that his horse had achieved so much as they were made even before he started in the Belmont Stakes.
As for the victorious Tonalist, he will go down in history as yet another Triple Crown spoiler story. His connections won't mind doing so, because claiming first in the Belmont Stakes is still tremendous. Rosario will continue to be regarded as one of the best working jockeys, backing up his 2013 Kentucky Derby win aboard Orb with this excellent ride.