Thirty-six years and counting.
California Chrome's pursuit of history ended in defeat at the 2014 Belmont Stakes. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner settled for fifth place 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
The colt was the sentimental favorite, but going in, the odds of him going 3-for-3 were slim. Realistically, he still only had an outside chance, given how many before him have faltered at Belmont Park.
ESPN Stats and Info presented how heavily history was weighing on him:
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
There have been 7 odds-on favorites since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown as an odds-on favorite. None of those horses won— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
Although California Chrome looked great at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, Belmont Park is an entirely different beast. It's the longest of the three Triple Crown tracks, and that showed in his performance on Saturday. The three-year-old started out well but faded down the final stretch.
You can see the full results below.
|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 Jerkens||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|
As you could expect with a race of such magnitude, social media was abuzz throughout the Belmont Stakes.
Of course, pursuing the Triple Crown added a ton of pressure for all those involved with California Chrome. However, Dan Wolken of CBSSports.com had no time for those who thought the horse himself would be affected by the grand stage:
Once and for all: There is no pressure on the horse. It’s a horse.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) June 7, 2014
Scott Hanson of NFL RedZone joked about the lack of air conditioning after the mishap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Luckily none of the horses cramped up:
Someone check the air conditioning at Belmont.— Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) June 7, 2014
Boston Celtics announcer Sean Grande thinks that California Chrome may want to stay away from a television on Monday morning so as to avoid any potential heat from the debaters featured on a certain ESPN program:
Man, if I'm California Chrome, I'm NOT watching First Take on Monday.— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) June 7, 2014
Tonalist is the 15th horse to win the Belmont after not appearing in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Tonalist wins Belmont, 15th to win the Belmont without running in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes since last Triple Crown won— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
That was a major bone of contention for California Chrome owner Steve Coburn. After the race, he criticized the system in place that almost punishes horses attempting to win the Triple Crown. They have to run so many races in such a short amount of time that fatigue becomes a major factor by the time Belmont rolls around.
Others, like Tonalist, can instead put all their focus on winning the Belmont.
Coburn went so far as to call horses who skipped either or both of the first two legs of the famed trifecta "cowards," per Tom Fitzgerald of Fox 5 in Washington, D.C.:
Tonalist owner Robert Evans was asked about Coburn's comments but refused to be dragged into a public spat, per the New York Daily News:
"I don't think I have a comment on that." -Tonalist owner Robert Evans to Bob Costas on Steve Coburn's "coward's way out" quotation.— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) June 7, 2014
Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch thought the rant was understandable but came off as unprofessional on the NBC broadcast:
Understand Steve Coburn's frustration but that was a very bad look on national television.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) June 7, 2014
Wolken agrees that the Triple Crown schedule should be less congested but that there shouldn't be any barriers to entry for the later races:
The races should be more spaced out, yes. But the idea that a horse should have to run in the Derby and Preakness to be in the Belmont? No.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) June 7, 2014
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan also thought that making the Triple Crown easier to attain would cheapen the accomplishment:
Isn't winning the Triple Crown supposed to be a difficult/incredible accomplishment? So we change the rules and lessen its greatness? Silly.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 7, 2014
Of course, it's not all bad for California Chrome. ESPN's Darren Rovell thinks the colt will be put out to stud:
Can’t imagine California Chrome will run next year. Worth too much. Odds are he goes to breed in Japan, where famous horses get premiums.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) June 7, 2014
California Chrome was a valiant contender to accomplish a feat that has reached near mythical proportions, but horse racing fans will have to wait at least another year to see a Triple Crown winner.