Though it wasn't meant to be for California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes, Tonalist and multiple other horses in the field will come away with a great payday.
Coming in with 15-1 odds to take the race, Tonalist outran the pack on the final furlongs to overtake Commissioner and Medal Count for the win. California Chrome and Wicked Strong, two colts expected to contend for the victory, finished in a dead heat for fourth.
No Triple Crown here! Tonalist wins the 2014 Belmont Stakes. California Chrome finished fifth. pic.twitter.com/fknTYi59JC— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 7, 2014
California Chrome fell behind coming around the first turn, dropping to the outside of the pack. When the race came down to the final stretch, the colt appeared fatigued as jockey Victor Espinoza vigorously tried to rally the horse to a win.
Espinoza, who won the first two legs aboard War Emblem, shared his thoughts on his second attempt at the Triple Crown, per Michael Martinez, Jaqueline Hurtado and Paul Vercammen of CNN:
I am ready for it this time. I am prepared ... to go and see if I can get it done with California Chrome this time. ... I'm going to do my best, and I'm going to use all my talent and brains for that race, all the 20 years that I've been riding and that I learned.
I like to be a little outside. If the horse has speed in the race, I like to be outside of him because if I'm not outside it complicates the race for me. I have to use my brains a lot, but it's easier for me to be outside.
With the race officially in the books, here's a look at the final purse, results and reaction to the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
|1||11||Tonalist||Joel Rosario||Christophe Clement||$800,000|
|2||8||Commissioner||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||$280,000|
|3||1||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||$150,000|
|4||2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||$100,000|
|4||9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||$60,000|
|6||7||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette||$45,000|
|7||10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||$35,000|
|8||3||Matterhorn||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||$30,000|
|9||4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||—|
|10||6||Matuszak||Mike Smith||Bill Mott||—|
|11||5||Ride On Curlin||John Velazquez||Billy Gowan||—|
via NBC Broadcast
Prize money courtesy of TheTripleCrown.com.
Excitement was teeming at Belmont Park heading into the potentially historic race. At the end, a hush appeared to have fallen over the crowd with California Chrome falling short of the feat.
Nearly every fan in attendance had hope of the monumental triumph, but it was ultimately Tonalist who would be the big-money winner. ESPN Stats & Info provides some information on how difficult the accomplishment is in horse racing:
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
Make that eight after the loss by California Chrome.
While Tonalist came away the winner, it wasn't without controversy.
The stallion denied California Chrome of his Triple Crown after not racing in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes. Steve Coburn, the owner of Chrome, spoke about the field following the loss, 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
Coburn also pointed out no horse should be able to race in the Belmont Stakes without entering the Kentucky Derby. With both Tonalist and Commissioner pulling ahead, California Chrome might have ran a closer race if the other colts weren't as fresh.
ESPN Stats & Info passed along information that might get Coburn going once again:
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
Regardless of what Coburn thinks, both Tonalist and Commissioner came away with a hefty prize. While Christopher Clemente and Todd Pletcher might not have earned a Triple Crown, grabbing purses of $800,000 and $280,000 certainly won't keep them awake at night.
As for next year's crop, don't expect much to change even after Coburn's rant on national TV. California Chrome's loss might leave horse racing fans upset, but the Derby and Preakness winner will have to settle for winning both of the other famous races.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.