California Chrome came into the 2014 Belmont Stakes with all of the support in the world but could not live up to the pressure, as Tonalist came in first at the prestigious race.
The favorite was trying to become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown, but he could not get into good enough position heading into the final turn. He was forced to go wide, and he did not have enough energy to challenge late.
Instead, it became a two-horse race between Tonalist and Commissioner, with the former coming away with the narrow win. Medal Count finished just off the pace to end up in third place.
You can see the full ride around the 1 1/2-mile course here:
Of course, there were other contenders in the field who should not be overlooked. Here is a complete breakdown of the results from the classic race:
|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|
via NBC Broadcast
California Chrome was the overwhelming favorite heading into the race after winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Of course, there is a reason that there has been a 36-year drought: It is hard to win all three events.
During this stretch, there have been 12 horses to win the first two legs of the trio before losing at Belmont. The biggest problem is the length of the track, as well as the hectic schedule, causes a drain of energy. It would take incredible endurance to come through with a clean sweep.
Instead, Tonalist was fresh heading into the Belmont after missing both of the first two Triple Crown events. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, this is not that uncommon:
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
This did not calm down California Chrome owner Steve Coburn, who did not think this strategy was respectable, via Tom Fitzgerald of Fox 5:
Still, there is nothing that will change the finish of this race, which became an excellent battle between Tonalist and Commissioner. Dave Litfin of Daily Racing Form describes the very end of the race:
Tonalist catches Commisioner at the wire of the Belmont. Medal Count 3rd. Cali Chrome & Wicked Strong dead heat for 4th. #BelmontStakes— Dave Litfin (@DRFLitfin) June 7, 2014
Commissioner had the rail on the final turn thanks to Javier Castellano and seemed ready to pull away from the pack, but it was Joel Rosario and Tonalist who ended up edging him by a head.
While Tonalist deserves the credit for winning, this remains an incredibly disappointing result for California Chrome. His trainer, Art Sherman, explained that an injury could have had something to do with the struggles, according to Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated:
Trainer Art Sherman just said California Chrome may have injured himself leaving the gate. Kicked rt front leg with rt rear.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) June 7, 2014
Either way, fans were once again denied a chance to see a Triple Crown winner. Interestingly, Peter Burns of The Press Box notes that this is a good thing for the sport:
California Chrome doesn’t win. Best thing to happen for the sport of horse racing. Triple Crown continues to be almost impossible feat.— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsRadio) June 7, 2014
Despite this claim, the feat remains something that Americans will cheer for and dream of seeing until it actually happens. Hopefully, there is a young thoroughbred on the way that can finally end this extended drought.
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