It was Tonalist's day—not California Chrome's—at the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
Entering race day with just 8-1 odds, per the Belmont Stakes' opening morning line, Tonalist galloped to victory and effectively ended California Chrome's pursuit of the Triple Crown. He was in a dead heat with Commissioner before holding him off along with the rest of the field.
Jockeyed by Joel Rosario, Tonalist took advantage of the added rest of not running in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes.
In doing so, he posted a finishing time of two minutes and 28.52 seconds that pales in comparison to Secretariat's time at Belmont, according to Abilene Reporter-News' Evan Ren:
Let's break down the highlights and overall results table while taking a look at the madness that unfolded at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon.
|2014 Belmont Stakes: Order of Finish|
|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|
|2014 Belmont Stakes: Purse Information|
|7||General a Rod||$35,000|
It just wasn't meant to be.
California Chrome had a chance to make history on Saturday at Belmont Park, and for much of the two-and-a-half minutes, the horse who dominated the Triple Crown circuit thus far looked poised in doing so. He got to the rail after the opening stretch, a familiar position that he's ridden to victory time and time again.
But this time, it was different.
Pretty quickly, Commissioner got going and was able to hold off the favorite on the rail. That pushed California Chrome back behind him, Medal Count and a couple of other horses.
Jockey Victor Espinoza opted to try to move toward the outside of the running after losing his favorable position on the railing. That gave him an outside shot heading down the stretch as he continued to push the leaders through the final furlongs.
But it just seemed as if the wear and tear from the last six weeks caught up to the favorite. Instead of taking over down the stretch like he's grown accustomed to doing, he failed to get the advantage and sputtered to a fourth-place finish—ending a Triple Crown bid that was oh so close to coming to fruition.
Tonalist's win continued an eerie trend that reached center stage shortly after the race, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Many trainers choose to keep their horses out of the early legs of the Triple Crown circuit in hopes of having a fresh horse for Belmont—the 1 1/2-mile marathon that zaps the energy out of any contender. Fresher horses competing against ones like California Chrome, who competed in his third race in five weeks at Belmont, poses a big problem.
It was a problem that had California Chrome owner Steve Coburn fuming after the race, per America's Best Racing:
Saturday saw quite the turn of events. For weeks, the sports world was wholeheartedly embracing horse racing's most realistic Triple Crown pursuit in years, but in the matter of a three-minute race, the narrative turned quickly to debate.
Is it unfair to Triple Crown contenders that some of their competition is fresh entering Belmont? Maybe so, but folks on the other side of the bill would argue that it only adds to the level of difficulty of pulling off what is already an incredible feat.
At the very least, the way that the 2014 Belmont Stakes unfolded will produce plenty of storylines and questions surrounding the structure of the Triple Crown heading into 2015.