The California Chrome that ran at the 2014 Belmont Stakes wasn't the same California Chrome that won the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Of course, this only made a difference because horses are allowed to skip races to rest for the final leg.
California Chrome proved that he was the most gifted horse in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, entering as the favorite and winning by over a length in both races. However, stamina proved to be his kryptonite. A third race in five weeks, which included an extra quarter-mile, was out of reach against a fresh field.
According to The Associated Press, his jockey, Victor Espinoza, said he knew California Chrome wasn't at his best long before the final stretch revealed that to the world.
As soon as he came out of the gate he wasn’t the same ... By five eighths pole (the top of the turn) he was empty. I tried to move out to see if it would make a difference ... I was just waiting for to have the same kick like he always had before. Today he was a bit flat down the lane. He ran back-to-back races at different tracks, and against those fresh horses.
Three horses finished ahead of California Chrome on Saturday afternoon: Tonalist, Commissioner and Medal Count. Tonalist and Commissioner didn't even have enough points to compete in the Derby. Medal Count did, and he lost by 7 1/2 lengths.
How does a horse make up 7 1/2 lengths in five weeks?
He skips the Preakness.
Medal Count used the second leg of the Triple Crown as a halftime break to rest up for the Belmont and it worked, at least in closing the gap between him and California Chrome. Tonalist, the Belmont champion, and Commissioner didn't race in the Preakness, either.
This all made California Chrome owner Steve Coburn unhappy.
Had Tonalist, Commissioner and Medal Count raced in the Derby and Preakness, California Chrome likely would've become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown because they would've been just as fatigued. But they weren't. And the drought continues.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.