Tonalist is not a sentimental horse. After an impressive and consistent run at the 2014 Belmont Stakes, he ruined the Triple Crown dreams of California Chrome on Saturday.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner finished fourth in a dead heat with Wicked Strong. In case you missed the race live, here's a replay via NBC Sports:
The event carried a $1.5 million purse, and here's how the prize money was divided:
|1||11||Tonalist||Joel Rosario||Christophe Clement||1|
|2||8||Commissioner||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||2|
|3||1||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||3|
|4||2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||4|
|4||9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkins||4|
|6||7||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette||6|
|7||10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||7|
|8||3||Matterhorn||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||8|
|9||4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||9|
|10||6||Matuszak||Mike Smith||Bill Mott||10|
|11||5||Ride On Curlin||John Velazquez||Billy Gowan||11|
There are several thoughts about how California Chrome failed in his attempt to win the Triple Crown. Here are the three most prominent reasons.
Per Kent Spencer of WHAS11 in Louisville, Kentucky, California Chrome suffered an injury in the race:
California Chrome just returned to Barn with Blood on the back of his right foot. He was injured during race.— Kent Spencer (@WHAS11Kent) June 7, 2014
He was healthy enough to run, but there's no doubt that this rather graphic injury had to be difficult to run with.
So many things can go wrong on the way to a Triple Crown. Injuries are just one of the impediments. Can you imagine trying to run a race against fresh thoroughbreds with an injured foot?
Speaking of fresh thoroughbreds, California Chrome would probably have had a hard time winning even without an injury. He was one of only two horses that also ran in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
California Chrome's owner Steve Coburn doesn't like that dynamic one bit. Take a listen to his post-race interview:
He has a point, even though much of what he's saying is fueled by disappointment that his horse didn't make history.
Could the New York Racing Association or other governing bodies ever make a rule that says only horses that competed in the previous two Triple Crown races can compete in the Belmont Stakes?
That seems unlikely, but having to contend with fresh horses is just another detail that makes obtaining the Triple Crown so difficult.
Some may believe that Victor Espinoza allowed California Chrome to stay mired in the pack too long. For most of the race, Espinoza seemed content on the inside and didn't attempt to get outside until the final half mile.
When he did, it was too late. Perhaps it was the injury or the fatigue, but California Chrome just didn't have the kick he needed to catch Tonalist.
Las Vegas handicapper Richard Eng wouldn't blame Espinoza:
The Belmont Stakes will be dissected ad nauseam, but no one will convince me that Victor Espinoza rode a bad race.— Richard Eng (@RichEng4ProPick) June 7, 2014
Espinoza has made the right decisions with California Chrome in the other two Triple Crown races. He deserves the benefit of the doubt in this one as well.
Sometimes, history-making performances just aren't in the cards.