All eyes were on California Chrome to start the 2014 Belmont Stakes, but it was Tonalist who came away with the first-place finish.
California Chrome entered as the overwhelming favorite after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He was attempting to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown, something that many fans around the country were hoping to see.
However, the race came down to Tonalist and Commissioner in the end with one of them edging the other by a head. Medal Count was right off the lead to finish in third place.
Here is a complete breakdown of results at Belmont Park:
|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
You can learn a lot about what happened at the race by looking at the video:
California Chrome got out to a decent start, but the overexertion might have cost him the race. Trainer Art Sherman explained that an injury occurred at the start, via 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
On the other hand, Tonalist was nowhere near the front at the start, settling for a spot in the middle of the pack. Although this is not always a good strategy, the 1 1/2-mile course allows plenty of time to make a move.
Jockey Joel Rosario played it perfectly as he allowed his thoroughbred to save energy for the second half of the race.
It was not until the first turn that he started making his move, going up to third behind General a Rod and Commissioner. This stood until he went three wide with the leaders to put him in position to charge late.
At the same time, Victor Espinoza was attempting to make his charge with California Chrome to the right of Tonalist, but his horse had nothing in the tank. He explained this to Beth Harris of the Associated Press:
#espinoza: ``i was just waiting to have the same kick like he always had and today he was a little bit flat down the lane.''— Beth Harris (@bethharrisap) June 8, 2014
This left what became a two-horse battle between Commissioner and Tonalist that came down to a photo finish:
No Triple Crown here! Tonalist wins the 2014 Belmont Stakes. California Chrome finished fifth. pic.twitter.com/fknTYi59JC— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 7, 2014
Interestingly, trainer Christophe Clement did not even think he won. According to ESPN, he explained, "We actually thought he finished second, but we got lucky, he won. It was great."
Commissioner had a lead for a large part of the race, but Tonalist did a better job of maintaining energy. It goes to show that the beginning does not matter if you know what you are doing.
While this is a disappointing finish for fans hoping to see the first Triple Crown in 36 years, it was a great performance by Tonalist and Rosario. Based on what we have seen, both of them will have a lot more wins going forward in their careers.
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