The crowd of over 100,000 at Elmont was once again on its feet with a huge roar, ready to see history. Each fan in Belmont Park anticipated a triumph like many had never seen in their lifetimes. Thirty-six years of waiting had come down to one moment.
Unfortunately, there was no Triple Crown yet again. A stunned audience fell silent as Tonalist and Commissioner raced down the final furlong with California Chrome wilting down the stretch.
No Triple Crown here! Tonalist wins the 2014 Belmont Stakes. California Chrome finished fifth. pic.twitter.com/fknTYi59JC— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 7, 2014
After two magnificent races at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, California Chrome dropped behind two fresh stallions that didn't run in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes. The third horse to the finish line? Medal Count, a colt that sat out of the Preakness.
With the race officially coming to a close, here's a look at the entire results along with a look back at the race chart as it unfolded.
|1||11||Tonalist||Joel Rosario||Christophe Clement||$800,000|
|2||8||Commissioner||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||$280,000|
|3||1||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||$150,000|
|4||2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||$100,000|
|4||9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||$60,000|
|6||7||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette||$45,000|
|7||10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||$35,000|
|8||3||Matterhorn||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||$30,000|
|9||4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||—|
|10||6||Matuszak||Mike Smith||Bill Mott||—|
|11||5||Ride On Curlin||John Velazquez||Billy Gowan||—|
via NBC Sports broadcast
Belmont Stakes Review
Try as he might, California Chrome just couldn't find his way to the front of the pack on Saturday night.
The Golden State stallion appeared tired down the final stretch and couldn't overcome falling to the outside line around the first turn. Owner Steve Coburn might have offered an explanation, per 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
Injury or not, Chrome still wound up with a fourth-place result after finishing in a dead heat with Wicked Strong. If he really did have an injury, that might explain the fact that he fell behind the pack around the first bend and couldn't make up that time.
Despite the effort down the final furlong, horse racing will still have to wait yet another year to potentially see a Triple Crown. Coburn provides his thoughts on why it's been so long since the world has seen the feat accomplished, per Marc Weinreich of Sports Illustrated:
This is not fair to these horses that have been in this thing running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them, to have some somebody come out like this—this is the cowards way out, in my opinion, this is the cowards way out.
I’m 61 years old and I’ll never in my lifetime...see another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this. It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one. I look at it this way: if you can’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t win in the other two races.
While the argument can be made that both Tonalist and Commissioner were fresher than California Chrome, neither put on a particularly strong performance.
In a historical sense, Triple Crown winners of the past would have been able to trump either of the two colts. Darren Rovell of ESPN provides a look at one horse who took the Triple Crown:
How good was Secretariat? He would have beaten today’s winner Tonalist by 22 LENGTHS based on his 1973 time.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) June 8, 2014
As for the rest of the horse racing world, hopes are dashed yet again.
After three weeks of buildup to the third jewel, Tonalist took his lone win on the big stage. California Chrome was a wonderful story over the last month as he attempted the entire Triple Crown, but he fell short much like every other horse over the last 36 years.
Even fellow jockeys like Joel Rosario, who mounted Tonalist, wanted to see horse racing history made, via Lane Gold of ESPN:
Jockey Joel Rosario on @CalChrome "I was rooting for him and it would have been good for racing."— Lane Gold (@lanegold) June 7, 2014
Should the rules change for the Belmont Stakes?
Though Coburn would no doubt like to see the rules changed, it frankly wouldn't have mattered in the first place. Had Medal Count ran a similar race, the colt would have triumphed and left both California Chrome and Wicked Strong vying for second.
Yet another year of waiting is ahead for racing fans. Following an exciting few weeks of hope, it's time to look ahead and hope that another stallion will rise to prominence and take the Triple Crown.
Will there finally be a Triple Crown winner next year to end the then 37-year drought? We'll have to wait and see.
Just 328 days are left before next year's Kentucky Derby and the start of another potentially historic run. While it won't be California Chrome again, another horse will likely captivate the horse racing world's imagination.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.