For the 36th consecutive year, the Triple Crown went unclaimed on Saturday, following Tonalist's win at the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
An exhausted California Chrome simply couldn't maintain the pace down the final stretch, finishing fourth and becoming the 13th horse with Triple Crown aspirations to leave Belmont Park empty-handed since Affirmed last completed the feat in 1978.
Although we didn't get the storybook ending we might have wanted, the third jewel of the Triple Crown provided the bevy of adrenaline-filled, edge-of-your-seat excitement we all expected.
After leaving the outside No. 11 gate, jockey Joel Rosario quickly steered Tonalist inside, settling just behind the lead pack.
Staying off the rail early, Tonalist rounded the first turn three wide of leaders Commissioner, California Chrome and General a Rod.
Rosario wisely maintained his outside position down the backstretch to avoid any traffic closer to the rail—something that ended up haunting jockey Victor Espinoza and California Chrome at this point in the race. Holding this place around the far turn, Tonalist was in great position to strike at the top of the stretch.
That's exactly what happened.
Rosario asked Tonalist to run with about 300 yards remaining in the race. Tonalist displayed a superior level of endurance and magnificent closing speed on an impressive sprint down the final stretch, edging Commissioner by a head to claim the victory.
Here's a look back at his sparkling performance:
After the dust settled, the final results were in. Take a look at the complete finishing order and corresponding prize money for each horse:
|4||2||California Chrome||1 3/4||$100,000|
|4||9||Wicked Strong||1 3/4||$60,000|
|7||10||General a Rod||5 1/4||$35,000|
|9||4||Commanding Curve||12 3/4||—|
|11||5||Ride On Curlin||87||—|
Prize Money Source: TheTripleCrown.com
Well, not everyone was happy with those results.
California Chrome's co-owner Steve Coburn put on a mini-rant after the race's end. Here's a look at what the frustrated owner had to say, courtesy of a tweet from CNN's Rachel Nichols:
The owner of California Chrome GOES OFF after the Belmont. Calls Tonalist win "the coward's way out" http://t.co/bSVAGEMdAK— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 7, 2014
Needless to say, those comments began a bit of a debate.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King weighed in:
Complain about the rules pre-race if you're so outraged. All Tonalist did was enter a race he qualified for. Nothing cowardly about it.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) June 8, 2014
TNT analyst Reggie Miller took Coburn's side:
I agree with Steve Coburn, "cowards way".... Still LOVE me some California Chrome..— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) June 7, 2014
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated had a different take:
Richard Sherman thought Steve Coburn's interview was in bad taste.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) June 7, 2014
Still, whether you agree with Coburn or not, one thing is certain: Tonalist ran an incredible race on Saturday evening.
He was the best horse on the track, keeping a solid pace through the 1 1/2-mile race while holding onto enough endurance to make a dazzling run down the final stretch.
The Triple Crown may not have been won on Saturday, but that only reaffirms the notion that this is one of sport's most difficult feats.
We may not have received the storybook ending in this year's Triple Crown finale. But at least we had the privilege of taking in a memorable race poised to stand the test of time.