Until Saturday evening, California Chrome was the name on everybody's lips at the 2014 Belmont Stakes. By the end of the race, though, Tonalist was the horse to talk about after he raced to victory in the 146th running.
Entering the race with 8-1 odds, Tonalist figured to be a contender, but few expected him to nose out the field. Jockeyed by Joel Rosario, the horse held off a late surge from Commissioner and just beat him out for the $800,000 grand prize.
In doing so, he ensured disappointment for a vast majority of the viewing public, who were tuning in to see California Chrome try to win the sport's first Triple Crown in 36 years. Instead, California Chrome finished in a dead heat for fourth place with Wicked Strong.
Here are the complete results:
|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 Jerkins||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 view the entire race below:
The 2014 edition of the Belmont Stakes was arguably the most anticipated one in recent history, and all eyes were on California Chrome as he attempted to complete the Triple Crown.
Not long after the horses took off and the race began, it became apparent that it wasn't his day.
California Chrome did get to the rail to open things up, but quickly after that, Commissioner overtook him, and that pushed the heavy favorite back to the middle of the pack. That was somewhere California Chrome had never been at either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.
He was able to stay around, but he never got completely caught up with the front-runners. Heading down the stretch, California Chrome just didn't have enough to make the late move.
Meanwhile, Tonalist was barreling down the inside in a dead heat with Commissioner. Medal Count had been lurking all race and was making a move, while General a Rod started scaling back after threatening for the better part of the race.
In the end, it was Tonalist who just nosed out the win in a very tight finish, captured by Bleacher Report:
No Triple Crown here! Tonalist wins the 2014 Belmont Stakes. California Chrome finished fifth. pic.twitter.com/fknTYi59JC— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 7, 2014
California Chrome's summer has been one to remember, and the horse certainly beat the odds by winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness to move just one race away from history. In the end, the last five weeks caught up to him and he wasn't able to hold off the fresher horses on the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Park track.
The fact that his horse had to race against fresher competition didn't sit well with California Chrome owner Steve Coburn, who lashed out with a rant just after the race directed at those horses. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix tweeted a video of Coburn's comments:
If you missed California Chrome owner Steve Coburn's rant, here it is: http://t.co/7Qb9MSBjv0— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 7, 2014
Tonalist owner Robert Evans took the high road by not firing back at Coburn's comments after his horse's victory and gave the Derby and Preakness winner some credit, per Tonalist's Twitter account:
"We loved California Chrome, we hoped he would win the Triple Crown, but we love our horse too." -Owner Robert Evans— Tonalist (@Tonalist) June 8, 2014
Coburn might have a point in that the current system makes it awfully hard to breed a Triple Crown winner. California Chrome was the best shot the sport has had in years, and he didn't seem to have a chance down the stretch against the fresher horses.
But then again, that's what makes the Triple Crown so elusive and so hard to win. It takes a special horse to pull it off, and while California Chrome was indeed that, he didn't have enough to join the company of Affirmed and Secretariat, among others.
We might not see another Triple Crown winner anytime soon, and that's because there will always be horses like Tonalist and Commissioner that skip the Triple Crown's opening two legs for the best shot at winning the Belmont Stakes.
That will only make the feat that much more epic when it does happen.