History was made at the 2014 Belmont Stakes this past Saturday, but it was not the history we were all expecting. Shockingly, California Chrome was defeated.
After winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome was favored heavily to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown. A win would have put him in the history books as the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to complete the trifecta. A loss, however, would put him next to the handful of other horses that fell just one race short.
Unfortunately for Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza, the latter is what happened.
The results of the race in general were quite shocking. Below you will find a complete table of the final standings, as well as post-race analysis of the finishing order.
|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|
Tonalist needed every step of the race to win, as he barely inched out Commissioner to steal the victory by a head. Led by jockey Joel Rosario, Tonalist effectively ended the Triple Crown hopes of California Chrome.
The colt started well from the outside in the first portion of the race, staving off the likes of Chrome and keeping then-leader Commissioner in his sights. It took a very late burst to edge out Commissioner and jockey Javier Castellano.
Jim Chairusmi of the Wall Street Journal wrote that Tonalist made history of his own during the race, aside from being the horse to defeat California Chrome:
Tonalist paid $20.40 for a $2 win bet, covering the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:28:52. Tonalist, a son of Tapit, won the Peter Pan Stakes in May, and becomes the first horse since A.P. Indy in 1992 to complete the Peter Pan/Belmont double.
Tonalist had not run in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness leading up to the Belmont Stakes.
Expecting victory, fans were let down by Chrome at the Belmont Stakes. Co-owner Steve Coburn was also disappointed, but more with the other owners and trainers than his own horse, it seemed. In post-race interviews, he was very upset that Chrome ran in all three jewels of the crown while others took races off to keep fresh.
The New York Daily News' official Twitter account provided its followers with one of the most resounding quotes:
"If you've got a horse, run him in all three...This is the coward's way out." -California Chrome owner Steve Coburn— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) June 7, 2014
Part of Chrome's loss could be pinned on a few minor injuries he sustained during the race. Matterhorn clipped his front right foot, removing a chunk from it. He also got a cut on his foreleg in the race. Trainer Art Sherman didn't blame the loss on those injuries, but he acknowledged that they couldn't have helped, via Jennie Rees of USA Today: "It couldn't have helped. ... It might have been stinging him, and he didn't feel comfortable."
With Chrome's bid for the Triple Crown officially over, we will have to wait until next year's race at Churchill Downs to see if another horse will attempt a run at greatness.
Ride On Curlin
Ride On Curlin, one of the favorites in the Belmont Stakes, failed to finish the race on Saturday. Trainer Billy Gowan told TheHorse.com what prompted him to bow out of the race:
The bleeding is what stopped him. His head went up and that's a tell-tale sign. The bleeding will stop one dead in their tracks because they can't get their air. Johnny [Velazquez] did the right thing. He said at the three-eighths pole he didn't have a lot of horse. He asked him one time and there was nothing there, so he just eased him and I'm glad he did.
The son of former Preakness winner Curlin, Ride On Curlin disappointed in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes this year. His Preakness finish was strong, as he finished second behind Chrome. The colt had a different jockey in each race of the circuit, and that could not have helped his transition from track to track.
This likely won't be the last we will see of the colt, but I do not expect another glorified run in the sport's three biggest races.