Chrome denied Crown as Tonalist wins Belmont
Tonalist, ridden by Joel Rosario, races to the finish line enroute to winning the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York - by Travis Lindquist
It has now been 36 years since Affirmed became the 11th horse to win the Triple Crown, a drought that Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome couldn't end as he finished equal fourth.
Chrome, ridden by Victor Espinoza and trained by Art Sherman, was the 13th horse since the 1978 sweep by Affirmed to capture the first two jewels of the crown but come up empty at the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, dubbed the "Test of the Champion."
Espinoza has now ridden two of those horses, also failing aboard War Emblem in 2002.
Tonalist, trained by US-based Frenchman Christophe Clement and ridden by Joel Rosario, hadn't run in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, and had shown his liking for the Belmont track with a victory in the Peter Pan Stakes.
Commissioner, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, was second and Medal Count third.
California Chrome broke from the second post and was on the rail several lengths off the lead in the early going.
Espinoza worked his way to the outside, but when it was time to make his move for immortality, California Chrome just didn't have enough. He finished in a dead heat with Wicked Strong for fourth.
"When I moved out, he just didn't have it today," Espinoza said. "Turning for home, I was waiting just to have the same kick like he always had before and today, he was just a little bit flat."
Espinoza didn't think it was the 1 1/2-mile distance of the $1.5 million race -- the longest any of the 11 horses in the field had faced.
Instead he thought it was the cumulative effect of three races in five weeks -- a gruelling road trip for California Chrome, who had never raced outside his home state until his May 3 Kentucky Derby victory at Louisville.
"I think it was tough for him," Espinoza said. "Right now, it's back-to-back races and different tracks with all these fresh horses."
Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, caught by television cameras during the race, looked stunned as his colt's Triple Crown dream evaporated on the track before him.
After the race, an emotional Coburn found his voice, criticizing owners and trainers who opt out of one or both of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, bringing a fresh horse to the Belmont for a potential spoiler's run.
"This is not fair for these horses that have been running their guts out," he said. "Our horse had a target on his back."