Belmont Park was packed with racing fans new and old. All
through the day fans dressed in the purple and green of California Chrome walked down to the paddock rail to take pictures
of Secretariat’s statue in hope that there would be a new Triple Crown winner.
However, on this beautiful June day it was not meant to be as Tonalist was able to catch the front
running, Commissioner right at the
wire. The best that California Chrome could do was a dead heat for fourth place
with Wicked Strong.
The Belmont began with a clean break as California Chrome
and Commissioner went to lead in a :24.06 first quarter. As the horses went
around the first turn jockey Victor Espinoza had California Chrome settle back
in fourth along the rail. The fractions were :48.52, 1:12.84. Entering the turn
Espinoza moved his horse to the outside and he began to make his usual closing
move. After a mile in 1:37.13 it started to look like California Chrome did not
have his usual burst of speed down the stretch.
Espinoza explained what was different today, “I thought he
was a little tired turning for home, I was just waiting for the same kick like
he always had before, and today he was a little bit flat down the lane. I was
nice and comfortable and when I moved outside he just didn’t have that kick
Coming down the stretch Commissioner was on the rail and
still on lead, but Tonalist was steadily moving towards him. With a quarter
mile left Tonalist was a half-length behind. In the end he would beat Commissioner
by a head.
Joel Rosario, who won his first Belmont Stakes said, “This
horse, he did very good today. I’m a little bit upset about California Chrome.
If I was going to get beat, I wanted to just get beat by him. Tonalist is just
kind of a big horse, and he has a long stride and he just grind it, and keeps
on going and going, keeps on coming, and he got the job done today.”
Both Tonalist and Commissioner prepped for the Belmont in
the Peter Pan on May 10th and today they repeated their exacta finish.
This time Tonalist was sent off as the 9.20-1 fifth betting choice and
Commissioner was 28-1. Their 11-8 Belmont exacta paid $174 for a $1 bet.
Tonalist returned $20.40, $9.60, $7.00 to his backers.
In the end, Tonalist’s trainer Christophe Clement said,
“It’s a great win, it’s great for the team, for the staff, for the owner, Mr.
Evans, who believed in us. I’m absolutely thrilled. This race means a lot being
a New Yorker.”
“There is nothing negative about winning, said Clement about
beating California Chrome. “California Chrome did great things. He was great in
the Derby. He was great in the Preakness.”
So once again, in 2014, horse racing does not have a Triple
Crown winner. California Chrome becomes the 13th horse since
Affirmed to not win the Belmont Stakes after victory in the Derby and the
Preakness. We are once again reminded of the difficulty of winning all three
legs. As to not diminish what California Chrome has accomplished this year, one
only needs to think about the other 12 horses that met the same fate. That
group includes Hall of Famers, Horses of the Year, and all 12 went on to be
named champion of the three-year-old male division.