Tonalist Ends California Chrome's Triple Crown Hopes At 146th Belmont
The stretch run at Belmont Park is nicknamed "heartbreak highway" because it's often where Triple Crown hopes go to die. That was the case in the 146th Belmont Stakes on June 7 as heavy favorite California Chrome, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, finished in a dead-heat for fourth. The colt is the 13th horse to fail at Belmont Park after winning the Derby and Preakness since horse racing's last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978.
Tonalist won the Belmont by a head over Commissioner, with Medal Count in third. None of those horses had raced the first two legs of the Triple Crown. California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn said afterward it was a “coward’s way out” to run a horse in Belmont after not running him in the Derby or Preakness. He later apologized. Tonalist had previously raced the week before the Preakness, beating Commissioner by four lengths at the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, also at Belmont Park. Many jockeys never get a chance to ride a Triple Crown winner, but it was the second such opportunity for California Chrome rider Victor Espinoza. He was aboard War Emblem in 2002 when the horse finished eighth at the Belmont after winning the Derby and Preakness.
It was the first Belmont Stakes win for jockey Joel Rosario and trainer Christophe Clement. The third race in five weeks took its toll on Chrome: "As soon as he came out of the gate he was not the same," Espinoza said. "By the five-eighths pole he was just empty."
It was the seventh time overall a horse trying for the Triple Crown finished out of the money in the Belmont Stakes and was Chrome's first defeat in seven races. The draw might have foreshadowed the result. Chrome started from Post 2, which hasn't had a Belmont winner since 1994. Every other post position from 1 to 12 has won the Belmont in the last 20 years.
The complete order of finish was Tonalist, Commissioner, Medal Count, California Chrome (dead-heat), Wicked Strong (dead-heat), Samraat, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Commanding Curve, Matuszak, and Ride On Curlin. California Chrome, General A Rod and Ride On Curlin are the only horses who ran in all three Triple Crown races.