The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

June 7, 2014

California Chrome’s Triple Crown quest collapses

NEW YORK — California Chrome failed in his bid to win the first Triple Crown in 36 years on Saturday, losing the Belmont Stakes to 9-1 long shot Tonalist.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner finished in a dead-heat for fourth with Wicked Strong. California Chrome’s loss extended the longest drought without a Triple Crown champion.

Three tough races in five weeks proved too demanding for California Chrome, who was sent off as the heavy 4-5 favorite by tens of thousands packed into Belmont Park on an 80-degree day, hoping to see history. Affirmed remains the most recent Triple Crown winner in 1978.

The raucous crowd was silenced when it became obvious that California Chrome lacked his usual punch in the stretch. 

Jockey Victor Espinoza realized long before then that his chestnut colt wasn’t up to the grueling 1  1/2-mile trip around the track’s sweeping turns.

“As soon as he came out of the gate, he wasn’t the same,” Espinoza said.

Tonalist was a fresh and rested horse making his debut on the Triple Crown trail. He last ran and won the Peter Pan Stakes on the same Belmont dirt on May 10.

That irked California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, who had said after the Preakness that horses should be required to run in all three Triple Crown races.

“It’s all or nothing,” he said. “This is not fair to these horses and to the people that believe in them. This is the coward’s way out.”

Tonalist beat Commissioner, another newcomer to the Triple Crown, by a head. Those two horses finished in the same order in the Peter Pan. Tonalist ran the distance in 2:28.52 and paid $20.40, $9.60 and $7.

Commissioner returned $23.20 and $13.20, while Medal Count was another length back in third and paid $13.20 to show.

Samraat was sixth, followed by General a Rod, Matterhorn, Commanding Curve, Matuszak and Ride On Curlin.

California Chrome broke quickly but was pressed immediately by Commissioner and General a Rod. Espinoza eased California Chrome back into third along the rail.

Approaching the final turn, California Chrome was maneuvered to the outside. He angled four-wide turning for home, just to the outside of Tonalist, who was close to the pace the entire race. Espinoza started whipping left-handed in the lane but California Chrome had no response.

“I thought he was gaining ground, but he didn’t have it in him, apparently,” Coburn said.

Text Only
Sports
Click here for NASCAR headlines
Sports Photos


Enid News & Eagle sports photos from the month of February 2014. Enjoy all the ENE photos with full access at http://enidnews.smugmug.com.