Elmont, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – The wait continues. It is now 36 years since horse racing’s Triple Crown has been won.
Saturday in the 146th Belmont Stakes, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champ California Chrome was denied his chance to become the 12th 3-year-old to sweep the Triple Crown races.
He finished in a dead heat for fourth behind winner Tonalist in the $1.5 million, 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion” at Belmont Park.
California Chrome, ridden again by Victor Espinoza, went off as the 4-5 favorite in the 11-horse field. He got a good start from post 2 and led for a short time as the field approached the first turn.
Espinoza placed his mount off the rail up the backstretch in fourth place behind pacesetters 28-1 longshot Commissioner and 34-1 outsider General a Rod. California Chrome remained in fourth all the way into the far turn as Tonalist, at 9-1, moved into third.
Coming off the final turn Commissioner had the lead with California Chrome three wide entering the stretch. Commissioner, with Javier Castellano riding, led by several lengths at the top of the stretch.
Coming after the leader were Tonalist, California Chrome, Medal Count and General a Rod. California Chrome was racing in the middle of the track unable to gain ground as Tonalist caught Commissioner nearing the wire.
Tonalist, ridden by Joel Rosario, edged Commissioner by a head to win the race and deny California Chrome the Triple Crown.
“A little tired,” Espinoza said about his mount immediately after the race. “I had a chance to move out and when I move out he just don’t have it today.”
Finishing third was 24-1 longshot Medal Count with California Chrome and 5-1 second pick Wicked Strong dead heating in fourth. Completing the order of finish were Samraat, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Commanding Curve, Matuszak and Ride On Curlin.
Tonalist’s time was 2 minutes, 28.52 seconds — the fastest in five years.
California Chrome was the 13th 3-year-old since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1978 to come within a Belmont Stakes victory of sweeping all three races.
Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, expressed some bitterness after the finish.
“I’m 61 years old, and I’ll never see in my lifetime, I’ll never see another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this,” Coburn said as he expressed his displeasure in allowing horses into the Belmont Stakes who did not race in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
“It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day One. I look at it this way: If you can’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races.”
Owned by Robert S. Evans and trained by Christophe Clement, Tonalist earned $800,000 for the victory and increased his earnings to $957,000. The colt has won three of five career starts, two at Belmont Park.
The 3-year-old came into the Belmont Stakes off a four-length win in the Peter Pan Stakes on May 10 at the track.
Evans’ father, T.M. Evans, owned Pleasant Colony, who in 1981 finished third in the Belmont Stakes after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Tonalist returned $20.40, $9.60 and $7.00. Commissioner paid $23.20 and $13.20, and Medal Count paid $13.20 to show.