Updated on 06/10/2014 9:52AM

California Chrome grabbed quarter during Belmont

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Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome didn't have the smoothest of starts in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Victor Espinoza knew early on this wasn’t going to be California Chrome’s day.

Espinoza said that California Chrome didn’t show the same energy early on in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes that he had shown in winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and he trudged home in a dead-heat for fourth with Wicked Strong, two lengths behind Tonalist in the 146th Belmont Stakes.

Espinoza didn’t have a concrete reason why California Chrome was flat on Saturday, but the colt was seen to have blood coming from his right front foot, known as a grabbed quarter, as he walked back through the tunnel after the race. Photographs show that Matterhorn, in the stall next to California Chrome, stepped on California Chrome’s foot coming out of the gate.

“I noticed when I jumped off him he was bleeding a little bit in the right front,” Espinoza said. “Maybe that affected him.”

::2014 BELMONT STAKES: Recap, video, chart, and more

Also, watching the head-on replay, it appeared as though California Chrome bumped a couple of times with Samraat a few strides out of the

gate. Espinoza, who had considered going to the lead from post 2, instead opted to take a hold of California Chrome entering the first turn and he was third early on.

“I feel like California Chrome was not the same as before that’s why I make my decision,” Espinoza said. “Before he breaks running and he take me right into the race. Today I feel like he was empty and not the same as before that’s why I decided to be behind the lead.”

Espinoza had California Chrome on the inside and in fourth down the backstretch after Tonalist joined the fray three wide. Espinoza said he took California Chrome to the outside and in the clear midway up the backside hoping that would rejuvenate the colt.

“I moved to the outside to see if it would make a difference, but it didn’t,” Espinoza said.

Even though California Chrome was just off the flank of Tonalist in upper stretch, Espinoza said he knew the horse wouldn’t accelerate to the wire.

“I was empty at the three-eighths,” Espinoza said.

So, the Triple Crown drought continues, having not been accomplished since Affirmed did it in 1978. This was the second time Espinoza had a chance to do it. In 2002, he was out of the race early with War Emblem who stumbled at the start.

This was the first time Espinoza lost on California Chrome in seven starts. He had won six stakes including the Derby, Preakness, and Santa Anita Derby.

“Regardless of what happened I’m going to move on,” Espinoza said “It was just an honor to have such a nice ride with all the victories we had together.”