06/07/2014 6:09PM

California Chrome's Triple Crown bid denied by Tonalist

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tonalist (left) gets up to win the Belmont over Commissioner with Medal Count (background) third.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Another Triple Crown down the drain.

Tonalist, with Joel Rosario riding, posted a narrow victory over Commissioner in the 146th Belmont Stakes before a packed house Saturday at Belmont Park as California Chrome faded in the final furlong to finish in a dead heat for fourth, becoming the 12th Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to fail in the Test of the Champion since Affirmed became the last horse to sweep the Triple Crown in 1978.

Tonalist, owned by Robert S. Evans and trained by Christophe Clement, returned $20.40 after finishing the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:28.52 over a fast track. Commissioner, on the lead throughout under Javier Castellano at 28-1, only gave way in the final yards when losing by a head. Medal Count, a 24-1 shot, was third, another length back, while California Chrome dead-heated for fourth with Wicked Strong, another three-quarters of a length back.

California Chrome, the 4-5 favorite under Victor Espinoza, made a menacing outside move in upper stretch but had no final punch. Near the early lead while saving ground, he was angled out on the final turn and had every chance to go past Commissioner, but it was Tonalist who closed best while California Chrome labored home.

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

Espinoza put a brave face on the disappointing defeat in a post-race conference, saying the colt “was just a little bit empty today.”

Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, was less gracious in a post-race interview with NBC Sports when blaming other jockeys for “going after” his horse.

Tonalist was a Kentucky Derby candidate but had to miss the May 3 classic at Churchill Downs because of a brief illness. The victory was the first in a Triple Crown event for Clement, a New York-based Frenchman heretofore best known for his prowess with older turf horses.

Tonalist, a bay colt by Tapit, was making his fifth career start and was coming off a four-length victory in the May 10 Peter Pan Stakes. He was bred in Kentucky by Woodslane Farm.

The win was the second in a Triple Crown event for Rosario, a native of the Dominican Republic. He won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb.

After the top five, the order of finish was Samraat, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Commanding Curve, Matuszak, and Ride On Curlin.

The $2 exacta (11-8) paid $348 and the $1 trifecta (11-8-1) returned $3,390.50. There were two winning 10-cent superfectas: 11-8-1-2 paid $380.80, and 11-8-1-9 paid $573.35.

There have been 11 Triple Crown winners since 1919, the latest being Affirmed. Subsequent Derby-Preakness winners that failed to win the Belmont were Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004), and Big Brown (2008). In 2012, I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness but did not start in the Belmont because of injury.