06/07/2014 8:32PM

Evans on other side of spoiled Triple Crown

Debra A. Roma
Owner Robert Evans (left) and trainer Christophe Clement with Tonalist after the colt's win in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

This wasn’t the first time the Evans family has been involved in a failed Triple Crown bid – but the view from the other side is a little bit different.

Tonalist, owned by Robert S. Evans, edged Commissioner by a head to win the Belmont Stakes on Saturday in New York, as dual classic winner California Chrome finished in a dead heat for fourth, extending the Triple Crown drought for another year.

Also among the failed Triple Crown bids since 1978 is that of Pleasant Colony, who finished third to Summing in the 1981 Belmont. Pleasant Colony – the broodmare sire of Tonalist – was campaigned by the Buckland Farm of Robert Evans’s father, the late Thomas Mellon Evans.

“I’ve been where [California Chrome’s co-owner] Steve Coburn’s been, and it’s not fun,” Evans said. “We loved California Chrome. We hoped he’d win the Triple Crown. But we love our horse, too.”

Despite the nature of the victory, Evans didn’t shy away from praising Tonalist.

“It’s very satisfying,” he said. “Actually, yesterday I went to my father’s grave and thanked him for putting me in a position to do this … I was slightly surprised [by the win], and it’s great. I’ve been in this game a long time.”

Tonalist was bred in Virginia by Rene and Lauren Woolcott’s Woodslane Farm, which had purchased his dam, Settling Mist, a few years prior to his birth. The Tapit colt is from a female family that includes the likes of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, champion sprinter Pluggled Nickle, and Grade 1 winners Riskaverse and Christiecat. One branch of the family is responsible for 1992 Belmont winner and breed-shaping sire A.P. Indy, as well as classic winners Summer Squall and Lemon Drop Kid.

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

But despite that loaded catalog page, Tonalist failed to meet his reserve when offered at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. Evans, at the urging of consignor Cathy Sweezy, later privately purchased the colt.

“Cathy Sweezey urged me 10 times probably to look at the horse and dragged me back,” Evans said. “She made me do it.”

Much like Tonalist, whose pedigree is littered with champions, Evans’s family roots in racing run deep. Thomas Evans was the cousin of prominent owner-breeder and philanthropist Paul Mellon, and other horses campaigned by Buckland included champions Pleasant Stage and Pleasant Tap.

Evans’s brother, the late Edward P. Evans, operated a prominent breeding and racing operation in Virginia; he bred and sold 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam and campaigned the brilliant homebred Quality Road, a multiple Grade 1 winner.

Robert Evans, who bought his first horse in 1965, owns a farm in Maryland and has found a good deal of success as a breeder. He campaigned Shared Interest, a homebred daughter of Pleasant Colony who won the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap in 1993. That mare went on to produce Forestry, whom Evans later sold; running for Aaron and Marie Jones, he won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes in 1999.

Evans also campaigned Grade 1-winning homebred Sewickley and bred and sold 1999 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Cash Run.

Dennis Fisher More than 1 year ago
Well said Anonymous horse racing is dominated by greed, but what comes to mind is the term Vested Interest. Robert Evans was and still is President of Churchill Downs Inc like Thomas Meeker his best friend, both are top breeders in the industry. So no matter how you look at the outcome of these million dollar horse races, vested interest always comes into the equation, which makes it unfair yet allows these high authorities, at any time they want, to win, knowing their vested interest powers allows them at any time to be able to manipulate the outcome of any horse races, to their satisfaction. Knowing that they are secretly operating horse racing as a masonic self Governing body, which means they are a Government unto themselves, which means, whether they do good or evil, they like Robert Evans - Thomas Meeker etc only have to answer unto themselves... .
pauljmabedayrep More than 1 year ago
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georget More than 1 year ago
Lets understand. THE Triple Crown is a term used to describe victory in the spring's three richest races for 3yo tbreds If you happen to have THE horse that wins all three, you've won the triple crown, and THEN the bragging rights, which you then capitalize on via the Breeding Shed. But until you win all three races, bragging is only opinion. No one is or should be required to run those races. But they all load into the starting gate and may the best horse right now win.
Jim Pappas More than 1 year ago
biggest crybabies in history of horse racing. chrome's preakness was a great race but the derby was a joke. it wasn't the slow finish time, it was the plodding first half that gave chrome the derby. closers had no chance. after the derby beyer was asked if this horse would win the belmont. he literally laughed before stating that there was no way he could win belmont. to have chrome placed up there with the likes of spectacular bid, sunday silence, and alysheba dosen't do justice to this sport, let alone considering him to be on the same level as affirmed etc.
James More than 1 year ago
If an owner has a talented 3 year old colt or filly and chooses to risk this horses racing career by running them in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, a grueling ordeal, in order to win fame by winning all three races, well they have the right to do this to their horse. However other more sensible owners have the right to run their horses in any of these races they choose{if they qualify for the Derby}. The owner of Swaps was not a coward when he won the Derby then skipped the Preakness and Belmont. He kept his horse sound enough to be Horse of Year as a 4 year old. The owners of Rachel Alexander were not cowards when they skipped running in the Derby to run in the Oaks and then come back 2 weeks later to win the Preakness. The owners of Rags To Riches were not cowards when they ran her in the Belmont after skipping the Derby and Preakness, Rags was bred to run a mile and a half.
Joe Orefice More than 1 year ago
Maybe the real secret to the Triple Crown is to restrict the Belmont to the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. That would eliminate all the cowards out there. You see, the beauty of the process is that everyone does not get a trophy. To put your horse on that very exclusive list of triple crown winners, you have to OVERCOME the diverse distances, the 5 week window and the competition from all horses eligible to run. That is what makes it the test of a champion. Remember, Secretariats best and most dominating race was the Belmont after he had set the stakes records in the DERBY AND PREAKNESS. Sadly, CALIFORNIS CHROME did not measure up to the challange and neither did his owner who couldn't handle the sad result with even a modicum of class. Congratulations Mr.Evans ona solid victory by a very nice colt.
Joe Eckert More than 1 year ago
I dont think Costas should have gone there instead he should have kept the mood a winning one for Mr.Evans,not put him on the spot..Should have thought that one thru Bob..dont need negativity on the biggest racing day in years..
Joe Eckert More than 1 year ago
Steve makes a great point, when the powers that be have there war room meeting to discuss the state of racing,maybe this shoudl get some attention.I still think 20 horses are too many for the Derby.When there is a bad spill and it mars the race maybe just maybe they will come back to reality with 13 horses..
John Moore More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to the connections of Tonalist. Too bad the owner of Chrome expressed his gratitude towards the winning connections.
Dave More than 1 year ago
Take it easy Steve...you lost get over it. Classless