06/07/2014 8:47PM

Tonalist denies California Chrome's Triple Crown bid in Belmont

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tonalist (center) and jockey Joel Rosario beat Commissioner by a head in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The Triple Crown elevator still stops on the 11th floor.

California Chrome could not end a 36-year drought of Triple Crown winners Saturday, when he finished in a dead heat for fourth in the 146th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park behind the victorious Tonalist, a late-developing colt who did not run in the Kentucky Derby nor the Preakness Stakes.

For at least another year, Affirmed, in 1978, remains the last and 11th Triple Crown winner.

California Chrome, the 4-5 favorite, entered the Belmont with a six-race win streak, including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. His Triple Crown quest, combined with a sensational undercard and gorgeous weather, attracted an overflow crowd to Belmont Park.

California Chrome got away alertly but then sat behind horses from the first turn until the final turn, when he swung out four paths wide to make his run. But he did not have the same acceleration he showed in the Derby and Preakness, a sign that the Triple Crown trail had taken its toll in the final quarter-mile of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.

“He was just a little bit empty today,” said Victor Espinoza, who rode California Chrome.

California Chrome came back with a cut on his right front foot.

Tonalist ($20.40) closed best in the stretch under jockey Joel Rosario and caught 28-1 shot Commissioner in the final jumps to win by a head, with Medal Count, a 24-1 shot, another length back in third.

Tonalist, whom Christophe Clement trains for owner Robert “Shel” Evans, completed 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:28.52.

California Chrome and Wicked Strong finished in a dead heat for fourth, nearly two lengths behind Tonalist.

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

General a Rod and Ride On Curlin were the only horses besides California Chrome to run in all three Triple Crown races. California Chrome ran the best of those three.

After the race, Steve Coburn, who is the co-breeder and co-owner of California Chrome with Perry Martin, said on NBC’s telecast that Tonalist being able to enter, and win, the Belmont without running in the first two legs of the Triple Crown was “the coward’s way out.”

“It’s not fair to horses who have been in the gate since Day 1,” he said, referring to the Derby.

At a post-race news conference, Evans declined to comment on Martin’s rant.

Tonalist was making just the fifth start of his career. After losing his lone start at 2 in November at Aqueduct, he was sent to Florida for the winter, where he won a maiden race Jan. 18 before finishing second in an allowance race to Constitution, who subsequently won the Florida Derby.

Tonalist became sick before an intended start in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April and sustained a foot bruise, all of which took him out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby. Clement pointed for the Belmont and used the Peter Pan Stakes here May 10 as a prep. He won, then trained sharply coming into the Belmont. He trained in bar shoes before the Peter Pan and the Belmont, but those were replaced with conventional shoes for both races.

“It’s a great win. It’s great for the team, for the staff, for the owner, Mr. Evans, who believed in us,” said Clement, who was winning his first Triple Crown race. “I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s wonderful. He trained great, he looked great before the race. I’m absolutely delighted that he won.”

Tonalist earned a first prize of $800,000 from a gross purse of $1.5 million.

Tonalist, who started from the outside post in the field of 11, was on the outside in third a half-mile into the race, the pace of 48.52 seconds surprisingly set by Commissioner, with General a Rod closest. Commissioner continued to lead through fractions of 1:12.84 for six furlongs, 1:37.13 for one mile, and 2:02.43 for 1 1/4 miles.

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

California Chrome, four paths wide coming off the turn, appeared to get closest to the leaders at the top of the stretch but could not make a sustained run through the lane. Tonalist, however, closed resolutely, no doubt helped by the power of Rosario, the game’s best finisher.

“I kept him outside the whole way,” Rosario said. “He’s a big horse. That helped him going a mile and a half. Big horse, keeps on going. That’s why I didn’t want to be on the inside.”

Tonalist is a colt by Tapit out of the Pleasant Colony mare Settling Mist. Evans purchased him privately at the Saratoga yearling sale in August 2012 after he failed to bring his reserve price in the ring.

“He’s 17 hands. He’s a great, big boy. I liked that his grandfather was Pleasant Colony,” Evans said.

Evans’s father, the late Thomas Mellon Evans, bred and raced Pleasant Colony, who won the Derby and Preakness in 1981 but was third in the Belmont. He was the second of what are now 12 horses who, since Affirmed, have won the Derby and Preakness and failed in the Belmont. Another horse, I’ll Have Another, won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2012 but was retired before the Belmont.

“This is very satisfying,” Evans said. “Yesterday, I went to my father’s grave and thanked him for putting me in a position to do this.

“It’s very satisfying. My brother,” he said, referring to the late Edward Evans, “also was a great owner and breeder. Now they’re both gone, so I have to fill their shoes if I can.”

Evans has a name similar to the chairman and chief executive of Churchill Downs, Robert L. Evans. Asked if they are ever confused, Evans replied, “I don’t like the association, and I’ll leave it at that.”

He does, though, like being associated with Clement.

“After the Peter Pan,” Evans said, “he had four weeks to get ready for this, and Christophe had him just right.”

– additional reporting by David Grening

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riskit101 . More than 1 year ago
the question is how much do you make?
cappelletti63 More than 1 year ago
I guess no one knows what it's like to run a mile 1/2 with a grabbed front quarter. It's the same type of injury that put shared belief on the side lines.California Chrome ran a hella race with a right front grabbed quarter and absolutely no one knows the pain he endured. Yet they call him a loser when he really is the best horse the now horse. I hope he is able to over come his injuries by the BC.I will be rooting...
Jerry Ray More than 1 year ago
You are correct with this comment. I have been around the horseracing business since the 50's and have seen a lot of changes in the game. They don't have many races going ! 1/2 or farther any more and they don't carry the weight like they used to .Look at the champion horses that carried as much as 141 lbs. like Ta Wee or 130 + like Forego, Kelso, etc. I think that to make it fair a horse should run in either the Derby or the Preakness to be eligible to run in the Belmont. When they put in the point system for the Derby it does keep some of the better horses out but they can run in the Preakness.. That way a horse that does win the first 2 doesn't have real fresh horses like Tonalist or the Commissioner running as they didn't run in either of the previous races.
anonymous More than 1 year ago
The scene at Belmont was amazing, and the love shown to young Cal. Chrome was touching. I didn't want the guy to win, but he was a great unifier and now I'm sorry he lost. Just can't get enough of racing, what a great game. It takes a big race to show what it's all about- adorable horses treated like pets, running their genes and instincts out, with understanding humans helping them along the way. A bit like the Westchester dog show, and why not? These colts and fillies are the most expensive pets out there, trained to perform to their best. They certainly deserve the best conditioners and trainers, but did they have that? The pageantry was amazing.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Defining class in humans is easier than in horses.
Mark D More than 1 year ago
Donald Sterling is an idiot...but us fans can't blame the Clippers players. Coburn is an idiot.....but that doesn't give people the right to start hate'n on CC. He is simply the 3yo in the country right now.
Tobin Cross More than 1 year ago
it says a lot that no Preakness horse beat the "fresh horse"
Michael Ciminella More than 1 year ago
There is nothing wrong with the format. It has separated the good from the great for more than a century, and as good as California Chrome is, I suspect the same thing happened yesterday.
Tobin Cross More than 1 year ago
“he had four weeks to get ready for this
Ami Cuervo More than 1 year ago
http://www.usatoday.com/media/cinematic/video/10191847/ USA TODAY affirms what so many of us including me are saying....the elite of horse racing allow what no other sport allows...for the trainers and owners to "cherry pick" the races, come in for bear and ruin the champion's true bid. What other sport does that NONE....about time to bring this sham into the LIGHT of DAY
Dennis Ho More than 1 year ago
to be the best horse you need the beat all comers.means nothing if he wins against same opponents
Joe Dekarski More than 1 year ago
just do us a favor ,get a new sport to critisize,you obviously no zero about this sport.We are doomed
Starks43 More than 1 year ago
Actually every other sport does this.
Xavier Basabe More than 1 year ago
This is not true you can't sit out the first rounds of the playoffs and compete in the finals.
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
Obviously, you know a lot about horse racing so I'm gonna give you a pass on this one.
Mike Oliveto More than 1 year ago
This is the beauty and also problem with Thoroughbred racing. Anyone can compete in the game. But when a guy like Coburn wins millions of dollars it's like the Beverly Hillbillies.
Wagthetongue More than 1 year ago
Well said and if there was any question about the horses soundness, then the owners should be doubly ashamed of themselves. Also, seems to be a theme coming out of California, for if you voiced an opinion contrary to Ca. Chromes ability to win, you were labeled a hater. Apparently some real spoiled types in CA.
anonymous More than 1 year ago
You should be triply ashamed of yourself.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
Thems good vittles.
Joe Dekarski More than 1 year ago
lol awesome post
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Dennis Ho More than 1 year ago
Bad idea