There will be millions of broken hearts and a more than a few bruised egos tonight all over the world, as California Chrome was not able to seal the deal on a Triple Crown win.
Top photo of Tonalist via Getty Images.
Instead, it was the underrated Tonalist, fresh off of a win on this very track in May in the Peter Pan Stakes, who came under the wire first in convincing fashion after an intense stretch drive. This is a Belmont more fraught with emotions than I think I have ever seen in the many years I’ve been watching, and I’m honestly still waiting for the disappointment to set in as I immediately focused on getting this report up as soon as the race finished.
Tonalist hit the wire first, followed by Commissioner in the place position and Medal Count in the show. California Chrome finished in a dead heat with Wicked Strong for fourth place.
Jockey Victor Espinoza commented that California Chrome felt tired today, as is to be expected for a horse coming off of two races in the past month and the longest race of his life on a deep track. Chrome had a good trip around the oval today, coming up wide around the far turn and simply coming up empty down the stretch. In contrast to his superb higher gear he has displayed up until now, he just seemed like he had reached the end of his reserves a bit too early.
Owner Steve Coburn did not take the loss well, going as far as to allude to the idea of cowardice on the part of Tonalist’s connections, who elected to skip the Derby and Preakness (the horse did not qualify for the Derby in time) and take a shot at the third leg of the Triple Crown. “I will never see another Triple Crown winner in my life because of the way they do this. It isn’t fair to these horses who have been in it from day one,” Coburn said in his post-race interview.
While the Triple Crown has, to my knowledge, always been open to horses that did not race in the Derby, Coburn’s words still do have a point. Combined with the demands of the whirlwind that is the Triple Crown trail and the simple fact that the racehorses of today just don’t hold up as well as they did 50 years ago, coming up against fresh horses makes the job that much harder.
Should entries for each leg of the Triple Crown be limited to horses participating in all three races, or should they remain open? Is it the true test of a champion to be able to take on any horse and still come out on top? Are we going to see another Triple Crown winner in our lifetime?
These are questions we will all be asking as we try to get over the heartbreak that was today. California Chrome deserves a huge vacation now that he has poured his heart onto the racetrack, and we will truly never forget the impact he made on our world. Thank you, Chrome, and congratulations to Tonalist.