Another year, another failed attempt at the Triple Crown from horse racing's best. California Chrome, a horse born out of a lowly pedigree from a meager $10,000 investment, had an opportune chance to end the draught for horse racing's most prestigious title. Not since Affirmed in 1978 has there been a Tripe Crown winner.
California Chrome started the race strong, jumping out of the gate to the inside rail at the direction of jockey Victor Espinoza, who almost won the Triple Crown with War Emblem in 2002. A clean start was seen as one of the key's to the colt's victory, as he had started slowly in the first two races, unnecessarily giving up ground from the outset. The length of the Belmont (it's the longest of the three Triple Crown tracks) proved to be problematic for him (he had raced the three times in the previous five weeks) midway through the race. California Chrome was pushed to the outside of the back, and coming back along the final turn, didn't have that final gear to overtake a four horse lead pack. He finished in fourth, a few lengths behind the 2014 Belmont Stakes champion, Tonalist.
Tonalist was seen as a potential upset pick coming in to the race. Since Affirmed's victory in 1978, four of the 12 horses who've spoiled the Triple Crown at the Belmont hadn't races in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. At 8-1 odds, Tonalist was the best horse of the group who entered the Belmont without racing in the previous two Triple Crown races. With Tonalist's victory, for the 5th time in eight years, the Belmont winner is one of those horses.
California Chrome's co-owner Steve Coburn was upset in his post-race interview, calling Tonalist's upset "the coward’s way out," in reference to the rules allowing Belmont entrants who haven't raced in the Derby or Preakness.
Sounds like a bitter man, but then again, we'd be too if we were that close to sporting history.