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California Chrome fails to win Belmont, Triple Crown

1402183202000-USP-Horse-Racing-146th-Belmont-Stakes-002From Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY

California Chrome was looking to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. He dead-heated for fourth place.

Tonalist, which had not run in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, came in with fresh legs on his home track and upset California Chrome to win the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes

NEW YORK – On fresh legs and a familiar track, Tonalist won the Belmont Stakes Saturday to spoil California Chrome’s bid for the first Triple Crown in Thoroughbred racing in 36 years.

The outcome crushed the hopes of California Chrome fans clad in purple, green and nasal strips – and immediately fueled debate about whether the timetable of the Triple Crown series needs fixing.

California Chrome sustained a bloody gash that may have hurt his chances in the race. Photos taken while the horse was walking back to the barn after the race show the injured hoof.

Trainer Art Sherman said California Chrome might have hurt himself coming out of the gate by kicking his right front leg with his right rear leg. The colt’s camp says the injury is not serious.

The 4-5 favorite had won six in a row, most recently the May 3 Kentucky Derby and the May 17 Preakness. In his third race in five weeks with jockey Victor Espinoza in the saddle, he finished the Belmont in a dead heat for fourth place with Wicked Strong. California Chrome had previously been accustomed to a month off between races.

Assistant trainer Alan Sherman said the California-bred colt gave his all.

“It’s a long, hard ride on these young horses, and that’s why the Triple Crown is so tough to win,” said Sherman. ” … The horse tried. That’s all I can ask for. He took me on the ride of my life. I’ll always have that in my heart for that horse.”

Espinoza, asked when the Triple Crown drought might end, said, “I’m sure one of these days. … Sooner or later, we need to break this bad karma.”

Tonalist, ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, did not run in the Derby or Preakness. His most recent race was a win here at Belmont Park in the May 10 Peter Pan Stakes.

BRENNAN: Why another Triple Crown might never be

Running from the outside post in an 11-horse field, Tonalist, who went off at 9-1, won by a head over over runner-up Commissioner, who also did not run in the Derby or Preakness and was second in the Peter Pan. Medal Count, eighth in the Derby and absent from the Preakness, took third by a length.

Winning jockey Joel Rosario said it was bittersweet to be the spoiler. “I’m a little bit upset about California Chrome,” he said. “If I was going to get beat, I wanted to just get beat by him.”

But Tonalist, who prior to winning the Peter Pan on May 10 had not raced since finishing second Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park in Florida, had a say in the outcome.

”(He) is just kind of a big horse, and he has long strides,” said Rosario. “And he just grinds it and keeps on going and going, keeps on coming, and he got the job done today.”

Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, had been critical before the race of horses who sat out the earlier Triple Crown races and entered the Belmont to “upset the apple cart.” He continued that immediately after Saturday’s finish.

“This was the coward’s way out,” said Coburn.

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