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Tonalist Wins the Belmont Stakes

California Chrome's Triple Crown attempt came up short on the third leg.

By Leslie Potter | June 7, 2014

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UPDATE June 8, 2014:
California Chrome's trainer Art Sherman revealed that the horse sustained a superficial hoof injury at the start of the Belmont Stakes. The injury may or may not have affected his run in the Belmont, but it is expected to heal quickly, and Chrome will likely race again.

"I can heal that up in about 2-3 weeks," Sherman told reporters. "And then we’ll stop on him for about six or seven weeks and give him some pasture time. So Chrome is going to have some needed rest. It’s been a tough campaign for him.”

Original Article:

 

Tonalist won Saturday's Belmont Stakes, but that's not the story that fans are following. The victory is overshadowed by the defeat of California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner that many hoped would become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

For casual race viewers, Tonalist seems to have come out of nowhere to win this year's Belmont. The bay colt by Tapit is hardly a household name, and he did not contest the Derby or the Preakness. This fact brought criticism from one of Chrome's owners.

"This is not fair to these horses that have been in it since day one," said Steve Coburn. "I look at it this way. If you can't make enough points to get to the Kentucky Derby, you can't run in the other two races...It's all or nothing. This is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people, and for the people that believe in them. This is the coward's way out, in my opinion."

But does Coburn's opinion stand up to the races' history? The Triple Crown is comprised of three independent races; it's not a triathlon. In fact, when Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner in 1919, he wasn't celebrated as such because those races hadn't been grouped under that title. It wasn't until the 1920s that the press started to talk about the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in those terms.

 

There's never been a rule requiring Preakness or Belmont contenders to have participated in the earlier legs of the Triple Crown. This year, only three of Chrome's Derby competitors went on to the Preakness. If only four horses competed in the Belmont, it seems any victory there would be less meaningful. Furthermore, it isn't in every horse's best interest to compete in these challenging races so close together on the calendar. Should owners and trainers be forced to compete in all three just to provide a more level playing field for one Triple Crown contender?

Chrome's victories aren't negated by his loss in the Belmont. He brought people's interest to the sport, even if only temporarily. He made New York change its rule about nasal strips in Thoroughbred races. He even had children rapping his praises. He appears to have finished the relatively long distance of the Belmont sound, and may continue to have a race career after this spring. And regardless of his owner's comments to the press, whoever is typing on Chrome's behalf on his official Twitter account is much more gracious in defeat.

 

What do you think? Should horses that don't compete in the earlier Triple Crown races be excluded from the Belmont? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

2014 Belmont Stakes Results:

  1. Tonalist
  2. Commissioner
  3. Medal Count
  4. Wicked Strong/California Chrome (dead heat)

Leslie Potter is the Senior Associate Web Editor for HorseChannel.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieInLex

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Reader Comments

Ellen    Madison, WI

6/9/2014 2:55:42 PM

Well said Galadriel! Your second and third paragraphs perfectly explain what others are not considering. And anyways, if all the horses had to compete in all three races, we'd probably have a Triple Crown winner every other year! How special would that be? No one would care about it anymore. It's supposed to be a somewhat rare occurrence.

Adding to Galadriel's Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing argument, only one person has been able to do it (Pippa Funnell). And you are allowed to win on different horses in each competition!

I do have some corrections to make to Galadriel's comments: the Kentucky Derby(mile and a quarter)is not the shortest Triple Crown race, the Preakness(mile and three-sixteenths) is. Also, most training workouts aren't as intense as a race.

PKL    Somewhere, WY

6/9/2014 5:34:40 AM

Disappointed?? Yes, but shake hooves/hands like a good sports men do, and move on. Nice pictures.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

6/8/2014 11:40:08 PM

Steven Coburn sure is a sore loser! Wow, even his wife was telling him to stop it and he turns around and says "I don't care" to which she replies, "I do!"

The whole point of the Triple Crown is that to win it you must have a horse of such calibre that he not only wins 3 races within a month but that he can also win against fresh horses. All the other Triple Crown winners did it.

And, the races are not connected with each other. The Triple Crown term was coined by the press. There is no purse involved but there certainly is historic prestige.

As your article says, when Sir Barton won all three races no one called it a Triple Crown. In fact, he even won another race between the Preakness and the Belmont.

Many other horses have come close to winning, much closer than California Chrome in fact, by placing 2nd in the Belmont. Some horses placed 2nd in the Derby and then went on to win the other 2 races. These horses show greater stamina as the Derby is the shortest of all 3 races.

Perhaps California Chrome just didn't have the stamina to keep the speed up for the extra distance. After all, when horses are training it's like they are racing every day.

Whatever the case, we have yet another near win and maybe one day we'll actually have a horse/trainer combo good enough to win the Triple Crown!

BTW, we have a triple crown in eventing too, The Rolex, Burghley Trials, and Badminton. I don't think most people expect competitors to compete in all 3 events! And in this case there IS a purse at stake.

l    l, AK

6/8/2014 6:23:44 PM

cool

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