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Friday, October 24, 2014
No crown for California Chrome
Tonalist wins Belmont Stakes
Eric Dunetz/Herald
Joel Rosario rode Tonalist to victory in the 146th Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Triple Crown-hopeful California Chrome finished in a dead-heat for fourth before a crowd of 102,199.

Another year, another upset in the Belmont.

With 102,199 euphoric fans hoping to see California Chrome end a 36-year Triple Crown drought, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was in striking distance of the leaders turning for home in last Saturday’s 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.

But unlike his exhilarating stretch runs at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, California Chrome leveled off in the last eighth of a mile and finished in a dead-heat for fourth as Tonalist surged past Commissioner in the final stride to become the ninth straight upset winner in the Belmont.

“He was going easy,” jockey Joel Rosario said of Tonalist, who broke from the far-outside post — No. 11 — and paid $20.40 to win. “I didn’t want to be too far behind,” he added. “When I got to the three-eighths pole I was a little confident. I was worried a little bit turning for home, but he started picking them up.”

Commissioner, who nearly went wire-to-wire under Javier Castellano, completed an exacta that returned $348 for a $2 investment. Medal Count, with Robby Albarado aboard, completed a trifecta that paid $6,781.

“I’m a little bit upset about California Chrome,” Rosario said. “If I was going to get beat, I wanted to get beat just by him.”

The no-frills California-bred owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin was bidding to become the 12th Triple Crown champion. Instead, “Chromie” joined Spectacular Bid, Pleasant Colony, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown, and I’ll Have Another as horses unable to capture the grueling final leg since Affirmed bested Alydar in 1978.

“As soon as he came out of the gate, he was not the same,” jockey Victor Espinoza said of California Chrome, who broke from the No. 2 post and went off as the 4-5 favorite. “By the five-eighths pole he was just empty.”

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