Tonalist came from nowhere to win the Belmont Stakes and deny heavy favorite California Chrome what would have been the first Triple Crown since 1978.
Tonalist edged out Commissioner, and Medal Count came in third. Chrome’s owner, Steve Coburn, was bitter that the three top finishers, unlike his horse, had not run all three legs of the Triple Crown. The Crown goes to a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes, and both Tonalist and Commissioner skipped the Derby and Preakness.
“I’m 61 years old and I’ll never see in my lifetime another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this,” he told NBC Sports. “It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day 1.”
“I look at it this way: If you can’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races,” he added. “This is the coward’s way out.”
California Chrome (pictured earlier this week) was a strong favorite in the Belmont Stakes, going off at 4-5 odds. Wicked Strong had the next-best odds at 5-1. Chrome was the most heavily bet Triple Crown contender in history.
Tonalist, meanwhile, had the fourth best odds 11-1 — but lagged far behind the favorites.
For much of the race, it looked as if Commissioner, at 27-1 odds, might pull out a win. California Chrome spent much of the race in fourth place. Fans with money on the line watched nervously, waiting for him to make his big move.
It came down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough. It was Tonalist who finally beat Commissioner.
Bob Costas delivered this mind-bending bit of trivia before the race: The last three Triple Crown winners, all in the 1970s, came in years that New York and Los Angeles teams faced off for national championships in major sports. This year, The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings are facing off for the Stanley Cup.
But that turned out not to mean anything for California Chrome. He ended up in a dead heat for fourth with Wicked Strong.