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Belmont Stakes, Triple Crown rookies knock off California Chrome

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The Belmont Stakes had been breaking hearts for 35 years heading into June 7. But thanks to California Chrome, there was hope that the 204 Belmont Stakes could fulfill the dreams of horse racing and its fans starving for a Triple Crown. Instead, the Belmont was the same it has always been since 1978, as it capped another Triple Crown free season thanks to California Chrome tying for fourth place -- which triggered the wrath of his owner.

The Belmont came down to a photo finish where Tonalist beat out Commissioner -- although neither horse ran in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. As such, California Chrome's owner, Steve Coburn, called the strategy "the coward's way out" and railed against the entire Triple Crown system of letting horses skip the Derby and Preakness. He even repeated his comments on the TODAY Show on June 8 instead of issuing any apologies.

Coburn turned out to have more fireworks in him than his horse, as California Chrome never challenged down the stretch. Like in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he was near the front of the field from the start, but he never got a move going to take the lead. He was boxed in by the leaders and had to move from the rail to the outside, not finding any room or any real spark of energy.

Even jockey Victor Espinoza admitted that California Chrome was worn out by the end of the Belmont Stakes, like so many Triple Crown challengers before him. Despite dominating at Kentucky and at the Preakness, it wasn't his day in New York, although all signs pointed to him breaking the 35-year-long Triple Crown drought.

The 61-year-old Coburn also proclaimed that he would never see a Triple Crown winning horse in his lifetime again after the loss. It is a feeling that much of the horse racing community must have sometimes, especially after a Belmont Stakes like this. After Coburn brought up the problem of not stopping horses from skipping Triple Crown race, the issue of the possibly antiquated system of running three races in five weeks will likely also come up for debate.

Since California Chrome couldn't break the Triple Crown drought, the sentiment may be that the system has to be blown up for the streak to end. Until then, the Belmont Stakes may forever be the most heartbreaking event in horse racing.



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