Disappointing news for horse racing fans in Fresno and all over the state of California today as California Chrome, the American Thoroughbred racehorse, sadly missed his much anticipated chance at immortality today when he lost the 2014 Belmont Stakes, thus loosing his chance to become the first racehorse in 36 years to win the United States Triple Crown.
As thoroughly reported by Newsday, California Chrome finished tied for fourth as competitor Tonalist won the "Test of the Champion" before more than 100,000 fans at Belmont Park Racetrack. Chrome and Wicked Strong finished in a dead heat for fourth place.
Chrome, the 4-5 favorite, spent much of the race on the rail but moved outside on the final turn and backstretch to make his move.
California Chrome's jockey Victor Espinoza said, "When I moved out, he just didn't have it today."
Commissioner (27-1) finished second and Medal Count third. Tonalist closed at 11-1 odds and paid $20.40. The Tonalist-Commissioner exacta paid $348 and the trifecta with Medal Count (25-1) paid $3,390.50.
As Chrome's owner Steve Coburn said, "He didn't have it in him, apparently."
California Chrome, the chestnut colt with the white blaze and four white stockings, was the ninth horse in the past 18 years to have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Silver Charm (second, 1997), Real Quiet (second by a nose, 1998), Charismatic (third, 1999), War Emblem (eighth, 2002), Funny Cide (third, 2003), Smarty Jones (second, 2004) and Big Brown (last, 2008) all fell short of winning thoroughbred racing's most elusive trophy. I'll Have Another (2012) was scratched because of a career-ending tendon injury the day before the race. Among the Hall of Famers who failed in the past 35 years were Spectacular Bid (1979) Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba (1987) and Sunday Silence (1989).
Only 11 horses in history have ever swept the Triple Crown - Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). Legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro rode Whirlaway and Citation, and before his death in 1997 he said, "You'll never see another one."
Four days ago, 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman predicted what would happen if his horse of a lifetime won the Belmont. "You're going to see parties like you've never seen before in California. This horse is like the Messiah for California."
At Los Alamitos and Santa Anita, thousands wearing black and silver California Chrome T-shirts and purple and green hats cheered on their hero. "California-breds don't get much credence," co-owner Steve Coburn said recently. "But he doesn't know he was born there."
California Chrome's story is that of an underdog. His beginnings are that he was the product of a mating of the mare Love the Chase, who cost Coburn and his partner, Perry Martin, $8,000, and the obscure Lucky Pulpit, whose stud fee was a measly $2,500. The first horse they ever bred entered the world on a cattle ranch in the small town of Coalinga, home of California's largest stash of cow manure. Coburn soon began making wild predictions that "Chromie" would win the Derby, then later added the Triple Crown to his visions.
Coalinga just so happens to be the setting of John Steinbeck's Depression-era novel "The Grapes of Wrath," which depicted the rough lives of the "Okies" from Oklahoma's Dust Bowl who picked fruits and vegetables not far from where "Chromie" was born. Coburn has called him "the people's horse," and undoubtedly many descendants of those migrant pickers picked him to win.
Trainer Art Sherman marveled about how the racing gods have blessed them, because fame and glory came so late in his 60-year career, he had the perspective to take it in stride. On Tuesday, Sherman reflected on a run no one could have predicted. "I don't have anything to prove, so I'm more laid-back this time. I don't think he has to win the Belmont to be a hero. He'll always be my hero."
Well, this examiner is certain that, despite this defeat, many people still think that California Chrome is just that, a hero...the people's horse.