California Chromes’s decisive defeat in the Belmont Stakes broke a lot of people’s hearts yesterday, but perhaps none so much as that of co-owner Steve Coburn, who chose to lash out at his competitors with a tirade on national TV following Tonalist’s victory.
“Our horse had a target on his back. The 20 horses that earned enough points to start in the Kentucky Derby should be the only ones eligible to run in all three races,” he railed, denouncing the owners and trainers who “sat out the Preakness and sent out a fresh horse to upset the applecart for a Triple Crown contender. It’s all or nothing, because this not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people (the public) and for the people who believe in them to have somebody come up like this.”
In the meantime, Robert Evans, who owns Tonalist refused to comment on Coburn’s remarks, including those that labeled him “a coward” for not running his horse in the Preakness. Although Tonalist did not have enough points to qualify him for the Derby this year, the colt posted an impressive victory in the Peter Pan running at “freakish” spped in the slop against lesser contenders than he faced yesterday.
Evans did state, however, that he was a little nervous about having the outside (number 11) post position and how his colt would react to the mega-crowd of over 100,000 people who turned out in hope of finally seeing a Triple Crown winner after a drought of 36 years. He also had high praise for Jockey Joel Rosario who “rode him beautifully.”
Tonalist was slow to get his stride coming out of the gate, but moved to the middle of the pack into the first turn, racing five wide, before moving up to third on the backstretch. He was still three wide as they headed into the far turn, then put a strong drive cutting into Commissioner’s lead to get the victory at the wire, with Medal Count coming on strong to take third place. In the meantime, California Chrome was never able to take advantage of his “stalker’s seat”on the rail during the backstretch run before jockey Victor Espinoza surprised many viewers by choosing to steer him toward the outside. In the end, he did not have enough fire to draw closer to the leaders and finished in a dead heat for 4th with second betting favorite Wicked Strong.
The official order of finish was Tonalist, Commissioner, Medal Count, Wicked Strong and California Chrome, followed by Samraat, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Commanding Curve, Matuszak and Ride on Curlin.
Note: Whether or not it had anything to do with his loss, California Chrome did have blood on his hoof at the end of the race, said to have come from a cut he endured coming out of the gate.