No Crown for Chrome

2014 Belmont goes to Tonalist

The 2014 Gr1 Belmont Stakes has been won from the 11 draw by Tonalist, trained by Christophe Clement, ridden by Joel Rosario and owned by Robert S Evans.

The race got off to a clean start, with Commissioner taking the lead in the early stages, with General A Rod and Tonalist keeping pace.  The big race favourite, California Chrome sat handy, travelling along the rail just off the early leaders.  As they reached the mile mark, California Chrome was asked for an effort and forced wide to try and pass horses.  The field came into the stretch four-wide, with California Chrome making a heavy charge under a determined ride from Victor Espinoza.  He didn’t have enough however and Tonalist mounted a determined challenge to beat Commissioner by a nose in a nail-biting finish, Medal Count finished 3rd with California Chrome tying for fourth with Wicked Strong.  The race was won in a time of 2:28.52.

The 1 1/2-mile Belmont has been “heartbreak highway” for 3-year-olds since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown 36 years ago in 1978 and claimed its scalps again today.  “As soon as he came out of the gate he was not the same,” Espinoza said of California Chrome. “By the five-eighths pole he was just empty. Turning for home I was just waiting to have the same kick like he always had before, and today he was a little flat down the lane.  He ran back-to-back races at different tracks–and all those fresh horses.”

The 17hh Tonalist, who broke from the outside 11 post, was described as having “shown brilliance”, but only had four starts under his belt coming into the Belmont Stakes.   He finished fourth on debut on 16 November 2013 at Aqueduct, winning his maiden by 4 lengths at the second time of asking on 18 January 2014.  He was second to Florida Derby winner Constitution in an allowance race on 22 February and his biggest win came in the 10 May 2014 Gr2 Peter Pan Stakes which he won at the Belmont track, drawing off to win by an impressive four lengths under the guidance of Joel Rosario, to put his career earnings at $157,000.

By Tapit out of a daughter of Pleasant Colony called Settling Mist, Tonalist was bred by Woodslane Farm and sent to the 2012 Fasig Tipton Saratoga yearling sale with Sweezey & Partners as agent.  The colt failed to reach his reserve of $195,000 and was later sold privately to Robert “Shel” Evans, who liked the colt’s connection to Pleasant Colony.  Pleasant Colony was the winner of 1981 Derby and Preakness before falling short in the 1981 Belmont and raced for Robert’s father, Thomas Mellon Evans.   Settling Mist is also the granddaughter of the blue hen mare, Toll Booth.  The $800,000 first prize in the Belmont boosts his earnings to $957,000.

Evans commented “This morning I went to my father’s grave and thanked him for putting him in this position.  I’ve been where Steve Coburn has been, and it’s not fun. I remember it was real quiet after we lost in 1981.”

Trainer Clement commented “It’s a great win; it’s great for the team, for the staff, for the owner, Mr. Evans, who believed in us.  I’m thrilled.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher won last year’s Belmont with Palace Malice, but came up just short in the Belmont with Commissioner was gracious in defeat, saying “He ran super.  I didn’t anticipate that we would be on the lead, but we weren’t going to take away anything they gave us.  He was almost good enough today.”

Medal Count, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, “ran very well,” said trainer Dale Romans. “I thought he would be closer.  It was a perfect trip.  I think if we could have gotten free a little earlier because he’s more of a grinder than a real turn-of-foot horse, I would have been real happy with him.”

He probably summed up the race best by saying “It’s unbelievable the way this New York crowd came out here and supported our sport, and I want them to know how much we truly appreciate it. It’s about being around greatness, and California Chrome is greatness. He couldn’t get it done today like the last 12 that tried, but he’s greatness.”

The final result was:-


1.  Tonalist – Joel Rosario and Christophe Clement
8.  Commissioner – Javier Castellano / Todd Pletcher
1.  Medal Count – Robby Albarado / Dale L Romans
9 / 2.  Wicked Strong / California Chrome (dead heat)
7.  Samraat – Jose Ortiz / Ricky Violette
10.  General A Rod – Rosie Napravnik / Mike Maker
3.  Matthorn – Joe Bravo / Todd Pletcher
4.  Commanding Curve – Shaun Bridgmohan / Dallas Stewart
6.  Matuszak – Mike Smith / Bill Mott
5.  Ride On Curlin – John Velazquez / William Gowan

We’ve waited 36 years to see an American Triple Crown winner.  It seems we’re going to have to wait a little longer.

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