Tonalist Wins the Belmont Stakes


UPDATE June 8, 2014:
California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman revealed that the horse sustained a superficial hoof injury at the start of the Belmont Stakes. The injury may or may not have affected his run in the Belmont, but it is expected to heal quickly, and Chrome will likely race again.

“I can heal that up in about 2-3 weeks,” Sherman told reporters. “And then we’ll stop on him for about six or seven weeks and give him some pasture time. So Chrome is going to have some needed rest. It’s been a tough campaign for him.”

Original Article:


Tonalist won Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, but that’s not the story that fans are following. The victory is overshadowed by the defeat of California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner that many hoped would become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

For casual race viewers, Tonalist seems to have come out of nowhere to win this year’s Belmont. The bay colt by Tapit is hardly a household name, and he did not contest the Derby or the Preakness. This fact brought criticism from one of Chrome’s owners.

“This is not fair to these horses that have been in it since day one,” said Steve Coburn. “I look at it this way. If you can’t make enough points to get to the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races…It’s all or nothing. This is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people, and for the people that believe in them. This is the coward’s way out, in my opinion.”

But does Coburn’s opinion stand up to the races’ history? The Triple Crown is comprised of three independent races; it’s not a triathlon. In fact, when Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner in 1919, he wasn’t celebrated as such because those races hadn’t been grouped under that title. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the press started to talk about the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in those terms.


There’s never been a rule requiring Preakness or Belmont contenders to have participated in the earlier legs of the Triple Crown. This year, only three of Chrome’s Derby competitors went on to the Preakness. If only four horses competed in the Belmont, it seems any victory there would be less meaningful. Furthermore, it isn’t in every horse’s best interest to compete in these challenging races so close together on the calendar. Should owners and trainers be forced to compete in all three just to provide a more level playing field for one Triple Crown contender?

Chrome’s victories aren’t negated by his loss in the Belmont. He brought people’s interest to the sport, even if only temporarily. He made New York change its rule about nasal strips in Thoroughbred races. He even had children rapping his praises. He appears to have finished the relatively long distance of the Belmont sound, and may continue to have a race career after this spring. And regardless of his owner’s comments to the press, whoever is typing on Chrome’s behalf on his official Twitter account is much more gracious in defeat.


What do you think? Should horses that don’t compete in the earlier Triple Crown races be excluded from the Belmont? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

2014 Belmont Stakes Results:

  1. Tonalist

  2. Commissioner

  3. Medal Count

  4. Wicked Strong/California Chrome (dead heat)

Leslie Potter is the Senior Associate Web Editor for Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieInLex


  1. Yes I think they should have to run all three races. If the rules aren’t changed there may never be another Triple Crown winner. I think what the owner of Chrome said is 100% true. Some folks just want to rain on others parade because they don’t have the horse to complete all 3 races, so they are more than happy to screw it up for someone else. Greed and prestige are very strong motives.

  2. I think in todays time, with different track materials, different breeding, different feeds, different environment pollutants. Obviously thirty years has taken a toll on the race horses. If they wish to have a “Triple Crown” race, they need to review the rules…either push the last leg out to the end of the June or require all entrants to participate in all three races. It is too bad he had to expend his energy by running on the outside four abreast. I think he ran a heck of a race!!

  3. I honestly believe that horse racing is about stamina, strength, training, and ability so I think it shows a great deal of all of those if horses do compete in all 3 races. I mean why call it the Triple Crown if all horses are not required to run all 3 races that make up the Triple Crown. It should be just like every other competition… Your team goes against other teams the best of those goes to thenext level then so on an so fourth…. You wouldn’t want some random football team jumping into the super bowl and winning after the other team worked so hard to get there

  4. I completely agree with previous comments and the owner – contenders should be required to run in all three races. Period. I compare it to championships in other sports like Amanda from TX stated: would you want some random hockey team playing/winning the Stanley Cup when the other team worked their butts off to get there and made it through the previous rounds?

  5. It was a disappointing race, but Steve Coburn was just being a bad sport. Winning a Triple Crown means competing against horses that haven’t raced all three races. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a true Triple Crown. Eleven other horses have done it; it’s not impossible. California Chrome is still a very good horse, just not quite a Triple Crown winner. Show some dignity in defeat, man!

  6. I agree with the owner, it’s called the Triple Crown. If you haven’t won these other two races it should be the One Crown for that winner.

  7. It has come out that California Crome was shown to have been injuried and it looks like from right at the gates, perhaps, things would have been different.

  8. I agree with Coburn. It is taking the coward’s way out!!! It’s like playing in game 7 of the world series without having to play in the other games!

  9. I had hoped that Chrome would have won but since he didn’t maybe there will be a winner next year. The owner has the right to his opinion just like the rest of us.

  10. Steven Coburn sure is a sore loser! Wow, even his wife was telling him to stop it and he turns around and says “I don’t care” to which she replies, “I do!”
    The whole point of the Triple Crown is that to win it you must have a horse of such calibre that he not only wins 3 races within a month but that he can also win against fresh horses. All the other Triple Crown winners did it.
    And, the races are not connected with each other. The Triple Crown term was coined by the press. There is no purse involved but there certainly is historic prestige.
    As your article says, when Sir Barton won all three races no one called it a Triple Crown. In fact, he even won another race between the Preakness and the Belmont.
    Many other horses have come close to winning, much closer than California Chrome in fact, by placing 2nd in the Belmont. Some horses placed 2nd in the Derby and then went on to win the other 2 races. These horses show greater stamina as the Derby is the shortest of all 3 races.
    Perhaps California Chrome just didn’t have the stamina to keep the speed up for the extra distance. After all, when horses are training it’s like they are racing every day.
    Whatever the case, we have yet another near win and maybe one day we’ll actually have a horse/trainer combo good enough to win the Triple Crown!
    BTW, we have a triple crown in eventing too, The Rolex, Burghley Trials, and Badminton. I don’t think most people expect competitors to compete in all 3 events! And in this case there IS a purse at stake.

  11. Well said Galadriel! Your second and third paragraphs perfectly explain what others are not considering. And anyways, if all the horses had to compete in all three races, we’d probably have a Triple Crown winner every other year! How special would that be? No one would care about it anymore. It’s supposed to be a somewhat rare occurrence.
    Adding to Galadriel’s Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing argument, only one person has been able to do it (Pippa Funnell). And you are allowed to win on different horses in each competition!
    I do have some corrections to make to Galadriel’s comments: the Kentucky Derby(mile and a quarter)is not the shortest Triple Crown race, the Preakness(mile and three-sixteenths) is. Also, most training workouts aren’t as intense as a race.


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