Tonalist wins Belmont Stakes, thwarts California Chrome's Triple Crown bid

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Tonalist won the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, spoiling California Chrome's bid to become the 12th winner of horse racing's Triple Crown.

Affirmed remains the last Triple Crown winner, having turned the feat in 1978. California Chrome finished fifth. Tonalist left with 11-1 odds; Joel Rosario was the winning jockey, Christophe Clement was the trainer and Robert S. Evans was the winning owner.

Chrome, who went off as a 4-5 favorite, becomes the 13th horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and fall short in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. A 3-year-old chestnut colt, California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths before taking the Preakness by 1 1/2.

But just as Smarty Jones in 2004 and Funny Cide the year before -- the last two horses to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and finish the Belmont -- horse racing's ultimate prize eluded California Chrome. Big Brown won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2008 but broke down as Da'Tara won the Belmont. I'll Have Another took the Derby and Preakness in 2012 but did not run in the Belmont due to injury.

The loss also hearkens back to Espinoza's near-miss in 2002, when he rode War Emblem to wins in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, only to lose to 70-1 long-shot Sarava in the Belmont.

California Chrome rose from obscurity to gain a cult following and the moniker "America's Horse." Owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin famously paid $8,000 for a mare named Love That Chase -- a horse so hapless on the racetrack they were called "dumbasses" for the purchase, a name they later coopted for their stable, Dumb Ass Partners -- and a bargain-basement $2,500 stud fee for a sire named Lucky Pulpit.

That investment paid off with a prized thoroughbred, but one ultimately unable to complete the trifecta. Even in defeat, California Chrome made history as the first horse bred in the Golden State to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

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