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It just wasn’t meant to be.
Next May down at Churchill Downs, the slogan on shirts will be “It’s been 37 years since a Triple Crown horse”.
That’s because, 4/5 betting favorite, California Chrome, failed in his bid to win the first Triple Crown in 36 years on Saturday, losing the Belmont Stakes to long shot Tonalist and leaving his owner to complain others took “the coward’s way out” by skipping the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Chrome got caught early in the race on the rail as jockey Victor Espinoza maneuvered the three-year-old horse to the preferred outside position. This early work might have played a part into the stretch run as Tonalist , the fifth wagering choice at 9-1 odds, looked to be the more fresh and rested horse as he was making his debut on the Triple Crown trail. This might have led to ‘Chrome’s co-owner’s Steve Coburn after the race.
“That’s the coward’s way out,” he said. “It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one. If you don’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races. It’s all or nothing.
Sour grapes aside, Chrome at least has company as 12 horses now have won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, only to lose the grueling Belmont. Hell, I’ll Have Another, scratched in 2012, never even made it to the starting gate. At least “Chrome posted and made it a race.
As a horse racing fan, the Triple Crown chase will have me glued at least through the Preakness every year. But my only question to the casual fan is, “is it better have a Triple Crown horse or to have the chase for it year after year? Meaning, is the sweat of not having a winner in almost 40 years give it more credibility than if a horse wins it and we forget about it 30 minutes after the Belmont?
But in the end, Chrome’s owners Coburn and Perry Martin, will have the last laugh, Triple Crown or not.