California Chrome's Triple Crown quest collapses

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California Chrome's Triple Crown quest collapses
Tonalist, left, with Joel Rosario up edges out Commissioner with Javier Castellano up to win the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Jockey John Velazquez rides Palace Malice, far right, to victory in the 121st running of the Metropolitan horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Belmont Stakes will be held at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
Real Solution (8) with Javier Castellano up leads the pack down the home stretch to win the 113th running of the Manhattan horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Real Solution with Javier Castellano up crosses the finish line to win the 113th running of the Manhattan horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, center, walks near the grandstand at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Holder spoke briefly with former jockey Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat to a Triple Crown victory, during his visit to the park. The Belmont Stakes will be held there later in the day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Palace Malice with John Velazquez up walks back down the track to the winners circle after winning the 121st running of the Metropolitan horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Palace Malice, right, with John Velazquez up, crosses the finish line ahead of Goldencents with Mike Smith up during the 121st running of The Metropolitan horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Jockey John Velazquez rides Palace Malice, far right, to victory in the 121st running of the Metropolitan horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Belmont Stakes will be held at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
Feathers adorn the hat of a racing fan at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Belmont Stakes horse race, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be held a the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Edwin Collazo, of the borough of Brooklyn, in New York, wears a hat paying tribute to favorite California Chrome before the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, left, signs a hat tossed to him by an autograph seeker before the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
One of many racing fans wearing large hats walks through Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Race horse California Chrome is the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
A woman passes silhouettes of race horses at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Belmont Stakes will be held at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
James Allen takes a photo of a statue of Triple Crown winner Secretariat in the paddock at Belmont Park during the undercard races for the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A racing fan wears a nasal strip at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Race horse California Chrome, who also wears nasal strips, is favored to win the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Shannon Flannigan of the borough of Brooklyn in New York wears nasal strips at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Race horse California Chrome, who also wears nasal strips, is favored to win the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A horse racing fan smiles as she walks through Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome will run in the Belmont Stakes horse race at the park later in the day.(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Barbara Alcide of the borough of Brooklyn in New York reacts to a winning bet on a horse race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Belmont Stakes will be held at the park later in the day. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Jockey Victor Espinoza, right, looks over artwork by Susan Sommer-Luarca before riding in an undercard race at Belmont Park, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Espinoza will ride favorite California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes later in the day. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Jen Hylkema, left, Rosalie Chamiel, center, and Annie Westlake cheer at Belmont Park before the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Artist Susan Sommer-Luarca, of Springfield, Mo., paints an image of Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome outside the grandstand at Belmont Park during the undercard races for the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Exercise rider Chris Davis strokes Belmont Stakes entrant Medal Count's mane before a workout at Belmont Park, Friday, June 6, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. Medal Count will be one of ten challengers looking to spoil California Chrome's bid at a Triple Crown when they race in the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 07: Fans watch a race prior to the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 07: Fans watch a race prior to the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 07: Fans make their way into Belmont Park prior to the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 07: Race fans are seen prior to the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 07: Race fans are seen prior to the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tonalist sprinted across the finish line first Saturday at the Belmont Stakes, spoiling California Chrome's bid to win the first Triple Crown in 36 years.

California Chrome finished far back in a tie for fourth. The result means the longest drought without a Triple Crown champion in history is extended.

No Triple Crown

California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza lost the 1 1/2-mile race on a hot day at Belmont Park, where tens of thousands of fans were packed in hoping to see history. It was not to be, leaving Affirmed as the most recent Triple Crown winner in 1978.

"I thought he was gaining ground, but he didn't have it in him, apparently," owner Steve Coburn said immediately after the race. He complained that some of the horses sat out some races, and were entered just to knock out California Chrome. "It's all or nothing. This is not fair to these horses and to the people that believe in them. This is the coward's way out."

California Chrome broke quickly but was pressed immediately by Commissioner and General a Rod. Espinoza eased California Chrome back into third along the rail.

Approaching the final turn, California Chrome was maneuvered to the outside. He angled four-wide turning for home, just to the outside of Tonalist who was close to the pace the entire race. Espinoza started whipping left handed in the lane but California Chrome had no response.

Tonalist kicked strongly in the final strides, edging Commissioner by a head. Medal Count got third with California Chrome finishing in a tie for fourth with Wicked Strong.

California Chrome became the 12th horse since Affirmed to lose his Triple try in the Belmont, the longest race in the series.

The defeat snapped the chestnut colt's six-race winning streak. His rise from a humble pedigree and his working-stiff owners resonated with sports fans who rarely take an interest in horse racing.

Conditions seemed aligned for the Triple Crown drought to end. California Chrome seemed to thrive during his three-week stay at Belmont Park. His chestnut coat gleamed and he gained weight after the Preakness on May 17. His owners, trainer and jockey oozed confidence. And so did the bettors, who made him the overwhelming favorite in the Belmont.

But this fairy tale didn't have a happy ending.

Espinoza lost his second chance at a Triple Crown. He was aboard War Emblem in 2002, when that colt stumbled at the start of the Belmont and lost all chance.

Art Sherman, the 77-year-old trainer of California Chrome, had said beforehand that his colt didn't need to win another race because he was already such a pleasure to be around.

Co-owner Steve Coburn, who with Perry Martin formed Dumb Ass Partners to race their one-horse stable, had vowed that California Chrome "would go down in history."

It just wasn't the kind they wanted to make.

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