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Distance, Fresh Foes Trouble for California Chrome

The chestnut colt finished in a dead-heat for fourth place Saturday, ensuring horse racing will go at least 37 years without a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont

By BETH HARRIS
|  Sunday, Jun 8, 2014  |  Updated 3:38 PM EDT
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    California Chrome added his name to the list of Triple Crown misses with a loss in the Belmont Stakes.

    The chestnut colt finished in a dead-heat for fourth place Saturday, ensuring horse racing will go at least 37 years without a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Affirmed was the last to achieve the rare feat in 1978.

    California Chrome became the 12th horse since Affirmed to win the first two legs and lose in the Belmont. Two years ago, I'll Have Another had his bid dashed when he was scratched the day before the race with a career-ending tendon injury.

    Here are 5 reasons California Chrome why failed to make history:

    TOO FAR TO RUN: The 1 1/2-mile Belmont is the longest of the three races. California Chrome was in contention through the first 1 1/4 miles, but the last quarter-mile did him in. He was forced four-wide on the outside, while eventual winner Tonalist was three-wide coming out of the turn heading for home.

    FRESH FOES: Tonalist was one of four fresh and rested horses that took on California Chrome. He had not run since winning the Peter Pan Stakes on the same dirt track May 10. Second-place Commissioner finished in that same spot in the Peter Pan. Third-place Medal Count had been off since finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby on May 3. Wicked Strong, who tied California Chrome for fourth, had been off five weeks since finishing fourth in the Derby.

    FOOT GASH: California Chrome came out of the Belmont with a bloody gash on his right front foot. His camp isn't sure at what point in the race the injury occurred, but it wasn't believed to be serious. It may have comprised his chances of winning.

    TOO TIRED: California Chrome was running for the third time in five weeks; most horses typically get a month off between starts. He appeared to thrive during his three-week stay at Belmont Park, seemingly liking the deep and sandy surface that can prove tiring. But jockey Victor Espinoza said the colt "was a little bit empty" and by the five-eighths pole, he knew the race was over. Assistant trainer Alan Sherman said his horse "was just a little wore out."

    TUCKED IN: Thinking it was too early to send California Chrome to the lead, Espinoza tucked the colt into third place, where he got dirt kicked back in his face. As the race unfolded, Espinoza moved him to the outside, where he couldn't save as much ground and was forced to run the closing quarter-mile in the middle of the track.

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