From the start of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, California Chrome jockey Victor Espinoza felt something was off with his mount.
“I noticed as soon as he came out of the gate that he was not the same,” Espinoza said.
California Chrome tied for fourth place at Belmont, after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
“He was just a little bit empty today,” Espinoza said.
The Triple Crown disappointment is familiar. In 2002, Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem, who stumbled out of the gate at Belmont and placed eighth.
Espinoza believed this year’s Belmont was more difficult because of horses, like winner Tonalist, who sat out the first two legs of the Triple Crown before competing Saturday.
“Sooner or later we need to break this bad karma that’s found us,” Espinoza said.
California Chrome became the 13th horse since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but fail to win the Belmont Stakes. The 3-year-old colt finished in a tie for fourth with Wicked Strong.
Tonalist edged Commissioner at the wire while Medal Count took third.
Among those that couldn’t win the Triple Crown are some of the best names in recent times: Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004), Big Brown (2008) and I’ll Have Another (2012).
Sir Barton won the first Triple Crown in 1919. He was followed by Gallant Fox in 1930, Omaha in '35, War Admiral in '37, Whirlaway in '41, Count Fleet in '43, Assault in '46, Citation in '48 and then three superstars in the '70s — Secretariat ('73), Seattle Slew ('77) and Affirmed.