Had California Chrome won, he would have been the first horse in 36 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes
In the 134 years the grueling series of races for 3-year-old thoroughbreds have all been contested — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes — only 11 horses have won all three.
Since Affirmed became the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, a dozen horses have won the first two legs without pulling off the feat.
Fate has been especially unkind in recent years: Big Brown, a prohibitive favorite in 2008, failed to finish the Belmont Stakes, and I’ll Have Another failed to start in 2012, scratched due to an injury.
California Chrome was the favorite on the mile-and-a-half Belmont Park Race Track, where a crowd of 100,000 was expected to attend.
The daunting Triple Crown challenge squeezes three races into a five-week period, in an era when thoroughbreds normally run no more than once a month.
Adding to the rigor is the course itself: Belmont is a quarter-mile longer than Churchill Downs, home of the Derby, and five-sixteenths longer than Pimlico Race Course, where the Preakness is run.
In the Belmont, California Chrome started in the second post position — the same gate that Secretariat shot out from in 1973 on track to Triple Crown glory and racing immortality.