"I'm absolutely thrilled. It's wonderful," said Christophe Clement, the trainer of Tonalist. "He trained great, he looked great before the race. I'm absolutely delighted that he won.
"I wasn't sure he won. We actually thought he finished second, but we got lucky, he won."
After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes last month, California Chrome was bidding to become just the 12th horse - and the first since Affirmed in 1978 - to achieve the rare feat, regarded as the ultimate challenge in American racing.
An unlikely contender who was bred by a factory worker and a scientist for just $10,500, California Chrome's fairy tale success story endeared him to millions of Americans who were instantly captivated by his rags to riches tale and the prospect that he could be the chosen one to break the Triple Crown drought.
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But it was not to be and instead of becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner, he became the 12th horse since Affirmed to win the first two legs then come unstuck in the Belmont, which is known as the Test of the Champion.
Cut front hoof
His chances of winning were hampered at the start when he jumped out sideways and clipped the horse next to him, Matterhorn. When he returned to his stable after the race he had a small cut on his right front hoof.
"It's a long hard ride on these young horses and that's why the Triple Crown is so tough to win," said California Chrome's assistant trainer Alan Sherman.
"The horse tried, that's all I can ask for. He took me on the ride of my life and I'll always have that in my heart for that horse."
Part of the challenge for the potential winners is that not only do they have to race three times in five weeks on different tracks over distance distances, but often against fresher opposition, which infuriated California Chrome's co-owner Steve Coburn.
"This is his third great big race. These other horses, they sat them out and tried to upset the apple cart. I'm 61 years old and I'll never see another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this," an angry Coburn told NBC.
"It's not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one. I look at it this way, if you can't make enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby, you can't run the other two races.
"It's all or nothing. This is not fair to these horses who've been trying their guts out. This is a coward's way out. Our horse had a target on its back."