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Win satisfying for Tonalist owner Robert Evans

Tonalist, ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, wins the

Tonalist, ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, wins the Belmont at the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes as California Chrome went for the Triple Crown on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at Belmont Park. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Pedigree is everywhere in thoroughbred racing, and that includes the people. Owners and trainers all seem to be descendants of owners and trainers and veterinarians, and that sort of thing is true of Robert Evans, whose horse, Tonalist, was Saturday's upset winner in the Belmont Stakes.

Evans' father, the late Thomas Mellon Evans, started Buckland Farm in 1964 and campaigned Pleasant Colony, who in 1981 was the second of the last 13 Kentucky Derby-Preakness champions not to win the Belmont.

"This is very satisfying," Evans said of the victory. "Yesterday, I went to my father's grave and thanked him for putting me in the position to be doing this. And I came in 1981 to the Belmont, when we had high hopes for Pleasant Colony.

"I've been where Steve Coburn's been and it's not fun when you don't win."

Feelings of inevitability have been growing around California Chrome's shot at the Triple Crown. Earlier in the week, Coburn noted that California Chrome "was born on my sister Brenda's birthday, Feb. 18.

"She died of cancer when she was 36 years old," Coburn said. "And it's 36 years this year since we've had a Triple Crown winner. I've always said she is this colt's guardian angel."

Evans recalled, when Pleasant Colony was ambushed by Summing in the 1981 Belmont, "It was very quiet after he didn't win. He was a wonderful horse. And it's very satisfying to be able to make up for that. My brother was a great breeder and owner and did really well in the business. And so did my father.

"I've kind of tagged along behind them, but now they're both gone and I feel I have to fill their shoes, if I can."

Tonalist's trip into the winner's circle meant that the last eight odds-on favorites have lost the Belmont. It meant that, in a way, racing is stuck in 1978, when Affirmed last completed a Triple Crown.

But it also meant a terrific day for Evans, a graduate of Penn and Columbia's business school who is chairman of an industrial manufacturing company based in Stamford, Connecticut.

"We were a little bit nervous about having the outside post [for Tonalist]," Evans said, "and how he would react to the crowd. And he was perfect. It didn't bother him a bit, he broke well, got in a good position and [Joel Rosario] rode him beautifully.

"We loved California Chrome. We hoped he would win the Triple Crown. But we love our horse, too."

Tonalist came to Belmont with a decided lack of races this year, which may have left him fresher than his opponents but also put question marks in bettors' heads.

"He was sick before the Wood Memorial ," Evans said. "We couldn't run him in it so we couldn't run him in the Derby, so we aimed for the Peter Pan [an early May victory on the Belmont track]. There were thunderstorms, lots of rain and a muddy track and he just galloped and that was the clue he was a good horse."

With a good pedigree. Pleasant Colony was his grandfather.

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