NBC drew an average of 21.3 million viewers during the Belmont Stakes, the race’s second-biggest audience on record, as viewers turned out in the hope of seeing California Chrome win the Triple Crown, The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports.
California Chrome finished in fourth place, however. The last time the third race in the Triple Crown aired with a chance for a Triple Crown winner was in 2008, when ABC pulled in 13.1 million viewers, the story notes. Saturday's NBC telecast improved on that number by 57%.
California Chrome’s owner, Steve Coburn, was irate after the race, saying that the competition format was unfair to his horse, reports USA Today. Tonalist, the winner of the Belmont Stakes, hadn’t run in either of the first two pieces of the Triple Crown: The Kentucky Derby or the Preakness.
“You might compare this to a triathlon,” Coburn said in a trackside interview on ‘Good Morning America’ at Belmont Park. "You know you've got to swim and you've got to bicycle and you've got to run. … You don't make it to run if you're not going to do the other two.''