Steve Coburn, California Chrome Owner, is Still Mad About Triple Crown Loss — As He Should Be
It's not unusual for a thoroughbred horse to lose out on U.S. racing's biggest honor: as of Saturday, it's happened 13 times since a horse last won in 1978. But the owner of California Chrome, Steve Coburn, thinks the Triple Crown is pretty much unwinnable at the moment. He said as much to NBC immediately after Saturday's race, which was won by the least-tested or "freshest" horse in the race, Tonalist. Tonalist's owners didn't run him in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes.
The thing about the race was this: though there's a lot of variables that can make or break a race, California Chrome probably should've ran the mile-and-a-half long Belmont Stakes the fastest. Chrome was not in a bad position to run away with the race toward the end, but he just didn't catch up. Instead, he came in fourth. His jockey said he didn't have the gas to make it happen. But the horse also had a small injury on his foot that he got in the gate, which may or may not have contributed to the loss.
To people who don't know much about horse racing, or haven't followed Coburn's comments closely during the race season, the part-owner of Chrome sounded like a really sore loser when he spoke to NBC in his characteristic Stetson immediately after the race.
This is his third very big race. These other horses, they always set 'em out. They set 'em out and try to upset the apple cart. I'm 61 years old and I'll never see, in my lifetime, I will never see another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this. 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 into the Kentucky Derby, you can't run in the other two races. It’s all or nothing. Because this is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them. This is a coward's way out in my opinion.
But Coburn's been saying similar things all season, The New York Times reports. And Coburn didn't back off his comments on Good Morning America on Sunday, either.
You might compare this to a triathlon. 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.
Regardless of whether or not Chrome's injury played a role in his fourth-place finish, Coburn has a point. The three big races occur in the span of five weeks, which doesn't give horses a lot of time to recover. And the industry's been discussing whether to spread out the races more to give horses time to physically recover. Sports Illustrated commentator Tim Layden said that would "cheapen the price of admission."
But for horse racing novices, Coburn's the one to side with. What's the point of getting into the sport if it feels like a rigged enterprise from the beginning?