Tonalist won the 146th Belmont Stakes Saturday, denying the heavily favored California Chrome his chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn angrily told NBC Sports that the horse owners that had skipped either race before running the Belmont took "the coward's way out."
"I'll never see, and I'm 61 years old, another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime because of the way they do this," he said. "It's not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day One. If you don't make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you [shouldn'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 who believe in them. This is a coward's way out, in my opinion."
(Ray Sanchez. "California Chrome Denied: Tonalist Wins
Belmont Stakes." CNN. June 8, 2014)
Coburn also used another analogy that will draw scrutiny.
"They hold out two (races) and then come back and run one," said Coburn. "That would be like me at 6-2 … playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair. They haven't done anything with their horses in the Triple Crown … You figure IT out. You ask yourself, 'Would it be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheel chair?"
Coburn said more of the same in an interview with ESPN. In that interview, he said that if anyone wanted to call him a sore loser they could call him – and he gave out a phone number.
(Gary Mihoces. "California Chrome Owner Steve Coburn Still Irate
a Day Later." USA Today. June 8, 2014)
To me, it is sad that people choose to cheapen their own accomplishments by choosing to blame others for their inevitable misfortune. Blame seems to have become a staple of American sports, and the result is the infusion of bad blood where good sportsmanship should always take precedence.
Since he is involved in horse racing, Steve Coburn is a gambler. He studies the odds, then decides whether to enter the game. Once doing so, he accepts the risks and the rules that govern play. Just as the old song by Kenny Rogers states, Coburn should know, "You got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." It is evident he does not. After losing the Belmont Stakes, his tirade offers proof.
Let me say this without the benefit of making that phone call: "Hey, Mr. Coburn -- You are a sore loser."
There is evidently something wrong with your homespun persona when you call good people who did nothing wrong "cheaters."
We all know your story by now -- you are one of the most unsuspecting horse owners in horse racing. The rags-to-riches tale is captivating and undoubtedly has stirred the interest and the imagination of millions, but "after the last big race" is no time to act like a child. I bet if your blue-collar colt, California Chrome, could talk, he would agree. That's some "horse sense" you should have considered before opening your mouth, Steve.
Mr. Coburn, Let me explain why:
1. You were fully aware of what other horses were entered in the Belmont and how long they had rested between races. You chose to enter California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes with the legal competition.
2. If you were so upset and frustrated after losing Belmont, you should have known that you may something something stupid and harmful, so you should have declined the interview.
3. Even on the Sunday morning of the day after the race when you had a chance to make amends, you made yourself look like a bigger jackass as you "doubled down" with your acidic remarks.
4. And, let's consider that even if there is some justification and truth in your remarks, you should understand that complaining immediately after losing the race brings disgrace to you as a "poor loser."
Not you, Steve, but instead California Chrome gave everyone a terrific thrill ride at a time when the sport of horse racing needed it most. But you cast a dark shadow over everything with your untimely complaining. Instead of expressing great pride in the unbelievable accomplishments of your low-budget, underdog horse that accomplished so much, you chose to attack Chrome's competition.
Mr. Coburn, even on Sunday, when Art Sherman, the horse's level-headed trainer, tried to make excuses about the errant comments you had made "in the heat of the moment" and suggested you might apologize, you stonewalled.
Only on Monday, after your two-day rant did you apologize for your behavior, and then you used the excuse of "It's just the emotion of the whole journey coming together at one time." To real blue-collar people who share none of your huge winnings that sounds like whiny bullshit. We would love to share a little of that profitable "journey."
Then, of course, you used the bandwagon ploy to explain your senseless comments: "This is 'America's horse.' I wanted so much for this horse to win the Triple Crown for the people of America, and I was pretty emotional, very emotional." Echoes of the old cry of the Dallas Cowboys being "America's football team" come to mind. Can you say "marketing" and "grandiose thinking"?
Looking at owner, trainer and jockey statistics, enthusiasts of the sport estimate most horses lose 70 to 80 percent of the time. Instead of California Chrome being remembered solely for a great Triple Crown run falling a tad short, the legacy of the horse is now burdened by the stigma of Steve Coburn's ignorant blame.
California Chrome, your career is not diminished. It is your owner who must bear the cross of spewing his own sour grapes. That, in itself, is a shame to any notion of you being "America's horse."