California Chrome was topped at the 2014 Belmont Stakes by Tonalist, a horse that skipped both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. That didn't sit too well with California Chrome owner Steve Coburn.
Minutes after his horse's fourth-place finish at Belmont ended his hopes of winning horse racing's first Triple Crown in 36 years, Coburn went on a rant of epic proportions in his post-race interview directed at those who skipped the early Triple Crown legs in order to knock off California Chrome on Saturday:
Coburn didn't have to name names to make it clear who he was talking about. Tonalist, who won Saturday's race, didn't appear in the Kentucky Derby and sat out the Preakness in order to have a leg up at Belmont.
Commissioner, who finished in second place, was also running in his first Triple Crown leg.
The problem? In order to win the Triple Crown, a horse has to race in all three legs in the span of just five weeks—around the average time for a horse to have between a two races, not three. That inevitably leaves a disadvantage for California Chrome, who has to run in all three races to have a shot at making history.
The reaction on social media wasn't quiet, including this tweet from ESPN's Buster Olney:
Owner of California Chrome on horses dropping into the Belmont to beat his horse: "The coward's way out." Oh, boy.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 7, 2014
In the wake of his horse's unexpected victory, Tonalist owner Robert Evans wasn't prepared to engage in a back-and-forth over the subject, per New York Daily News:
"I don't think I have a comment on that." -Tonalist owner Robert Evans to Bob Costas on Steve Coburn's "coward's way out" quotation.— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) June 7, 2014
There's no doubt that Coburn was in the heat of the moment, and one can sense the true anger in his comments even without the audio. But he made his point, and it's very well supported in fact over the last generation.
ESPN Stats and Information noted a statistic that supports Coburn's case:
Tonalist wins Belmont, 15th to win the Belmont without running in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes since last Triple Crown won— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
Some will view Coburn's rant as sour grapes or typical comments from a losing side, but a closer look into the Belmont Stakes' champions proves his point—a Triple Crown is highly unlikely with the current system in place.
Do you agree with Coburn?
Entering the Kentucky Derby, there are 20 horses every year that have a shot at attempting the elusive Triple Crown. If Coburn had his way, only those 20 would be able to compete at Pimlico Race Course and Belmont Park.
When horses come up short there, it's commonplace to see trainers hold their contenders out of the Preakness in order to avoid the short two-week turnaround and be at full strength for Belmont. Meanwhile, horses like California Chrome, who are attempting history, are left at a disadvantage.
Coburn may have crossed the line with his comments and the nature in which he broadcast them, but it's hard to argue that he doesn't raise a compelling point as horse racing exits yet another opportunity to claim a Triple Crown.