As you probably know by now, California Chrome attempted to become the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown and join a fabled group that includes such esteemed equines as Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Citation and Secretariat…and fell right on his long face, finishing fourth. The winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness lost the Belmont Stakes to 9-1 long-shot Tonalist, who did not run the opening two races of the series. Ah, there’s the rub. Part of the challenge of the Triple Crown, a not insubstantial part, is that it is an endurance test. CC lost to a fresher horse.
Well, you know, that’s why winning the Triple Crown is so special and the horses who achieved it are the sport of racing’s four-footed immortals. It’s hard. When your horse loses the final and most difficult (it’s longer) of the three races after winning the first two, as many horses have, the correct, classy and ethical response is well established. It doesn’t take any imagination. You say that you congratulate the winning stables, the owners, the horse and the jockey, that of course you are disappointed, that your horse ran the best race he could but on this day it was not good enough. Then you shut up, and let sportswriters make excuses for the loss, if there are excuses to be made.
Unfortunately, Steve Coburn, the co-owner of California Chrome, couldn’t wrestle his understandable disappointment to the ground—everyone was disappointed, really, because horse racing is a declining sport, and desperately needs a Triple Crown winner now more than ever—and said this to reporters:
“This is his third great big race. These other horses, they sat them out and tried to upset the apple cart. 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 in the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run the other two races.”
I look at it this way: Coburn’s statement makes no sense, and he made himself look like a jerk. Essentially his argument is that it was unfair for for his horse to have to win the Triple Crown under the same rules that defined what have always made winning the Triple Crown a career-defining achievement for a racehorse. It’s like a marathon runner who loses after being favored to win the gold in the Olympics complaining that 26 miles is too long. Moreover, Chrome finished in a tie for fourth, not second: it’s not as if only Tonalist outran him on Sunday.
For disgracing the Sport of Kings on its big day, and advocating a change in the Triple Crown rules that would make any future winner a fraud, this Ethics Dunce award is for you, Steve Coburn. Your horse may have lost, but you won this by doing a superb imitation of a horse’s ass.
* I really messed this up. First I got the name right in the headline, but somehow changed it to “Cohen” in the text. Then I misread a commenter correction that said “Cohen not Coburn,” causing me to change the few correct versions of the name to the wrong one without even independently checking, because I made so many stupid typos that I assume I’m wrong. I even came up with a theory of why I had the wrong name, when I had the right one. It was a bad day. I’m sorry.
Facts: Yahoo! Sports