08 June 2014

Sour grapes and all, is California Chrome owner Steve Coburn right?

(Getty Images)
Well if you happened to miss what went down yesterday, California Chrome did not win the Triple Crown. Rather, it was Tonalist that came up victorious at yesterday's Belmont Stakes as California Chrome finished fourth. And in the immediate aftermath of the race, Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, who has been celebrated as a sort of an everyman compared to the traditional thoroughbred owner, went on an angry rant on the current system that allows a horse like Tonalist to run in the Belmont without having run in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness States.

And you know what, he may be right.

Just in case you missed Coburn's fiery comments yesterday, here they are below:

And Coburn doubled down this morning with interviews on Good Morning America and SportsCenter, just in case you wondered if a night's sleep would make him take back anything he said yesterday.

There is no denying that this is a case of sour grapes for Coburn. After all, Coburn and co-owner Perry Martin more or less found this horse out of nowhere and almost by accident had found themselves a sort of a golden ticket, one that would find them pretty darn close to doing something that had no been down since 1978, win the Triple Crown.

And let's be honest, California Chrome at least had the chance to make history and break the streak, but the horse could not get it done.

But having factored that in, Coburn is indeed right: the system is rigged against a horse going for the Triple Crown. Tonalist was the sixth Belmont winner in the last eight races that did complete in the first two races of the Triple Crown. Hell, the horse had only raced four times this year before yesterday's race and the Belmont was the second race Tonalist had run in since February. The other race was the Peter Pan Stakes a month ago at Belmont. Runner-up Commissioner also did not run in the two previous races, third place Medal Count only ran in the Derby and Wicked Strong, who finished in a dead heat with California Chrome, also skipped the Preakness.

In total, only three horses had run in both of the previous Triple Crown races. And how did the other two horses do? General A Rod finished seventh and Ride On Curlin finished last.

The system is indeed more or less rigged against the horse going for the Triple Crown, who has to Kentucky Derby, two weeks later win the Preakness and then three weeks later win the longest race in racing in the Belmont. People wonder why it has been so long since a horse has won the Triple Crown, and here is part of your answer. A horse can more or less sit out much of the year save for a few races, be more rested than a horse going for the Triple Crown, and steal the glory.

Is that fair? How could anybody answer in the affirmative? It is indeed a flawed system and with its current structure of how compact the races are relative to another and how horses can forego the previous races and save themselves for the final one, we probably will not see a Triple Crown winner in a very long time.

Now, of course winning the Triple Crown is supposed to be difficult. But should the system reward the horses that take the easy way out?

There really is no reason to mandate that horses running in the Belmont Stakes should have run in both the Derby and the Preakness. Or at the very least running in at least one of the two races (although again, that would not have given California Chrome the Triple Crown). And who would be hurt by spacing out the races more as well?

Of course, Coburn was and is being a sore loser, but should that overshadow the fact that the system simply sucks?

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