NEW YORK – Two days after a nationally televised outburst about how fresh horses had deprived the sport of a Triple Crown champion, Steve Coburn, a co-owner of California Chrome, apologized to the connections of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and to the racing world at large.
Coburn appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday with Robin Roberts and admitted he was “very ashamed” of his behavior in the moments after his 3-year-old colt, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, finished in a dead heat for fourth place in the 146th running of the Belmont, which is known as the Test of the Champion.
“It’s just the emotion of the whole journey coming together at one time,” Coburn, 61, said.
He had said entering a horse that had not run in the previous two Triple Crown legs in the Belmont Stakes was “the coward’s way out.” He called other horsemen “cheaters.”
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A still-irate Coburn said Sunday, “They hold out two and then come back and run one. That would be like me at 6-2 playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair.”
Coburn repeated his wheelchair analogy in another interview and added, “If they want to call me a sore loser, I don’t care.”
On Monday, though, Coburn conceded California Chrome lost “fair and square.”
“I need to apologize to the winners; they ran a beautiful race,” said Coburn, who was near tears as he sat alongside his wife, Carolyn. “Their horse won the race. I want to apologize to everybody associated with Tonalist, his trainer, (Christophe) Clement. I sincerely apologize. I want to apologize to all the horse racing in the world.”
Carolyn Coburn, who had tried to silence her husband in the postrace interview on NBC, said he was an emotional man and needed time to think through his actions.
“I’m proud of him for coming up here and doing this,” she said. “It was something we needed to do. Our story has given so much joy to so many people. I hope that this 30 seconds doesn’t destroy all that.”
California Chrome suffered a superficial wound early in the Belmont that will take about three weeks to heal. Trainer Art Sherman predicted the colt will make his next start in August or in the fall.