ELMONT, N.Y. – California Chrome went home to the West Coast on Sunday with a bandaged right front foot — and no Triple Crown — after bumping another horse leaving the Belmont Stakes starting gate Saturday.
Steve Coburn, who co-owns California Chrome, was still smarting, too.
He was irked Belmont winner Tonalist didn’t run in either of the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Minutes after his colt dead-heated for fourth place, Coburn complained others took “the coward’s way out” by skipping the Kentucky Derby and/or the Preakness.
A day later, Coburn was unrepentant.
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“It’s not fair to these horses that are running to entertain these people in all three legs of the Triple Crown,” the 61-year-old said. “It’s not fair to them to have somebody just show up at the last minute and run. I may have gone off half-cocked yesterday, but that’s the way I feel.”
In an ESPN interview, Coburn discussed horses who ran in only one of the Triple Crown races and said, “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. There were three horses in this race that ran in the first two — California Chrome, Ride on Curlin and General a Rod. None of the other horses did. … You ask yourself, ‘Would it be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair?’ ”
Coburn also used his wheelchair analogy in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and was asked on that program if he thought his comparison was offensive.
“No, I’m just trying to compare the two,” he replied. “Is it fair for me to play with this child in a wheelchair? Is it fair for them to hold their horses back?”
Coburn also said, “If they want to call me a sore loser, I don’t care.”
California Chrome trainer Art Sherman, 77, distanced himself from Coburn’s comments.
“Horses aren’t cowards and the people aren’t cowards,” Sherman said.
• Sherman said California Chrome, who bumped early with Matterhorn, has a superficial wound that should heal in two to three weeks.
Sherman estimated the colt will get at least six weeks of rest.
• California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid averaged 20.6 million viewers on NBC — the second-highest total for a Belmont Stakes.
Smarty Jones’ failed Triple Crown try in 2004 drew 21.9 million viewers.