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California Chrome co-owner continues Triple Crown rant

Updated: June 8, 2014 5:27PM



ELMONT, N.Y. — Lost in the litany of excuses from his owner in the wake of his fourth-place finish Saturday in the Belmont Stakes was one with merit: California Chrome suffered a cut to his right front hoof while leaving the starting gate. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was stepped on by Matterhorn.

Trainer Art Sherman told reporters Sunday that the injury should take two or three weeks to heal and that he expected California Chrome to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

While it’s impossible to know how much the injury hampered California Chrome’s run for the Triple Crown, it was much easier to see the damage done by co-owner Steve Coburn, who didn’t even try to remove his foot from his mouth. In two national-TV interviews Sunday, Coburn — who co-owns California Chrome with Chicago-born Perry and Denise Martin — was even more defiant than he was the day before.

On Saturday, he said horses that entered fewer than all three Triple Crown races, including Belmont winner Tonalist, had taken ‘‘the coward’s way out’’ by running the Belmont with fresher legs than California Chrome’s. A day later, he was asked whether he had regrets.

‘‘Hell, no,’’ he said.

Coburn compared the Triple Crown to a triathlon, saying it was only fair to participate in all three facets. Only three Belmont horses — California Chrome, General a Rod and Ride On Curlin — raced all three Triple Crown events.

Coburn then went even further.

‘‘These people, they nominate their horses for the Triple Crown — which means three, triple, three — and they hold out two and come back and run one,’’ he said. ‘‘That would be like me, at 6-2, playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair. . . . Ask yourself: Would it be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair?’’

Shockingly, Coburn used the same comparison in separate TV interviews.

‘‘When you earn enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby, those 20 horses that start in the Kentucky Derby should be the only 20 allowed to run in the Preakness and the Belmont,’’ he said.

The fact no horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 — the longest drought in history — has led some in the industry to stump for changes to the format. The most common suggestion is for the races to be spaced out more than the traditional five weeks.

‘‘It’s better for the horses, and it would be better to promote it, I think,’’ said Robert Evans, the owner of Tonalist. ‘‘A lot more time to create interest. Racing has a problem in that it doesn’t believe in marketing or selling itself. . . . The time wouldn’t do any good if racing didn’t promote itself.’’

The irony, of course, is this: With his statements, Coburn just made that public-relations battle more difficult.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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