WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Outside of close friends and family, not many people knew who Steve Coburn was until his horse, California Chrome, showed up on the Triple Crown trail in Horse Racing.
Coburn and others associated with the horse were now on the national stage as their horse won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. All of a sudden predictions became bolder, the horse with great temperament pranced proudly at each track along the way. He looked like a million bucks, and like others who had come before him, was the toast of horse racing as he was just over two minutes away from a seat at a select equine table.
Then came the Belmont Stakes.
It’s the race that has broken the heart of 12 other Triple Crown contenders. The length of the race at one and one-half miles proves to be a grueling challenge. California Chrome did not get a terrible trip, was it ideal? Perhaps if Jockey Victor Espinosa had a chance to do it again, he would travel differently, but, as we later found out, his chances were compromised right at the start.
As the gate opened, Matterhorn, starting from post three right next to California Chrome, jumped out and stepped on the back of the ankle of California Chrome. It opened a gash that clearly hampered the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness through the race. When you think of the effort the horse gave under the circumstances, it’s quite remarkable he finished fourth and picked up $100,000 for his performance.
Moments after the race, Coburn, while talking to Kenny Rice of NBC Sports, launched into a tirade critical of the of the horses who sit out and then come in to the Belmont.
The worst part of the rant was it took away from the winner. Did you see any cameras viewing the winning connections? No. They were locked in, as they should have been, from a TV perspective on Coburn who continued to just go on forever.
In sports, we teach our kids to win and lose with class. In horse racing, the chances of winning a Stakes race are astronomical. The tantrum by Coburn took away from the opportunity for the winner, Tonalist, and Jockey Joel Rosario and trainer Christophe Clement.
It was embarrassing for the industry, but, it was TV gold.
Having been in the racing industry since 1984 as a stall cleaner, owner, warm-up driver, and announcer, I have enjoyed the industry for 30 years of my life. I felt bad for Steve Coburn on Saturday because he was heartbroken his horse lost. I felt bad for the industry because he hijacked the winning moment for the connections of Tonalist. That was classless.
Ironically, Coburn’s horse finished behind Medal Count, who raced in the Kentucky Derby, as he finished third.
Would there have been a rant had Medal Count won? We will never know.
California Chrome could have been recognized as a game champion racing the way he did with a bloody ankle. Instead, his owner’s actions stole two bright spotlights on Saturday, including one for his own horse.
Follow horse racing aficionado Pete Medhurst on Twitter.