California Chrome, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, failed to clinch the Triple Crown at Belmont today in a most unspectacular way. The odds-on favorite finished in a dead heat for fourth, while Tonalist, a horse who didn’t compete in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, took first. California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn wasn’t just unhappy with the result — he was offended. He told NBC’s Kenny Rice before the official results even came out that letting horses run in Belmont who had not competed at the other two Triple Crown events was “the coward’s way out.” Here’s Coburn’s full statement:
“This is [California Chrome’s] third very big race. Those other horses they sit them out; they sit them out to try to upset the apple cart. I’m 61 years old and I’ll never see in my lifetime another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this. It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one. Look at it this way: If you can’t make enough points to make it into the Kentucky Derby, you can run in the other two races. [T]his is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them. … This is a coward’s way out, in my opinion. This is a coward’s way out. Our horse had a target on his back. Everybody else lays out one or they won’t run in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness. They’ll wait until the Belmont. You know what? If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three. If you’ve got a horse that earns points to run in the Kentucky Derby, those 20 horses to start in Kentucky Derby are the only 20 available/eligible to run in all three races. This is the coward’s way out.”
He did not congratulate the winner during the interview.