So California Chrome, a horse as close to unbeatable as it gets, lost the Belmont Stakes.
That’s sad for fans hoping for the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. Worse, though, was the reaction of California Chrome’s owner afterward. Steve Coburn was upset that his horse had to compete against horses that were not entered in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. One such horse, Tonalist, won the race.
If anything proves whine is made with sour grapes, it is the comments made by Coburn.
To that, any fan of fairness in sports can only have one response: so what? Coburn acts like California Chrome was the first loser of the Belmont to ever have to face horses who did not compete in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. That’s just not the case.
Ten years ago, the beloved Smarty Jones was run down by a couple of rabbits — horses who are entered with no chance to win but set enough of a blistering pace to wear out the favorite — but still had enough grit to hang in there and finish second. California Chrome faded to a fourth-place finish.
If this Belmont Stakes showed anything, it was that Smarty Jones was a better horse than California Chrome and California Chrome was a great horse.
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to win the Triple Crown is that horses that do not enter the Kentucky Derby or Preakness are eligible to compete in the Belmont if they established themselves earlier in the season. If the Belmont limited itself to Kentucky Derby and Preakness entrants, we’d have a Triple Crown winner every five or six years.
To use a football analogy, Coburn wants to move the goalpost in the middle of the game. That’s not the way sports works and, when he wakes up tomorrow morning with that sour grapes taste in his mouth, hopefully Coburn will understand that.