After watching his horse, California Chrome, finish fourth at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday – and thus, fail to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 – Steve Coburn delivered an angry rant, accusing the owner’s of Belmont champ Tonalist of taking “the coward’s way out” for not running their horse in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Was Coburn’s rant passionate, classless or somewhere in between?
“Some of both, I thought,” Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde said on The Morning Show. “I followed (Coburn) out of the premises Saturday, and his rant absolutely reeked of sore loser. But at the same time, he was thanking every fan that came up to him, took pictures with them, shook hands, kissed babies – the whole thing. So he was mad, but he wasn’t just stomping off (as if) taking his ball and going home. I think he has a point – not necessarily specific to Tonalist, but just the general structure of the Triple Crown is set up – is rigged – against the best horse. It’s an unfair sporting competition, so I’m glad he brought it up.”
But hasn’t the Triple Crown always been set up like this?
“Yes, it has always been that way, but horses are not the same thing they used to be,” Forde explained. “Horses do not run three times in five weeks ever anymore. They’ve become a much more fragile, lightly raced breed. It’s basically as if human beings had all shrunk to a maximum height of 5-foot-6, but we kept the basketball goals at 10 feet and expected people to dunk. You can’t do it. Horses can’t run three times in five weeks and expect them to do it well.”
“The breeding has changed dramatically,” Forde continued. “They’re being bred into a smaller pool. There’s more infirm horses who have become major sires, and so they’re breeding infirmities on throughout the sire line. They’re being bred more for speed, which means they’re more likely to get injured. Horses will not respond well to running that often anymore.”
Horse trainer Art Sherman said the same thing – and he’s “as old school as it gets.” Sherman thinks horses should race once every seven weeks. Three times in five weeks is overkill. It’s also dangerous.
“He didn’t like the setup at all, either,” Forde said.
While some people will vilify Coburn for his rant, any pub is good pub, right? Especially for a sport with such waning popularity?
“Yes, I think that’s okay,” Forde said. “And everybody says they need a Triple Crown for the sport to make a comeback or to thrive. I don’t think so. I think having a horse going for the Triple Crown is good enough in terms of what’s good for the sport. There was 100,000 people there. There was a huge TV audience. There was a huge betting handle. Just because the horse lost doesn’t mean there wasn’t interest going into that race.”
“But for people to think you can actually see the best horse win the biggest races, they need to spread out the timing of the races,” Forde continued. “That’s what I would like to see. The horse doesn’t have to win a Triple Crown, but I’d just like to see it be a fairer competition.”