Three races in quick succession took its toll on California Chrome. He had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and went to New York for the Belmont Stakes as an odds-on favorite to succeed where so many had failed before him.
The money poured on through sentiment rather than wisdom before those odds proved unfounded as California Chrome ran flat and failed to stay the mile and a half trip. His excellent jockey Victor Espinoza took some stick from both media and the after-timers in the stands, but that was completely unjustified as it was simply a race too many over a trip too far.
The flashy colt, trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, dead-heated for fourth place over the mile and a half marathon behind Tonalist, a worthy winner for admirable trainer Christophe Clement.
Perhaps the most notable post-race event was the graceless television interview given by bleating co-owner Steve Coburn who gave new meaning to the phrase ‘poor loser’. Perhaps it was the heat of the moment (though he still stuck by his words a day later) that made him call for horses that did not run in the first leg of the Triple Crown not to be allowed to run in the other two legs.
Coburn then labelled the connections of horses that failed to declare for the previous races as “cheaters.” It was such an ignorant outburst that it could not be taken seriously. It demonstrated the truism that great horses do not usually have great owners. To expect two classic races to be a closed shop is ludicrous, especially if the only purpose is to keep out horses that are better than Steve Coburn’s. I think we got a glimpse of why Coburn chose to run his horse in the name of the ‘Dumb Ass Partners’. Perhaps there was no sense of irony in the moniker after all.