ELMONT We got a good view of a horse’s ass on Saturday.
After losing the Belmont Stakes, the gorgeous and camera-friendly chestnut named California Chrome, caked with sweat and dirt, having run the Belmont Stakes despite bloodying himself right out of the starting gate, took a slow walk through the tunnel away from the track . . .
Through an empty paddock that half an hour earlier had been packed with people . . .
Down into another dark concrete tunnel . . .
And, finally, into the shadows of the post-race test barn.
In defeat, praise and encouragement washed over him the entire way.
Meanwhile, back at the track, a self-proclaimed Dumb Ass with two legs made a pompous crybaby jackass out of himself.
Tonalist may have spoiled California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid and the feverish hopes of the Sport of Kings, but co-owner Steve Coburn of Dumb Ass Partners spoiled the day by letting some simmering beefs sprint hither and yon through the door of his barn-sized yap. He went on full flatulent blast as soon as Kenny Rice put a mic in front of him.
Where to start with this incredible poor sport?
“If you don’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races. It’s all or nothing.”
That’s a direct shot at the lightly raced winner, Tonalist, who didn’t have enough qualifying points for the Derby field, skipped the Preakness and prepared for the Belmont by winning the Peter Pan a week later.
So by edict of Supreme Racing Emperor Steve Coburn, the only horses eligible for the Preakness and Belmont are those who run in the Derby.
If you don’t qualify to be in his exclusive little club, tough luck, go run in some other race, we don’t care which one. Just leave the history-making to the big boys.
Look, the Preakness and Belmont are two of the oldest and most historic races in North America. Sorry, Steve Coburn, but history is messy. Great horses lose. Triple Crown winners are transcendent.
If you couple the Belmont and Preakness with the Derby in some sort of self-contained series, they cease to exist except in name only.
OK, then there’s this:
“This is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people who believe in them. This is the coward’s way out, in my opinion. This is a coward’s way out.”
Yeah, I’m sure Tonalist’s connections were just sitting back the whole time, waiting for the Belmont, not because they really, really wanted to win the Belmont, but because they wanted to make Steve Coburn sad.
They slunk around the periphery, winning lame races like the Grade II $200,000 Peter Pan, then sprung their nefarious Steve Coburn sad-face plot into action.
In fact, Tonalist’s owner, Robert Evans, wanted to run in the Derby, but his horse got sick and missed his chance to qualify in the Wood Memorial. This happens all the time. You adjust, point to another lofty goal, and go for it.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the Coburn rant is the fact that the guy did so much to get the country engaged in racing, not just because his horse had a Triple Crown shot, but because he was accessible and fan-friendly.
That was him, at 10:30 in the morning, leaning over the second floor balcony to catch T-shirts, posters and hats thrown from the apron to autograph while waving his white cowboy hat and exhorting the thousands of purple-clad Chrome fans into a giddy euphoria.
People LOVE this horse.
“You’re still No. 1,” a woman called out on the way back to the barn.
“Good boy, good boy, Chrome,” one little girl said.
“You’re my favorite horse,” from another fan, and Chrome’s groom patted his neck as they approached the tunnel to the backstretch.
Trainer Art Sherman mentioned that California Chrome had grabbed a quarter, kicking the back of his right foreleg with his right hind, probably as soon as he left the starting gate. “It was probably stinging him the whole way around.”
The classy 77-year-old Sherman didn’t bring it up as an excuse, just matter of fact.
His owner, meanwhile, kicked himself in the mouth.
A coward’s way out?
This is a blowhard’s way out.