California Chrome Owner: Belmont Winner Took 'Coward's Way Out'

California Chrome Owner: Belmont Winner Took 'Coward's Way Out'

On Saturday, after California Chrome lost his chance to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, co-owner Steve Coburn went off during a post-race interview, saying it’s a “coward’s way out” for owners to only run their horses in one of the three Triple Crown races. 

Tonalist, who did not run in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, extended the longest Triple Crown drought in history by winning the race, and California Chrome finished tied for fourth. 

“This is a coward’s way out in my opinion,” Coburn said as his wife was trying to restrain him. “This is a coward’s way out.” 

The normally happy-go-lucky Coburn said other owners were cowardly for not running their horses in the previous two races and called for a drastic overhaul. He said only horses that qualify for the Kentucky Derby should be eligible for the other two Triple Crown races.

“If you can’t make enough points to make it into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races,” Coburn suggested. “That’s right. It’s all or nothing. It’s all or nothing. Because this is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them.”

Coburn, whose group is called “Dumb Ass Partners,” said his “horse had a target on its back” and was disadvantaged because of fresher horses that lie in wait at the Belmont, the last leg of the Triple Crown and the last mile-and-a-half Grade 1 race left. 

“If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three,” Coburn said. “Those 20 horses that start in the Kentucky are the only twenty eligible to run in all three races. This is the coward’s way out.”

California Chrome became the twelfth horse since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown in 1978 to be denied the honor at the Belmont, which is referred to as “the test of the champion.” For jockey Victory Espinoza, this was the second time he has lost his Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes.

Tonalist’s owners declined to comment on Coburn’s remarks.