California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn looks like Wilford Brimley. Turns out, acts like him, too.
Most any bio of Brimley describes the actor as often portraying a “gruff or stodgy old man.” Yep, that’s Coburn, who has moved to the top of America’s sour grapes list.
After California Chrome failed Saturday to win the Belmont Stakes, and thus the Triple Crown, Coburn went Sore Loser Supreme, ranting about the unfairness of it all, how horses could run the Belmont without also running the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness.
Even a night’s sleep didn’t change Coburn’s tune; he babbled on Sunday morning, even suggesting that Cali Chrome running against fresher horses was no more just than Coburn playing basketball against a kid in a wheelchair.
And thus a sport that could have used a much-needed boost from Triple Crown headlines instead made news of a different sort. Boorish behavior isn’t limited to the sports that use a ball.
Coburn, who has been in the racing business going all the way back to 2008, somehow feels a sense of entitlement. He seems to think that the Triple Crown is won in the Preakness and that the Belmont should be mere coronation.
“It says Triple Crown,” Coburn said. “You nominate your horse for the Triple Crown. That means three. Even the Triple Crown trophy has three points on it. So when you earn enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby, those 20 horses that start in the Kentucky Derby should be the only 20 allowed to run in the Preakness and the Belmont for the Triple Crown.”
Coburn appears to be a conspiracy theorist. He called the owners of the Belmont horses who didn’t run in the Derby “cheaters” and “cowards.” Tonalist, who didn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness, won the Belmont; California Chrome tied for fourth.
“These people nominate their horses for the Triple Crown and then they hold out two (races) and then come back and run one,” Coburn told ESPN. “That would be like me at 6-2 playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair.”
At least Donald Sterling had an excuse. He’s old and his mind’s gone. Coburn is 61 and appears to be in charge of his faculties, if not his logic.
Yes, it’s hard to win the Belmont, after winning the Derby and the Preakness. Three distinct races, in a relatively short (five weeks) span. But that’s sort of the point.
Remember the old adage from the U.S. Golf Association, when players would gripe about the toughness of U.S. Open courses? The Open layout is not designed to penalize great golfers. It’s designed to identify them.
So yeah, while it’s cool beans if a horse can join the ranks of Secretariat and Whirlaway, of Gallant Fox and Omaha, of Seattle Slew and Citation, they don’t pass around the status like a blue ribbon at a county fair.
Winning a Triple Crown is supposed to be hard. Sir Barton and Count Fleet and War Admiral and all 11 Triple Crown winners overcame the cheaters and the cowards to win the Belmont.
In the 36 years since Affirmed swept thoroughbred racing’s three biggest races, more horses (13) have lost the Belmont with the Triple Crown at stake than have won it since 1875.
The owners of Triple Crown hopefuls Big Brown and Smarty Jones and Funny Cide and Charismatic and Sunday Silence and Alysheba and Spectacular Bid all lost with dignity. Why is California Chrome somehow mistreated?
Heck, if Wilford Brimley is so hip on fairness, why limit the three races to 3-year-olds? Why not let Orb or I’ll Have Another come back and race? They won the previous two Kentucky Derbys. Let them race again.
You want to change racing culture, let’s change it.
By the way, Coburn and his partner, Perry Martin, named themselves DAP Racing. Short for Dumb-Ass Partners, a light-hearted response to a passer-by who questioned their wisdom in buying Love the Chase, California Chrome’s mother.
Sometimes passers-by know what they’re talking about.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.