California Chrome owner Steve Coburn had some harsh words for the racing system on Saturday moments after his horse was denied the elusive Triple Crown at the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.
Coburn, who is also the breeder of the prized horse, said in an interview broadcast after the race, "this is the coward's way out."
"This is not fair to these horses that have been in this thing running their guts out for these people and for the people that believe in them, to have some somebody come out like this -- this is the cowards way out, in my opinion, this is the cowards way out."
Coburn was talking about other horses competing at the Belmont Stakes even though they did not participate in the Preakness or Kentucky Derby. The 61-year-old said the system is unfair and that the Triple Crown should be a closed circuit in which horses must compete in all three events. He said the horses should be "all or nothing."
"I'm 61 years old and -- I'll never in my lifetime -- I'll never see another Triple Crown winner because of the way they do this. It's not fair to these horses that have been in the game since day one. I look at it this way: if you can't make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can't win in the other two races."
Coburn said Chrome had a "target on his back" and he spoke to the way the system should be changed:
"Our horse had a target on his back. Everybody else lays out one, or they won't run in the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, they'll wait until the Belmont. You know what, if you've got a horse, run them in all three. If you've got a horse that earns points running in the Kentucky Derby, those 20 horses starting in the Kentucky Derby are the only 20 eligible to run in all three races. This is the coward's way out. "
Chrome was denied the Triple Crown on Saturday by Tonalist, a horse that started from the outermost gate (No. 11) and won in a time of 2:28.52. Chrome, a 4-5 favorite heading into the race, finished fourth, failing to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed did it in 1978. Only 12 horses in the history of the sport have completed the Triple Crown.
Footage of Coburn's interview:
Horses to win first two legs of Triple Crown since 1978 (finish at Belmont):
Triple Crown winners (jockey)
1919: Sir Barton (Johnny Loftus)
1930: Gallant Fox (Earl Sande)
1935: Omaha (Willie Saunders)
1937: War Admiral (Charley Kurtsinger)
1941: Whirlaway (Eddie Arcaro)
1943: Count Fleet (Johnny Longden)
1946: Assault (Warren Mehrtens)
1948: Citation (Eddie Arcaro)
1973: Secretariat (Ron Turcotte)
1977: Seattle Slew (Jean Cruguet)
1978: Affirmed (Steve Cauthen)