Haskin: Time to Move On

There are several elements to Steve Coburn’s outburst following Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. There is the point he was trying to make and the manner in which he made it. People will agree and disagree with the point, but there can be no disagreement with the way he delivered it, even down to snapping at his wife, who seemed to cower with embarrassment. Now that he has publicly apologized, whether forced or not, and congratulated the connections of Tonalist, it is time to move on and focus on the heroics of a very special racehorse and one of the most spectacular days in the history of New York racing.

Whether one chooses to accept or believe the sincerity of Coburn’s apology is up to each individual. I don’t know Coburn personally in the slightest, but what I saw was a man who came to a gut-wrenching and shocking revelation – the guardian angel he said was watching over California Chrome either does not exist or abandoned the horse at Belmont Park. And considering that guardian angel was his deceased sister, it had to come as a crushing blow to everything he believed in. That ethereal connection that has kept his sister a major part of the horse’s success suddenly was gone, and that is tough for anyone to accept. I also saw a man who was forced to come to the realization that the horse he was convinced was unbeatable was no different than other horses in the sense that he can beaten on any given day, whether it was due to the effects of an exhausting Triple Crown campaign, a better horse on that day, or the injury he sustained at the start of the race.

If that was part of the explanation for Coburn’s behavior, then we were dealing with a man desperately seeking an outlet in which to pour out his guts, which could account for the way his rant started out slowly and kept building to a feverish pitch the more his words resonated in his own ears. By the time his blood had reached its boiling point he wanted no part of his wife poking him in the back. One had to feel sorry for her having to endure this, but he had lost all focus at that point and was oblivious to the fact that there were millions of people inside that camera who were watching with indignation and disgust.

Looking and listening to Coburn repeating his protests during the week about the Triple Crown, mainly to the press, I see a man who is used to getting his point of view across without interference from others. He says what he thinks without use of a filtering system. The only difference now is that he has TV cameras and microphones in his face, and the whole world is listening to him. It is OK for him to stand by his convictions the next day on Good Morning America, but to continue using analogies like playing basketball against kids in wheelchairs is kind of bizarre. He should have let it go after the triathlon analogy, which at least made a little bit of sense, even though a triathlon is made up of three events that add up to a single entity and hold no individual significance, as opposed to three events that offer individual prizes, with each event its own entity and having its own history. It was as if he used that extra day not to back down, but to come up with additional analogies to enhance his point

Did his apology come too late? Was he sincere or was he pressured to save face, not so much for himself but for the reputation of his horse? Did it finally dawn on him that he may have singlehandedly destroyed the feel-good, fairy tale aspect of California Chrome’s story? Did he realize that his words affected other people who have worked so hard and tirelessly to help write the story, such as Art and Alan Sherman, his partner Perry Martin, Victor Espinoza, Willie Delgado, and others close to the horse?

The answers to these questions are known only to Coburn, who received the “Just Shut Up” award on the popular “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN Monday morning, and they rarely mention Thoroughbred racing. Whether he was sincere or not, he did apologize and it is time to put that behind us and chalk it up to the emotions of an emotional person.

Let’s remember, the story that has captivated the nation for the past two months is about California Chrome. The human interest aspects of it warm the heart, but are still sidebars to the main story, giving it enough window dressing to become part of racing lore.

Yes, I will remember Tonalist, an exceptional racehorse in his own right, and his affable trainer who was extremely generous in sharing his thoughts each morning on the track apron. But when I think back to this year’s Belmont Stakes, the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body. He had given every ounce of himself, and with it all, still was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths.

It was hard to believe this was the same horse who came out every morning and stopped in the same spot and posed so majestically for the hordes of photographers while the morning sun set his chestnut coat aglow. It was during those few weeks that his reign in the Sport of Kings was at its peak and the dream was still alive.

But like the others before him since 1978, he left millions of fans once again dejected and unfulfilled. However, this one disappointment should not overshadow in any way what he gave the entire country and the electricity he created during those five magical weeks. The drama that is the Triple Crown has become more Shakespearean than anything else.

To those too young to remember the ‘70s, do not lose heart. We have gone through this before. Just keep thinking of Shakespeare’s words: “The golden age is before us, not behind us.”

(My full recap of the Belmont Stakes will appear later today)


Leave a Comment:


Nothing more needs to be said.  But may I say, Mr. Haskin: Well done.

09 Jun 2014 11:34 AM

Well said and I fully agree.  Personally, I have more respect for and love that horse even more than before.  1 1/2 mile race on an injured foot and he did exactly what he was born for and trained for...the excitement and national interest focused on Belmont and the nearly universal hope and dream for a TC winner was awesome.  Loved it.  

09 Jun 2014 11:35 AM

Thanks so much for this article, Steve.  Brilliant insight and perspective, as always.

09 Jun 2014 11:38 AM

You've said it beautifully. This Belmont Stakes in no way defines California Chrome. His effort was heroic. I choose to remember that and let go of the rest.

09 Jun 2014 11:43 AM

Beautifully put, Steve, and you echoed all the points I have felt over the past couple of days.  Most of all, I was sad to let go of the "feel-good" story, and resented Coburn taking that away with his outburst.  I had a huge sense of relief when I read and watched his apology, which I think was very sincere, and had nearly the same feeling I did watching the HOY awards in 2010 and they announced that Zenyatta had won. The feel-good story about Chrome is still there, and I think we have more to look forward to, watching the second half of his career develop and unfold. He IS a special horse, and now maybe he won't be overshadowed by his emotional owner.

09 Jun 2014 11:47 AM

I see your point, and words spoken in the heat of the moment are frequently not wise. However, they are just as frequently correct. Owners/trainers who enter their horses in a race as big as the Belmont merely to fulfill their “bucket list,” as one of your columnist said, or to satisfy some ego-fulfillment, should be discouraged. Having worked in the racing/training arena (in CA no less) I know owners always have stars in their eyes and it’s the trainer’s job to let them down easy. Not all trainers have the ethics of the late Charlie Whittingham who said he’d never enter a horse in the Derby unless he knew they could win.

The point system was established for the Derby for exactly that reason. Very simple requirements could be set for the Belmont. Horse ran in either Derby or Preakness OR had previously won a Grade II stakes and a predetermined amount of purses. Those regs would not have eliminated Tonalist but it would have kept Matterhorn from breaking into Chrome and gashing his foot on the first stride. Maybe Chrome still would have lost, but now we’ll never know how a healthy horse would have fared.

Some people of my acquaintance have pooh-poohed that gash until I point out that had it happened on the other side of the starting gate, would the track vet have let Chrome run? Triple Crown or not, I hope the answer would be “no.”

Bottom line—with or without Couburn’s rant—the once-a-year race watchers have had their “the fix is in” meme reinforced.

09 Jun 2014 11:50 AM

Nicely done, Steve, as always.

I'm a double cancer survivor and one perspective that often comes with that is that guardian angels appear in different ways and to different degrees.  Sure, Mr. Coburn could feel his sister's support was gone because Chrome didn't win.  Or, as time goes by and Chrome's wounds heal and he lives to race another day, he may come to believe that his sister kept Chrome from falling or from being injured worse than he was.

Any way you look at it, it's been a wonderful spring and horse racing got a lot of attention, good, bad and in between, so let's all take a deep breath, look forward to the summer races (ah, Saratoga!), the fall campaigns, and then on to the Breeders' Cup.

And somewhere out there strides a special 2 year old (or two or three) on whom we have not yet set our eyes, let alone our hearts, and I look forward to learning about them and falling in love all over again next spring!

09 Jun 2014 11:52 AM

I wasn't a California Chrome fan prior to The Belmont. But, after watching his paddock demeanor that day, reflecting on his achievements, and then seeing him perform in The Belmont, I've gained a lot of respect and admiration for this colt. He is very much a class act, and deserves to be remembered as a special horse- and a colt who was, probably, good enough to win a Triple Crown.

I don't belittle Mr. Coburn for his comments, and certainly not for his mild "wave-off" of the wife. I can sympathize with the emotion he felt, and he deserves some credit for having the guts to speak his mind on national TV-offering breath of fresh air sincerity-wish our politicians would take a page out of his book. Ok, some of his points and logic were a bit off mark, but part of his message does ring true. This Triple Crown series is too hard on those horses who (through their owners' choice) compete in all three. It's hard to expect this of anyone, given the circumstances, but wouldn't it have conveyed a big message, had CC's owners elected to pass up The Belmont? And, just imagine what good (for horses) might have been accomplished had the horse won The Belmont and then Coburn followed with similar criticisms.  

09 Jun 2014 11:56 AM

Good article Mr Haskins. Love that horse, he has guts

09 Jun 2014 11:57 AM

I appreciate your point of view as always Steve, and thanks for your article.  I've listened to this be debated for the 54 years I've been a fan!  BUT:

I was okay with Steve Coburn's comments (well, most of them). Watched IN CONTEXT right after the race, I saw an emotional guy who LOVES his horse, with tears in his eyes, defend his horse's honor. It would be hard to watch fresh horses who haven't had to do any part of the Triple Crown campaign (and didn't qualify to even run in the KY Derby) be allowed to run down your horse, who later was shown to have sustained a small injury. It would be like someone allowed to run the last 5 miles of a marathon against people who had already run the first 21 miles. (Better than the basketball/wheelchair analogy, sheesh) Of course, there's Secretariat, an amazing freak of nature we may never see again. And the other Triple Crown winners who each had their own circumstance of how they happened to win. Most people don't consider that horse breakdowns were MUCH more common 'back in the day', especially considering the Triple Crown began in 1875 when the public consciousness was so different about horses, still critical to the needs of society. It was considered acceptable, an "improvement of the breed" that a percentage would break down, not be able to propagate inferior bones, etc. TODAY, there is no horse activity more tightly regulated than horse racing. Drug and condition standards have never been higher, as well as public scrutiny (thank goodness). Today racing would fall into the 'entertainment' category, where safety would be THE highest concern instead of where it has placed in the past. So it IS time to meet "Tradition" head-on, and make the changes that don't tax the stars of the sport to their utmost and then allow 'ringers' to step in at the last race. This creates a dated, less-safe racing environment, as well as possibly an unsportsmanlike one, viewed in the lens of 2014, not 1875!

09 Jun 2014 11:59 AM

Thank you so much for writing this. It needed to be said. Not just about Steve Coburn, but about California Chrome.

I bristle when I read or hear such things as "California Chrome just didn't get the mile and a half." The truth is, as you say, he did get a mile and a half, just 1-3/4 lengths behind fresh horses. I'm not arguing the fresh horse point -- just focusing on the fact that he got trip well enough to win most of the time. Following such a hard schedule, that is a very important feat, not a failure.

If there is one thing I object to in the modern era, it is that people seem to look more at statistics and less at the animals themselves. Numbers are informative, but overall performance against the best competition is more important in determining how good a racehorse is. There, California Chrome has excelled, and I thank him for it. There is no disgrace in beating beaten by a very good horse.

As much as I am a fan of Chrome, I am also a huge fan of Christophe Clement and Tonalist. To me, the best news now is that (one hopes) we will see a match-up down the line between these two amazingly talented, genuine colts.

09 Jun 2014 11:59 AM

Bravo Mr. Haskin! You have such a way with words.

09 Jun 2014 12:00 PM

Congratulations to Mr. Clement, the Evans family, and Team Tonalist. I think that the late Ned Evans would be proud of his brother's horse. And Ned Evans best bred horse, Quality Road, who represented the apex of his  breeding operation, never was able to participate in the Triple Crown races due to quarter cracks.

And the entire Triple Crown has been a celebration of wonderful families of trainers, the Shermans and Clements, who have been  honest and top quality trainers. Now the Evans family has won all three legs of the Triple Crown via Pleasant Colony and Tonalist.

09 Jun 2014 12:07 PM

As always, things are better after reading your post. I could actually see inside Coburn's head, now.

Thank you, Steve. Look forward to your recap.

09 Jun 2014 12:11 PM

Well said, thank you. Maybe it is time to bring back the Triple Crown challenge.  A bonus given to the horse who competes in all three races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes)with the most points.  It used to be called the Visa Triple Crown Challenge.  This originated after the owners of Spend A Buck passed the Preakness and Belmont for the bonus offered in the Jersey Derby that year.  This could encourage more owners to participate in the three races.

09 Jun 2014 12:12 PM

Very nice piece!  I would like to see the TC races split a month apart.  Actually it would only add 3 weeks to the current format.    It would make for better Preakness & Belmont fields because more Derby horses would race in these.  The Triple Crown would still be extremely difficult - like it should be.  It would also help eliminate the perceived advantage of a horse only shooting for the Belmont.  

09 Jun 2014 12:21 PM
Kaye from PA

definitely a forced apology.  ton of fans are now probably rooting against California Chrome because of his crybaby owner.  What a shame!

09 Jun 2014 12:24 PM

Yes, that image of Chrome walking back through the tunnel just totally got me.  I felt so sorry for him.  My heart just sank.  He had given it his all.  That's what I will remember from the race...not the embarrassing rant of his owner.  (I do wish, however, that NBC would have given us more information about the competition during the telecast so we know a bit about each horse.  They all have stories.  I love Chrome, but to hear/see the same thing repeated for hours and hours was just too much.  I realize he was going for the Crown, so the emphasis was going to be on him, but some information about the other contenders and their connections would have been nice.) I do look forward to Chrome's return to the track later this year.  He has personality and charisma in spades!!!

09 Jun 2014 12:28 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thanks, Steve. The day should be remembered for the horses, not a man who lost it both on the track and off it. California Chrome won the KD and the Preakness and gave it all to come in fourth in the Belmont. That puts him in good company - Sunday Silence, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, etc. And horses he soundly beat came back on the Belmont undercard to shine in their own right, franking his form.

09 Jun 2014 12:29 PM

I agree. CC was gallant in every way. He is a horse that will be remembered not for losing the Belmont but for taking his fans on a wonderful journey. I was at Churchill Downs when he won the Derby. He jigged to the paddock and he jigged back to the barn after the race, without breaking a sweat. After the Belmont, he was a different horse and he gave everything he had. His owner is a bonehead who just got lucky and won the genetic lottery with CC, nothing more. The horse is the true champion and I hope Sherman will continue to guide the owners to do right by him

09 Jun 2014 12:29 PM
Abigail Anderson

Beautifully said, Steve, and with the human kindness that was needed. As the gracious Art Sherman said in his interview Sunday morning, "The horse didn't in any way disgrace himself....he laid his body down." These words will echo in my memory, together with your description of Chrome heading to the backside after the Belmont. Time to rememory a great, courageous colt who gave each of his last races 100% +

09 Jun 2014 12:30 PM
LA Williams

Just wondering if a fresh horse ran for a smaller portion of the prize money would that keep the amount of fresh horses entering the races down on the Triple Crown Trail? Horses that run all 3 would be running for the bigger purses. What do you think?

09 Jun 2014 12:31 PM

California Chrome is a magical horse.  You do not have to be born to greatness to be great.  There are too many horses who defy this. No one had more humble beginnings than John Henry yet he was a great horse.  Seattle Slew and Wise Dan also have humble beginnings, but were and are great.  I look forward to seeing California Chrome race again.  He is very, very special.

09 Jun 2014 12:33 PM

You are correct as usual, Mr Haskins great article, I feel sorry for Mr Coburn, he has to live with this demon for the rest of his life, i imagine he wishes he could redo it, but damage is done too bad, he does own a very nice horse, not a great one but a real nice pony

09 Jun 2014 12:34 PM

Mr.Coburn spoke the truth about the triple crown. He doesn't owe anyone an apology for what he said.  I would like to see others speak the truth.

09 Jun 2014 12:38 PM
Soldier Course

I love California Chrome more now than I did before the Belmont Stakes. He was noble in defeat. I refuse to believe that he lost that race for any reason other than the injury he sustained coming out of the starting gate. His efforts to overpower that injury and keep going showed supernatural stamina and pure heart. Now those who once called him great are retreating. California Chrome will never have another chance to win the Triple Crown. But his greatness? I hope with all my heart that he gets another chance to prove that he's had it all along.

09 Jun 2014 12:50 PM


Very well said. One of the best posts I've read on this blog in a very long time.

09 Jun 2014 12:51 PM
Don from PA/DE

Thank you Steve, you are top shelf writer and thinker on the triple crown road sagas....Don

09 Jun 2014 12:52 PM
Old Timer

I have posted this before and I shall post it again now. Mr. Haskin, when it comes to horse racing, nobody says it better. Thank you.

09 Jun 2014 12:53 PM

Mistyrose made the exact point I was going to make--bring back that bonus as an incentive to run in all 3 races.  I would much rather see that than for changes to be made to the schedule--it will mean any future TC winners will have an asterisk next to his name, it won't be the same accomplishment.

I was lucky enough to be at CD to see Chrome win the Derby, and made the trip to Belmont for what I was sure would be a coronation.  I can understand just a little bit of Steve Coburn's disappointment, having felt crushed by the results, and do think he makes some valid points; statistics from Belmonts over the past several years would bear out the "fresh" factor.  And it doesn't seem like the owners and trainers of those horses are viewing the Belmont as part of something larger, i.e., the Triple Crown, but simply as a Grade 1 race on its own, with a significant purse.  And that is part of the problem.

But I don't think any less of Chrome because of the results of the Belmont, and was happy that the crowd gave him a warm round of applause when he came back after the race.  I look forward to seeing him later in the season, when I expect he will reassert himself as the champion he is.

09 Jun 2014 12:54 PM

I knew Coburn's words were coming from raw emotions and total shock. I honestly don't think he was prepared to lose. I don't think the possibility crossed his mind, and as a life long fan of the sport, that shocks me. I wanted this classy Cali colt to win so much, but in my mind, I could not visualize it. I fully expected it to unfold as it did. I'm ashamed I had so little faith. I do believe Chrome is a special horse, a worthy champion. I simply understand how monumental the task. I ignored every single person who stated that he was not tired. I don't care how the pony looks on his morning jogs, getting a bath or in the stall. "Tired" will visit him at some point on the Big Sandy during that long mile and a half. It's as certain as the sun rising. It can be done, but it takes something more than talent to do it. Like the Derby, everything has to line up, luck plays a role, you need a perfect trip, and to beat those fresh horses and overcome that shroud of fatigue and the pain, you just may have to be a "maniac" like War Admiral. That's a tall order, one Chrome couldn't fill. No shame. He's in very good company, there are many great ones in the "Belmont Losers Club". I do believe he will redeem himself, he may even redeem his hot headed owner. I love this sport and I truly hope the California Chrome saga has a happy ending.

09 Jun 2014 12:57 PM
lunar spook

MY TAKE- I felt in watching cali chrome these last few months that he had everything set up so perfect for him that it was hard to judge how good he really was , he had always had the perfect trip the perfect post the perfect pace ,  things got a lil shaky in new York and we see what happened !he will go down in racing lore as another smarty jones , big brown , war emblem , funny cide etc. nothing more , nothing less , I can somewhat symphasize with Coburn however as he was caught up in the heat of the moment , however until the rules are changed tonalist won fair and square !

09 Jun 2014 1:00 PM

Well said Steve I agree with you the time will come that we have another Triple Crown winner. Before the race Saturday CC was very calm. To the point that Jerry Bailey commented that he was extremely calm. Many people have been asking me why he lost, I have been following racing since 1973 as a Sham fan, and I tell them the horse was just tired. Looking at where he finished the horse really ran a great race. He was just tired. Some horses have trouble leaving their homes. They do not sleep the same and relax like they do at home. We will never know if this was part of the deal, but I believe that this horse once he is rested is going to show us again what a great horse he is and all others better be prepared.

09 Jun 2014 1:03 PM
Jean Nolan

Thank you, Mr. Haskin, for your usual thoughtful, exquisitely written analysis.  I know you hear it every day, but your recognition of horses as individuals, with personality, courage and intelligence, is what brings me back to you, time after time, seeking both sanity and sentiment.  

My first "heart horse" was Tim Tam, in 1958.  I had grown up on stories, told by my parents, of famous horses, and horses who were only famous around Chicago, but were tough warriors, battling it out every day in claiming and allowance races.  Tim Tam, with his run at the TC in 1958, SHOWED me what they had been telling me. My heart broke, but my love for him remained unchanged.

I feel a little bit like that now, and am so glad that you, too, saw how gallant Chrome was in defeat.

I feel bad for his owner.  I am married to a man who sometimes speaks before he thinks, and I know the pitfalls that engenders.

Thank you so much for your compassion, your grasp and your clarity.  You truly add to my experience of racing.

AND - thank you so much for that last line!  We all need it right now, I think.

09 Jun 2014 1:05 PM
Soldier Course

How odd that on both occasions when he was riding in the Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown on the line, Victor Espinoza's mounts encountered insurmountable physical problems leaving the starting gate. Not suggesting that anything's amiss here, just so very odd.

09 Jun 2014 1:05 PM

"Chrome" ran a "winning race" if the jock had opted to take full advantage of the #2 post, taking the shortest route around the track and making use of the colt's high cruising speed and determination. He lost no marks in defeat except for immortality. Of course this is hindight, 20/20 vision.

The race was of a high quality, the final time very respectable and all top five finishers were genuine staying colts with strong classic distance pedigrees. Those who believe that sprinter-miler types can win the Belmont Stakes are kidding themselves.

The owner's unfortunate rant was pathetic and in poor taste ...I hope that in the aftermath he's learned something about good sportsmanship and losing gracefully.

And so the 3YO championship is still unbolted ...Shared Belief, Tonalist, Bayern and Social Inclusion to name a few will make the 2nd half of the year interesting.

09 Jun 2014 1:08 PM

well said. a bit disappointing to me the number of people who think the TC needs to be fixed. I would be curious to hear some trainer's perspective on this.

09 Jun 2014 1:11 PM

I agree with an earlier mention that Coburn was defending his horse's honor.  It just happened to be at a VERY intense emotional moment.  This world we live in today, we have a ton of grace & forgiveness for ourselves but none for others.  His heart broke for his colt who knew he had lost the race.  

I was thinking back after the race what a scary good three year old crop this is.  Tonalist is a special horse!  We had Constitution, Honor Code, Cairo Prince, Shared Belief, Danza, Chrome, Medal Count, Dance W Fate, now Commissioner has emerged, Hoppertunity, Ride on Curlin, etc.  the BC Classic is going to be a "Classic"!!!

Congratulations to California Chrome!  He didn't win the test of a champion but he showed the heart of one!!!

09 Jun 2014 1:13 PM
Rachel NH

California chrome is still a great colt that accomplished far more than almost any other colt ever has, with more to come.

09 Jun 2014 1:13 PM

Amazing again Steve. Your description of CC after the race moved me. I was more impressed with his effort in defeat. He outran his pedigree on sheer class, talent and heart and still only lost by 1 3/4.

09 Jun 2014 1:14 PM

Well done.This is just what I've been looking for.Great Job,as always,Steve

09 Jun 2014 1:19 PM

Mr Haskins, thank you for bringing perspective to all this. I found myself struggling to grasp what had transpired.

You sir, have, as always, eloquently and with politeness, integrity and dignity given me an understanding of the picture so I can move past the moment and truly appreciate the true greatness of what these wondrous, creatures we call thoroughbreds give us from the bottom of their noble hearts.

Once again thank you!

09 Jun 2014 1:21 PM

Thank you Mr. Haskin, I do feel better. Heartbreak is just as much part of racing as the elation.Mr. Coburn should be thankful that his great and game little horse will race again.

09 Jun 2014 1:33 PM
Your Only Friend

Well written article....The Owner of 'California Chrome' does have valid point for future races.....CD point system is very very good....Why not have rule too win "Triple Crown" ya all have too run in all three races....Some owners and trainers maybe against this ....they maybe looking at the share of Big Purse they would not be able too participate in....It certainly would create interest for racing fans....

09 Jun 2014 1:42 PM

Thanks Steve, well said! Let's all get on with "No need for betting... no need for pacing

Let’s get started... Let’s watch horse racing!"

09 Jun 2014 1:43 PM

Well said Steve.... as pointed out... California Chrome DID get the 1 1/2!  Just not in front of the pack.  And was only beaten 1 3/4, still passed the test of champions for me!  Add to that Tonalist most likely would have run all three had he not been ill and/or injured leading up to Derby/Preakness.  Congrats to Team Tonalist and congrats to Team California Chrome (Art Sherman and crew)!

09 Jun 2014 1:46 PM
Karen in Indiana

LA Williams, that's the most sensible, do-able change that could be made. The bonus was sponsored by Visa and it would take another sponsor for that to come back. But changing the purse structure for the Preakness & Belmont should be do-able. It won't cost the tracks any money (they'll like that) and it won't change the schedule while still giving owners an incentive to run all the races (traditionalists will like that). Say if a horse doesn't run in the Derby and he wins the Preakness, the purse is 75%. If a horse wins the Belmont and he only ran in one of the other races, purse is 75%. If he didn't run in either of the other races, purse is 50%. You'll still get fresh horses, but maybe more will run all 3 and that will limit the gates available for fresh and level the playing field. No point system to mess with, other than the existing one. I really do like that idea.

09 Jun 2014 1:49 PM

I really believe that Mr. Coburn was absolutely positive California Chrome was going to win the Belmont and triple crown: that was his dream and up to the Belmont, every part of his dream had come to pass.  When California Chrome lost, I believe it was unimaginable to him and he was stunned. I am glad he apolgized and it is time to move on. Thank you Steve for once again getting to the essence of the issue.

09 Jun 2014 1:49 PM

One more word: Your description of Chrome walking back through the tunnel, head down, dripping wet, completely spent...& ribs exposed with each heaving breath...brought to mind your heartbreaking description of Smarty Jones following his Belmont.

The image of Smarty Jones you projected (in your words)...of him barely able to stand, shaking, as John Servis held onto the lead...very nearly seeming to fall down from exhaustion, are as fixed in my mind's eye as Excalibur in the stone.  

Smarty & Chrome gave their all, something that is rare indeed in this life.

Witnessing & realizing that is a precious...gift.

The horses: We ought to cherish & revere them.

09 Jun 2014 1:51 PM

So beautifully written.......thank you Steve!

09 Jun 2014 1:53 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Perfectly stated Steve. It is not that difficult to say rude and crazy things when we go into a type of psychotic state from trauma, and loss, and shock. Thankfully the apology has already been delivered, and I believe sincerely. To change the Triple Crown format in any way would be devastating, and actually if horses, trainers and owners were forced to run in the Preakness and Derby just to run in the Belmont we would have horses running in the Derby and Preakness that aren't yet ready to run, risking injury and death. To have more time in between races would destroy the Triple Crown. It would be over and we'd never have another real Triple Crown winner. We'd have the classic TC winners and the new watered down winners but it wouldn't be the same. You don't have to run your horse if he isn't ready, and you have to earn it against the best available competition every race, and you need some good luck. It is what it is and if there isn't another in a person's lifetime then that is the way it is. Don't force new rules just to see another TC. You wouldn't even appreciate it anyway. In major league baseball they're not going to start lobbing it to the batter underhanded just to see someone break DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak just because somebody is close to the record and we want to see it done, and the record has stood for far longer than our last TC winner in 78, over 30 years longer than that. We will see another TC winner and it will be done the right way against the best and the wait will be well worth it. Maybe our chances are better when there is more medication reform since I believe the overuse of meds contributes to some of the really talented horses getting injured year after year prior to the Derby. California Chrome is a hero and a gallant warrior with a big heart and he will be back, and hopefully will be running in The Classic which is shaping up to be the most talented group ever assembled in one race. Life goes on and big races go on and on, and after all each race is only a horse race and anything can happen in a race. You're great Chrome and you fought your heart out while injured and worn down some from a long time road and you almost got it. Thanks for being the brave and charismatic champion that you are. Get some well deserved rest big boy.

09 Jun 2014 1:57 PM


09 Jun 2014 2:00 PM
Your Only Friend

Again well written article Steve.....things will not change in "Triple Crown" Racing......these people cannot even agree on drug policy for every state....Again best change in racing when CD went too point system.

09 Jun 2014 2:18 PM

Great article, right to the point.  Looking forward to seeing you up at Saratoga!

09 Jun 2014 2:19 PM
The Deacon

Brilliantly stated Steve, I couldn't agree more...... e

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

"A Tale of Two Cities"

My heart is broken, I got no words to add here. Not healthy to want something so bad that it ruins one's day......thanks "Chrome" for a great ride, you are much loved...

Great work Steve on the entire Triple Crown trail, you are the best in what you do.

Gonna sign off for a long while now, Saturday just knocked the crap out of me.....

Thanks for all the great blogs from all the loyal Haskinites, all you folks make this fun.

09 Jun 2014 2:23 PM

As is obvious from my "name," this experience was a stunner for me.  I was sure "the racing gods" would let all of the stars align so that Chrome could show us what he could do.  That didn't happen.  On the other hand, he DID show us what he's made of - that he never stopped trying - that he completed the mile and a half not even two lengths behind the winner.  We can all understand his owner's disappointment if not his judgment (especially the next day).  Thanks for another great piece and a very reasoned look at the situation Steve.  So much to learn.

09 Jun 2014 2:27 PM
Going Ballistic fan

I watched the Triple Crown races of 77 and 78 as a teenager and the last seven years I have watched as an older adult. I am much discouraged about racing lately, probably because I have avidly followed it these last few years. First, Barbaro, then Eight Bells, the deaths at the Breeders Cup, the death of Kip Deville, and so many unknown horses that just disappear to never be heard of again. Find out what happened to Real Lace or Red Tesla. So much is wrong and the welfare of the horse seems far from the forefront. Where is the story of what happened to Alydar????  This seemed to be one ofthe main focuses for the Triple Crown this year a race like Alydar and Affirmed for CC and ROC. Underlying it all is an ugliness that no one wants to acknowledge.  All the talk of the pampering the horses receive is not going to cover the facts. It is NOT fair to have horses without enough points to race in the KD race in the Preakness and Belmont. I truly believe wewill NOT see a triple crown winner with current breeding practices of these horses. I was not surprised that everyone jumped on Mr. Coburn for his lack of sportsmanship, but I give him a break as I would have reacted the same. Unless you are in his shoes, you do not have any clue what he was feeling or experiencing. I hate the line in the article that said it was hard to believe the exhausted colt walking back was the same regal one from earlier in the week. This is the REAL PICTURE of an athlete after a performance. He gave his all, Lasix sucking every ounce of liquid from his vital organs and blood running from his injured leg. Ride On Curlin bleeding enough to make him throw his head and eased to last place just shows Lasix is not the cure all we are made to believe it is. The traditions that everyone wants to uphold will not benefit the horse of today for these and other reasons. Go visit Old Friends and see the old warriors. Some of them are fairly young and so broke down. I am more interested in improvements for the horses that will save the lives of jockeys and help the sport survive for its fans. Get a real racing commission that governs it all, enforce the rules, and clean up the backside for the real workers that take care of the horse. STOP the overuse of drugs on horses and give them time off to heal. Hire vets that really enforce that time off, no races without their approval. Make the backside more transparent by allowing cameras in, let the Steve Coburns of the world stay involved in ownerships. Fans want straight talk and safe racing. Something has to be done before it all goes away. If traditions are so great, then why don't we go back to match races? Because we have seen horses die in those races just like they do near the Mexican border. Traditions are killing horse racing, its time to make changes.

09 Jun 2014 2:27 PM

This is writing at its brilliant best. This blog captured the basis for the emotionally driven statements made by Mr. Coburn. But it also did not endorse the statements and condemned them without demonizing the emotional co-owner of the talented colt.

I have seen other Blogs where the moderator and some of his supporters endorsing Mr. Coburn’s sentiments. It’s one thing to critique the conditions for participation in the TC but it’s another to accuse other owners of adopting a cowardice policy to racing.

Did either Tonalist or Commission the Belmont with an unfair advantage? What do the cold facts reflect?

The 10 Derby/Preakness winners since Affirmed that contested the Belmont were defeated by horses falling into the following categories:

Big Brown – DA Tara – Did not contest KD/Preakness.

Smarty Jones – Birdstone – Contested the KD and skipped the Preakness.

Funny Cide – Empire Maker - Contested the KD and skipped the Preakness.

War Emblem – Sarava - Did not contest KD/Preakness.

Charismatic – Lemondrop Kid - Contested the KD and skipped the Preakness.

Real Quiet – Victory Gallop - Contested the KD/Preakness.

Silver Charm – Touch Gold - Did not contest KD/Preakness.

Sunday Silence - Easy Goer - Contested the KD/Preakness.

Alysheba – Bet Twice - Contested the KD/Preakness.

Pleasant Colony – Summing - Did not contest KD/Preakness.

Based on the above, horses from three categories were responsible for foiling TC bids since 1978. Horses that contested neither the Derby nor Preakness account for 40% of the spoilerd. However, this is hardly a dominant group. Belmont winners that contested the KD and skipped the Preakness are tied with winners that contested both the KD & Preakness. There is no real dominant croup.

Did Da Tara, Sarava, Touch Gold and Summing defeat Big Brown, War Emblem, Silver Charm and Pleasant Colony because they were fresher? Big Brown was pulled up. War Emblem finished 8th.  Clearly fresher horses were not an issue with them. Silver Charm and Pleasant Colony finished 2nd and 3rd respectively but were defeat by lesser.

Neither Tonalist nor Commission contested the Derby and Preakness. One failed to secure the requisite points for the derby and the other was injured before contesting a targeted point’s race. They were fit and ready to contest the Belmont. Horse cost a lot to purchase and maintain. A race with a $1.5M purse will attract low lever claimers if their connections felt they could get a piece.

Did Mr. Coburn’s expect the connections of Tonalist and Commission to sit out the race because the TC was in play? That would be handing the Belmont and its $900K first place purse on a platter to the horse and its connections. That would have been a black eye for racing and a disservice to the 11 previous TC winners.

09 Jun 2014 2:32 PM

MD, I've never seen a horse look as if he'd left every fiber of his being on the track, until I saw an old press photo of Seabiscuit being led to the winner's circle after defeating War Admiral. It was haunting. I thought to myself how much it must have taken for him to win that race. I don't think we fully appreciate how far beyond that horse reached to beat the Admiral that day. The photo said it all.

09 Jun 2014 2:37 PM
Mister Frisky

Steve,Thank you again for the past 5 months of TC coverage,can't wait till Janurary 2015.Coburn is a jerk plain and simple,he gets no pass from me espescially since he doubled down on Sunday morning.This nonsense about changing the TC is an absolute disgrace and any turf writer that thinks otherwise needs to find another profession.How about baseball change the rules allowing only one pitcher per game.So instead of the hitters having to face two guys in the 8th and 9th innings throwing 97 mph they can face the same rubber armed pitcher 5 times a game.Surely someone would hit .400 again.You wrote some beautiful stories about Team CC and the regular guy angle that the 99% could relate with.Regular guy Coburn came off like an entitled brat whose family came over on the Mayflower.More importantly he embarrassed his wife,partner,The Sherman's,and most importantly the horse.He should feel privileged to have gotten beat by Evans,Winstar,and Spendthrift,all top class organizations.I don't ever see this horse leaving the cozy confines of Southern California again.The rest of this class is catching up to CC and Tonalist and Commissioner havent tapped into the keg yet.Coburn needs to go back into obscurity,oh how I miss the ultra classy Bob Lewis who Coburn could have learned a lot from.

09 Jun 2014 2:41 PM

My guess is that in another week most people will have forgotten about Mr. Coburn's unfortunate rant but they won't have forgotten how exciting this sport can be thanks to the excellent coverage of NBC on Belmont day and the valiant effort made by all the competitors in the race. I'm sure Steve will agree with me that we have a summer campaign ahead that promises more excitement, thrills and great storylines. It is time for all of us to put the disappointment of not having a triple crown coronation to the side and embrace new hopes and dreams.

09 Jun 2014 2:44 PM

Thank you Steve for calling California Chrome to our attention back in the winter.  Following his races leading up to the TC has been wonderful and I am still amazed at his ability to maneuver, accelerate and hold steady as needed.  Hopefully everyone will focus on his Derby win followed by the Preakness triumph.  (not to mention a close fourth in Belmont with injured hoof)  Everyone remembers a Derby win forever as other race wins recede into the mists for most people.

This is not to say that all these wins are not memorable, along with Tonalist's Belmont, but just that most breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys long to win the Kentucky Derby.  California Chrome's return in the BCC will be something to anticipate for the next few months.  Again, thank you.

09 Jun 2014 3:00 PM

I think it's interesting that Chrome seems more respected and popular than ever because of the race he lost!  We knew he had speed and agility; in the Belmont he showed his courage and heart.  He's for real--a true champion.  We are lucky to have him.

09 Jun 2014 3:08 PM

Very well said and appreciated.

09 Jun 2014 3:16 PM
lunar spook


09 Jun 2014 3:18 PM


I have read your comments over the years, and a lot these last couple months. I must say, I've seen a side of you that I haven't seen before. Your comments on California Chrome touched me deeply. You may be hard on the outside, but inside I think beats the heart of a man, that cares deeply for our equine athletes health and well being on and off the track. I thank you.

Sceptre, in regards to the Triple Crown, when you win the Kentucky Derby, it seems you are expected to contest the Preakness, winning that and the pressure and expectation is high to contest the Belmont. As racing fans, we would all like to see a very good horse become a great horse and reach racing immortality. But at what cost glory.

My heart sank when I found out CC had been injured. I'm not convinced this injury is like a hang nail as some reported. The comments I heard and read as to whether he was feeling or not feeling the pain I think would be difficult to quantify. In my opinion, I think it affected the outcome along with the fatigue he was probably feeling. Our body has a way of telling us humans through pain not to continue doing something i.e. jumping rope on a badly sprained ankle. When it comes to horses I'm not a vet.

But this I do know, he laid his body down in the Belmont and he fought against adversity, the sign of a true champion in my book.

I think there should be a discussion on whether horses with little experience and foundation should be running in grade 1 races. I may have started jogging a mile yesterday, but it doesn't mean I ready for a 26 mile marathon today.  



09 Jun 2014 3:37 PM

Thanks Steve, at least Mr. Coburn's outburst made the loss easier to take.  

09 Jun 2014 3:40 PM

Thoughtful and well written article, Steve. As the saying goes, "To err is human, to forgive divine." But I'm still steaming over NBC's post-Belmont coverage. Why did Donna Brothers interview the LOSING jockey first?! And Bob Costa's truly shocking and tasteless question to owner Evans in the winner's circle was disgusting. I liked Mr. Evans's answer, something to the effect that he would not respond to that question. The Tonalist connections showed true class in spite of being treated rather shabbily. As an aside, do you (and other bloggers here) believe that owners, trainers, jockeys, etc. read these blogs---hope so

09 Jun 2014 3:41 PM

Thank you Steve - well done and very much appreciated - to put it all in a good and healthy perspective.

09 Jun 2014 3:52 PM

Very nicely put as always Steve. As for Coburn, if he stays in the game long enough (it will not take too long) he will learn how there is much more adversity than triumphs as an owner. And how very special the triumphs are as they must be to keep one in the game. No industry I have been part of where the word class is used more and he will come to find how seriously it is taken on many levels. No one truly deserves a horse this nice and Coburn especially does not but the world doesn't work that way. As for Chrome, he finally had some adversity and fate truly intervened for whatever reason as only he gets stepped on and at the most inopportune time in his life. Did it affect his performance? I wish I could ask Chrome as he is the only one that knows. With that said, how many horses have you seen grab a quarter to that extent and go on and win their race? Sure there have been some but how many running route races at this track? They don't use rundowns at Belmont for no reason. That sand will burn them up so it is difficult for me to think it did not have some effect. Two lengths? We will never know.

09 Jun 2014 3:56 PM
Smoking Baby

Coldfacts.  Good post.  Actually Touch Gold did contest the Preakness.  He ran fourth behind Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit and Free House. Had he not stumbled badly leaving the gate and got shut off down the stretch by Free House he may have won.

09 Jun 2014 3:57 PM
dance with fate

Thank you Mr. Haskin. You presented the aspect of Mr. Coburn's much-loved sister and her connection for him to Chrome in a lovely, understanding way. She'll always be there for him - the spirits may move mysteriously. My choice is to focus on Chrome and the wonderful people who are there for him every day. My high regard for CC was posted on the video of CC leaving Belmont. Honestly, couldn't even have told you what color any other silks were during the race - I rode only with California Chrome.  CC's tranquil and elegant presence were on display in the "leaving Belmont" video - beautiful to see that transformation from the day before. His charisma is undeniable, unforgettable.

09 Jun 2014 4:05 PM
Soldier Course

I receive emails from The Blood-Horse ever day. There's the Daily, the Racing Recap, and Breaking News. I never received one email informing me that California Chrome had sustained an injury at the start of the Belmont Stakes. I received at least two letting me know about Steve Coburn's rant and no-apology-apology. I learned about California Chrome's injury from Twitter on Sunday morning, from an account not associated with BH. Eventually Ron Mitchell posted one Tweet about the injury, with no link to a BH article. Unless I overlooked something on the BH website, the only reference I found to the injury on Sunday was buried in the article about Tonalist winning the race. For most of the day the lead article about California Chrome on the website was about the rant.

This omission couldn't have been an oversight. Whatever it was, it was callous beyond belief.

09 Jun 2014 4:06 PM
rachel fan

Now that I've gotten the wind back in my sails after CC's heartbreaking loss, I feel the same as many others who have said they love the horse even more. He was absolutely gallant in defeat and gave every ounce of strength and speed he had to give. How could you fault anyone for that kind of heart and courage? The naysayers are probably sniping now, saying that he's finished. I hope he comes out of the race well and has plenty of time to recover from the fatigue and injury, because he is far from through. There are more races to run and I believe that, if given the opportunity, he is going to continue to show us what a true champion is.

09 Jun 2014 4:08 PM

I'm sorry....but someone needs to educate people on here.......i went for my biggest hit ever, multiple tris all over, most keyed tonalist....it was like christmas day, and didnt have 8 2nd....my winnings on the win bet was 1700, but missed the great opportunity of the wonder horse running off the board...........All this triple crown talk is TOTALLY BIZARRE! What the heck is everyone talking about......facts might be good at this time........how about the fresh new faces in belmont thing? How many fresh faces have won the belmont in last 20 years? not many! So that is wrong info.......nobody understands that chrome ran all winter! Are you kidding me? He was absolutly amazing to last that long! But it cost him the triple crown....i won 1700 on tonalist win bet, but the race was slow...i know this because there were 5 or 6 horses close at the wire, and the beyer was 100.......hardly makes him exceptional....the chrome went off form! period! and i was sure of it............now, to those who think 5 weeks in between the triple crown races, dont "get" that this would make the triple crown even harder? look, the preakness is always the easiest race. Why? 2 weeks is not smart...only the winner, or a horse that didnt run good makes sense....5 weeks would make way more contenders run........There is a HUGE MISTAKE people just dont understand about the 2 week thing.....A horse can run great, it isnt that horses wont perform, it's the price you pay later!......Another thing....everyone is frustrated saying" there wont be a triple crown winner again.......pay attn people.....yes there will...very soon.....why?  Anyone notice that trainers are smarter in the last few years? By that, i mean less preps? Well, this is the main reason.....and the reason chrome didnt do it this year.......It's not gonna take a superhorse.....win the derby fresh/free square preakness/ win the belmont........Another thing....5 weeks doesnt really help as much as people think....it takes months to heal.......oh, you didnt know that horses break their leg every time they run? Thousands of micro fractures.....bone chips etc........chrome was outstanding for 6 months.........

09 Jun 2014 4:21 PM
Curlin 1:53.46

I really thought when I seen California Chrome sitting behind that wall of horses, three wide up front, that Chrome was going to stay there and bide his time until the stretch and wait until a hole opened up. Something like Palace Malice did in the Met. They had the same trip going into the turn and think it would of benefited Chrome more staying on the inside, rather than fan 4 wide around that never ending turn. Just my thoughts.

09 Jun 2014 4:23 PM

As with anything, things always look different once the dust settles.  I cringed when Mr Coburn started his rant as I knew how bad it would look and him being from CA, the whole east coast west coast thing would start up and with the nasty comments directed everything from CA that I have read on many sites. It appears that people feel the need to trash the entire state, the horse, all over again.  I can't really say I would be super gracious 5 seconds after my horse just lost the race of his life and I am sure I would have been spewing some choice words.  But I think what it all comes down to now is just what you said Mr. Haskin, the TC bid is over time to move on. Everyone on this planet has said things in the heat of the moment that they regret or wish they would of thought about before just blurting out what was in their head.  Let's give the guy a break and accept his apology and please stop with the name calling of the owners, the horse, etc.  You who are doing this are showing your lack of class also. Think about how you would react if you just lost at something that meant that much, not just to you but to a whole lot of people.  I don't think he prepared himself to react to a loss.  If you are a positive thinker, it is a hard thing to do- no one wants to prepare to lose. -- it is just the human nature to try to fund a reason and blame something  Unfortunately, I think CC lost the race because of the injury and it just freaked him out.  Horses are weird creatures, they can be cool calm and collected and then freak out.  I have had many cool headed, seemingly nothing will freak them out horse and then something just does.  I heard talk that CC had never missed a day of training, never injured, never sick and suddenly at the start of the race, right out of the gate another horse steps on his foot. I have seen horses come to a dead stop and refuse to move over much less.  I had a horse lose a shoe, that's it and he did not want to walk at all, just stood there, stupid since he was not hurt and once he took a step he was ok, but he was young and this was the first time something happened and so he lost his mind for a minute.  Who really knows, he is a horse, they do not react the same as we do, their minds do not work the same. If CC lost his mind for a minute, by then the race is over.  Not like they could stop the race, give him time to compose and start again like you can when just riding a horse.  Who really knows.  Hope this doesn't screw with his mind too much at the gate -- he already had gate issues.  Hope to see him again on the track here in CA.  

09 Jun 2014 4:30 PM

Well written article.In a sport of Kings,California Chrome deserves a Crown.Hes a king in my eyes as are most horses.Its the humanrace that needs to realize this.Our Lord will return upon a white horse.For the comments made by a passionate man,it was his right.Turns my stomach that people criticize the way they do without having been in  the same experience.

09 Jun 2014 4:41 PM
spectacular bid

great reed as always steve!

my observation is this- while the timing and delivery of coburn may be argued, his comments HAVE ALOT OF MERIT. the kings are about to win the stanley cup(sorry ny, your done!) they will have played more games then anyone, they are tired and beat up. should a rested team not good enough to be in the playoffs be allowed to play them the next day? should the cowboys have been allowed to plat the seahawks the day after the superbowl when they werent  good enough to be in the playoffs? the answer is an EASY NO!! people argue that under that format there would have only been 3 runners in the belmont. i disagree, todays trainers know the odds against them are stacked with the new shooters so they dont bother. if the playing field was level, more would have competed in all three. still others will say tonalist was injured and thats why he was rested, well, every year players get hurt and there teams suffer all season..they dont get in the playoffs because of it..its "better luck next year" granted, the crown winners of the past also faced new shooters,but not like today, the game has changed, racing needs to adapt, when players began flopping in the nba, the rules changed to keep the spirit and integrity of the sport alive..racing needs to do the same

09 Jun 2014 4:43 PM

Forgive and forget.

You always come through Steve with just what exactly we should be focused on at this point and that is our star, California Chrome.  Yes, it was very difficult to watch Chrome walking slowly, injured and looking so exhausted after the race.  

He was there the whole race no matter what and I am deeply touched by his courageous run as I am by your endearing eloquence.

09 Jun 2014 4:45 PM

I strongly agree with you about the need to move on. It's the only healthy and sane thing to do. At least Coburn was humble enough to apologize so that this whole episode doesn't not negatively effect California Chrome and his two full (female) siblings.

One doesn't have to be an aristocrat to own (or train) thoroughbreds, but one needs to think and act like both a diplomat and an aristocrat. There is a reason it's called the Sport of Kings; one never know who one will meet when you go to the track. I've sat near, conversed with, and met owners, trainers, and racing officials. We all shared in our love of thoroughbred horse racing. Thankfully, due to my reading of Steve Haskin and the Blood-Horse, I don't come off sounding like a total fool.

So even if someone is a Dumb Ass Partner, one does not have to act the part.

09 Jun 2014 4:46 PM
Munga Man

I have to give Coburn a break and forgive him, no matter how classless his outburst was. He has a good point though, it's not really a fair competition. I would add another week between each race, giving the horses a little more recovery time. And to those who think Chrome us just a "nice horse" and not great - Did you see his moves in his last several races?  He won the Derby and Preakness and was within less than one stride from winning the Triple Crown? Easy Goer was a great horse and he won just one of the three. This is a great colt, not Seattle Slew or Secretariat maybe, but more than just nice. Can't wait for the Breeders Cup.

09 Jun 2014 4:56 PM

Chrome lost none of his glow to me.  He raced just valiantly, and I am really looking forward to his racing future.  He is in good company with Spectacular Bid and Alysheba to name two, off the top of my head. I am glad Mr. Coburn did make an apology.

09 Jun 2014 4:59 PM
Soldier Course

Carolyn Coburn wore a lovely outfit to the Belmont Stakes. It was done in pastel tints of purple and green, the colors of the DAP silks. A lot of thought went into putting it together. And I'm sure a lot of love ... for California Chrome. It showed she has respect for his fans. Thanks, Carolyn.

09 Jun 2014 5:01 PM

Take a look at Victor's ride! It was awful and I can't believe many experts (not all) seem to think CC had a good trip! Also......take a look at the last 100 yards. Victor doesn't seem to be riding to end up in the money....just take a look at the other Jockey's motion and take a look at his! Just saying........

09 Jun 2014 5:11 PM
Munga Man

I agree with Solo Solo, Bob Costas's question to the winning owner was almost as ridiculous as Coburn's remarks. In maybe the biggest moment of Mr. Evans  public life, Costas has to question whether he and his horse cheated? Gimme a break!!!  Maybe Costas learned his craft from Jim Gray.

09 Jun 2014 5:18 PM
Scott's Rail

I hope that California Chrome isn't broken.  That he will get back healthy, and robust.  What he displayed was a quiet confidence that he took to the track.  He wasn't flashy, just poised and determined.  I also hope he wins a big race again.  But most all of all, I hope

Steve Coburn shows the same dignity as his horse, with a slight tip of his hat...

09 Jun 2014 5:20 PM
Munga Man

Re: Victor's ride - sure he could have taken the lead early, but would have been pressed into faster fractions, probably near 47 for the half, and then we'd all be criticizing him for using Chrome too early. In the end he had the horse right in position to win, virtually at the lead going into the stretch. It just wasn't Chrome's day. Had it been, he would have made his usual big move and won by at least a length or two. Maybe the quarter crack had something to do with it. But certainly the three races in 5 weeks was a factor. He just couldn't outrun talented fresh horses. The Breeders Cup will be a fair fight. But Palace Malice will be lurking. Should be a good one.

09 Jun 2014 5:33 PM

I don't know what we would do without you Steve. Sometimes I feel like I hang on every word you write. I guess that sounds silly but you just have the most awesome way with words - they jump off the page and into the heart. I better stop before I get carried away.  Brilliantly put, everything you wrote. Thank you.    

09 Jun 2014 5:46 PM
Seabiscrateriat O' War

Steve, I was fortunate enough to get through over the telephone to Mr. Coburn last night, and he had spoken with my granddaughter prior to that. He sounded teary and told me about how thi little girl had made him feel glad that people still believed in his horse. He said that he had ruined everything, and that he would "apologize to the world tomorrow". He did, and I believe it was a very sincere apology.

09 Jun 2014 5:53 PM

wouldn't kipling be a more appropriate quote for coburn: if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. I mean he basically behaved like a spoilt brat. I realise his disappointment but to spit out the dummy and throw the teddy on the floor like that.

cold facts and ky vet had the best posts here. the history books were against california chrome. very, very good horse but not quite good enough to do the triple crown. someone wrote his family came with the mayflower. well your loss, our gain.

09 Jun 2014 5:55 PM

Perhaps we'll have an extraordinary twist of fate down the road!  If you haven't seen Chrome's little sister, you might want to.  He has two but it's the younger one.  She looks better than her older brother!!!

Triple Crown in five weeks, leave it as is!  

09 Jun 2014 6:04 PM

The outcome of the Belmont, and the controversy we are moving on from afterwards in no manner whatsoever, takes away from the amazing horse California Chrome is. For a horse to accomplish all he did up to the Belmont to finish less than 2 lengths back on an injured foot after being boxed in a bit where he didn't want to be says a lot about the integrity of this horse. Well done Chrome... and all very well said, Mr. Haskins!! Let us now move forward.

09 Jun 2014 6:08 PM

Steve: This is really good work.  You bring up a point I have not seen expressed elsewhere but is very true: Coburn clearly and sincerely believed it was CC's "destiny" to win the Belmont and thus the TC; he believed it to the point that it went beyond mere confidence and became a delusional alternate reality.  When he lost, it HAD to be the result of cheating or something insidious. It certainly explains the complete lack of restraint afterwards.  Losing literally was not even theoretically possible. He had the "confidence of a somnambulist," thus the complete inability to process and accept the loss.  At any rate, CC proved himself to be an outstanding and courageous racehorse, and I truly hope we see much more of him in the future.

09 Jun 2014 6:14 PM

I think a lot of people would like to hear from experts (vets & trainers) if CC's injury likely slowed him enough to cost him the race, as it likely did Paynter two years ago. I also think Sherman didn't give CC enough rest after the Preakness (too much long galloping).Also, for the welfare and safety of the  horses, the TC spacing should be 4 weeks. The UK recently tweaked their TC Series, so it's not a big deal. TB's stopped running every 2 weeks many years ago. In the Lasix era trainers now prefer 4-5 weeks between starts. In the 1935 KDerby two of the         entrants had more than 30 races as 2yo ! It's all about what's best for the horses.

09 Jun 2014 6:20 PM


Good to see you again. Now we can finally move on from this sideshow and applaud the horse and the horseman around him for a great effort. We know the drill. Other issues are more disturbing, as what happened here and especially in Pennsylvania.

09 Jun 2014 6:30 PM

Just reading this at SFO waiting for my flight connection to LA. Back from NY and the Belmont.  It was a lovely day Saturday and the flashy chestnut from my home state tried his best and was actually 1/10 of a second faster than Tonalist in the final half according to Trakus.  Tonalist covered a lot more ground and looked impressive as he walked down the path to the backside.  Thanks, Steve, because your article gives some closure to the week-end.  

As for the future, I am smiling thinking about my two handsome Cal-bred colts at the ranch. Also Breeder's Cup is coming up on October 32st & Nov. 1st. To quote the Doors, "the future is uncertain, the end is always near."  So I'm going to appreciate the sunshine we've been treated to all year, even though I left New York in the rain this morning.

09 Jun 2014 6:49 PM

Beautifully written Steve!

09 Jun 2014 6:50 PM
Jen W

Congratulations to Tonalist, Joel Rosario, Robert Evans, Christophe Clement and his barn crew for Winning the Belmont Stakes! There is no better group more deserving of Winning this amazing race than them! Tonalist has proved himself to be one great racehorse, being lightly raced, but Winning the Grade 2 Peter Pan after getting over a lung infection, then, just 4 short weeks later, coming back to Win the 146th Grade 1 Belmont Stakes from the 11th post position going 3 wide the entire way around!  Glad he came back safe and sound and I'm SO looking forward to seeing more of his racing career!!! What a gorgeous boy!!!!!  

09 Jun 2014 6:58 PM
Don in Massachusetts

Congratulations to California Chrome for running a terrific race in the Belmont, and although he didn't win, Chrome showed his class and heart, which should further endear him to America.

I am very upset with Kenny Rice, who immediately after the race shoved a microphone into Steve Coburn's face, and asked him how he felt?  What an idiot!  How do you think he felt?  Rice, who knew that Coburn is emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve, and who had been so gracious with his interviews over the last five weeks, would be disappointed and heart-broken for his Chrome.  And yet, he threw a mike in Coburn's tear-drenched face!  Shame on Kenny Rice and on NBC!  It is they who should apologize for their lack of empathy and common sense.

09 Jun 2014 6:59 PM

Thank you for a well said article

09 Jun 2014 7:29 PM

Unless they were raised in the woods by wolves, all children have been instructed on losing with some grace, whether at home or being coached, at least congratulations to the winners, or if that sticks in the throat, faint praise for the winning horse. But calling those who bested you "cowards"?

The notion that an apology erases anything you say arises from politics; also the non-apology apology, with which you express regret not for what you said but for the existence of people silly enough to have been wrongly offended.

And who started the false story that Matterhorn had fouled CC and injured him? CC broke atrociously, slammed into Matterhorn and left him in last place by daylight. In the process, CC stepped on his own foot, but it's doubtful he felt it with his adrenalin up. Grabbing a quarter can remove a good part of a horse's heel, but they say it's going to be okay in two weeks, so it was just a scuff.

How bad this egregious error was depends on who started it, but it has been picked up and spread by people describing Matterhorn grabbing CC by the quarter.

Those of us who care most that all runners come back alive and well, the substance of Coburn's rant is troublesome. It has been so hard and long getting widespread acceptance that the best interests of the horse should govern decisions. When Tonalist, a definite classic horse in his connections minds, got sick, lost condition, and missed training, he was in danger. There were so many bad choices that could have been made that would have ruined this good colt. Pletcher made none of them, and produced him healthy, fit and ready for his best.

Let's not be tolerant of the cast of mind that calls this cowardice.

09 Jun 2014 7:32 PM

Well said, Steve.  Thank you.

09 Jun 2014 7:41 PM
Soldier Course

Give the Triple Crown series four more years, until 2018. If no horse has won it by that year, then close it down. Forty years is long enough to prove its worth.

09 Jun 2014 7:48 PM
Uncle Smiley

Steve, thanks for another insightful analysis of a complex situation.

Guess there are some who think the Triple Crown is itself an event with rules and expectations, even though the Crown has no purse nor trophy.

They don't recognize it to be an honor bestowed on horses and connections that beat the odds in three particular races in the Sping.


09 Jun 2014 7:52 PM

Steve, no one else can quite do as well as you when it comes to putting things into their proper perspective.

As to Mr Coburn, I tried very hard to put myself in his state of mind while he was making his comments. But the use of “cowards” and the rudeness to his wife who has stood by him in the pursuit of his dream just put it over the top for me and  I turned the TV off.

I think Mr Coburn did a great disservice to himself as well by not hastily leaving the stands and checking on the welfare of his colt. To me that was almost as shameful as his commentary and his loss of control. He should have told the media that he would have an  interview later after he checked on Chrome. I just cannot imagine that he would linger after the race and not go to Chrome.

I do accept his apology and feel that it was sincere. Only time will tell on that.

However, there is someone he did not apologize to and that is dear, sweet Chrome.

Chrome was there for Mr Coburn. Where was Mr Coburn for Chrome?

If ever a colt needed  a hug around the neck and the love and assurances from his human that he had done a good job, it was this colt.

While Mr Coburn might now regret his conduct and a comments in the stands, I do wonder if he fully appreciates his wonderful wife and his colt and the other members of  his team and his co-owner friend  and what they have all done to help him realize his dream.

09 Jun 2014 8:11 PM

Steve Haskin fan!! California Chrome fan! Champion in the making.  Enough said.

09 Jun 2014 8:23 PM

The Triple Crown is not for the 'best' horse. The Eclipse Award is for the best horse.

The Triple Crown is much more.

09 Jun 2014 8:34 PM
Bill Rinker

Thanks for the blog Steve, but on this one I'd have to say that I can't really see your way of thinking on some of Steve Coburn's actions and reactions, however I sincerely wish him well, and hope that he can move on and find peace. The fanfare and hype associated with this growing level of success as well as a potential place in Triple Crown history could easily make one loose sight of things. When your ridding that high it's gotta be a major beat down to come up short at the end.  However, in regard to the scheduling of time between races of the Triple Crown? If it where to change, then the classification of it's winners would like wise change, making any comparisons with yester-year extremely difficult. And perhaps comparisons are over rated, but on the other hand, it is a choice for those individuals directly involved to continue on in the present venue. I realize this is hypothetical as well as mute, but had a few things gone a little more his way , California Chrome could have won. I also very much agree with the comments of Solider Course in reference to the priority of media events, it says something about the Equine experience at arms length. All in all though, I really enjoyed Saturdays races at Belmont, those responsible for putting it together deserve a round of applause, and as always it will be very interesting to anticipate the future events, I wonder how Wise Dan is doing, and Bayern sure did kick some seven furlong butt, I'm thinking 1:33:24 on a fast track, wouldn't that be sweet.      

09 Jun 2014 8:53 PM

Dear Steve ~ I am so deeply moved by this post - it has been such an emotional trip  and with plenty of commentary be it pro and/or con.  Mostly you have removed all ills and give "great expectations" for the future of racing.  This post will allow those that could not forgive to learn how to as these majestic and humble equines give us their all - as California Chrome did - drenched and injured, shaken and weakened and confirmed his natural "stamina" and his driving will ( something which most of us cannot do - how easily we giveup and just "quit" before we even begin) to keep on going even with a struggle to get to the finish line.  How much "stamina" is that!  

Yes. It is "Time to Move On" and with a learned experience and a memory of another unforgettable ride taking us to "the golden age" as we recall the copper penny that shimmered in the Sun and "Won the Crowd".

I do not have to say here (to you) how much I think of this article (or of the past several weeks) nor thank you again - I've just been crying.....  

09 Jun 2014 8:57 PM

This is very well stated Steve and beautifully written.  I left Belmont Park that day so sad and so dejected myself, my own head hung down and I felt exhausted like I had been in the starting gate myself.  This performance doesn't diminish California Chrome in the least.  It proves he is still a champion, TC or no TC.  He gave it his all, poor thing how tired and drained he looked afterwards.  I totally get where Steve Coburn was coming from, he defended his horse and came to an emotional crescendo.  His choice of wording could have been better and timing but he has some valid points.  Maybe racing is stuck in the "70's" like many other things still are, maybe it needs to re-evaluate what changes have taken place since the 70's, i.e. medication changes that weren't in place back then, lighter racing foundations and campaigns, etc. and adjust the TC schedule accordingly.

One thing I am sure of, Mr. Coburn loves this horse as we all do and wanted the TC for his horse, or as he puts it, for America's horse.  I love him as an owner, he "gets" the emotional investment fans put into a horse and acknowledges said investment, acknowledges the fans.  He speaks his mind and he clearly loves that animal.

Now we don't know if the gate injury threw California Chrome off or not, I'd like to think it did.  Victor E, on ESPN, said he had no horse at the half. Art Sherman on CNN this morning said he thought CC was tired more so than the injury affecting him.

Personally, after this, I've lost all hope with this of EVER seeing a TC winner.  

I could go on my own rant about NYRA.  They closed all entrances to the track about 4PM.  My husband was stuck outside with the car with nowhere to park and did not even see the race.  NYRA blocked you from going to the rail or standing by the rail on the one side, totally unfair.  The other side was allowed to go to the rail, but not the grandstand side, the "commoners."  They did not handle the immense crowd well, I got squeezed and crushed like a sardine standing there, and to top it off the stupid rap music started so LOUD and the work ponies were on the track right there.  It was reverberating so much I thought they would get frightened.  Doesn't anyone think of the horses?  It was so loud the horses had to have heard that in back in the paddock too and I think the Belmont horses had come out at the point.  I cannot believe that how vast and huge Belmont Park is that there was no more parking at 4PM, ridiculous.

The only thing I am happy about is CC is back home safe at Los Alamitos, probably welcomed by his quarter horse buddies and chatting up a storm telling his tale of travels.  TVG announced on air last night during the Los Al broadcast that CC had returned safely.  Thank God for that and for all the others being safe.  TC win or not, California Chrome is still as great as he was in weeks and months passed. The victory belongs to the spoiler.

09 Jun 2014 8:59 PM

You, and you alone, brought me out of a Belmont funk. Many thanks, Steve. (Now for that glass of wine:-)

09 Jun 2014 9:08 PM

Where is it written that an owner or trainer has to try to compete in all 3 classics?  Swaps went home to California after the Derby, Spend A Buck went to Jersey...This may be a disappointment, but management of the horses remains with the connections....Bring back the bonus for competing in all 3 if you will, but don't change the intervals or the distances

09 Jun 2014 9:10 PM
Steve Haskin

Barb, thank you for all your kind words. They are greatly appreciated. Sorry to make you go through all those tissues :).

And again, thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts.

09 Jun 2014 9:22 PM

California Chrome has not been diminished by his loss, in fact my appreciation for him has increased.  He truly is a great horse, gave his all and you cannot ask for more.  The ride wasn't very good but he continued on even with the injury.

I will say when it comes to the scheduling of the 3 races, the Preaknes folks would love to have more horses compete and so are looking for a change.  It is sad that many just skip the Preakness to point for the Belmont.  If the triple crown is to survive, I think we need to do something to help the Preakness folks.

09 Jun 2014 9:24 PM

I guess it was revenge for Pleasant Colony! At least Coburn stated his comments "before" the race,too!....but this ain't NASCAR.....if this was NASCAR, the winner would have been pre-determined!!!!!!!!!!

09 Jun 2014 9:29 PM

Well said Steve!  Thank you!

09 Jun 2014 9:37 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, thank you and perfectly said. You have a very kind heart. I believe Steve Coburn's apology is completely sincere and he realizes that he was wrong. Sometimes it takes a day or two to realize that you have made a mistake and I believe this, along with his wonderful wife Carolyn, helped him to see the reality of what had happened. Steve, I also think you hit it on the head when you mentioned that he was sure that the Triple Crown was certain because of his guardian angel in the form of his sister, Brenda. He truly believed she was there and all would be right and when that didn't happen, he just couldn't accept it. He is a very emotional man and he wears his feelings on his sleeve pretty much all the time. I also think he is a kind man in spite of what some might think. He loves California Chrome with all his heart and he was right back at his stall the next morning.

Steve, your comments about Chrome and how he gave it everything he had to finish only 1 3/4 lengths behind is the heart of this whole story of the Belmont. Your words pretty much had me in tears (and the post about Smarty Jones). He never gave up and in spite of the gash, kept giving it his all, as he always has. He is every bit as much of a champion and hero to me as if he had won it. This is a very special horse and there will be more to his story. I am one of those who feel the gash did effect him at least by 1 mile into the race. If this were a sprint, maybe not so much. But at 1.5 miles you can bet he was feeling it by the 1 mile point. He kept trying and so did Victor. Andy Beyer thinks Victor's ride was a problem. I don't think staying on the inside or going to the lead would have made a difference. CC was tired by 1 1/4 mile, the gash effected him and the trip was not ideal. A combination of things that would have been difficult to surmount. I knew he was up against it but knowing that, I knew he wouldn't quit and he didn't. Not even a little. He deserves a long rest, lots of Mrs. Pasture's cookies and TLC. The ride he gave us on the way to the Belmont will never be forgotten by those of us who love the sport.

Tonalist was ran a great race and he is a horse with a pretty serious future. It was good to see Mr. Clement win one of the Triple Crown races since he has never won one before. Mr. Evans seemed like a very nice man I hope he accepts Steve Coburn's apology.

The Triple Crown series of races needs to be looked at for one main reason: the welfare of the horses. Horses are not being bred for soundness and stamina anymore and I think we would all agree on that. For the sake of the horses running, we need to lengthen the time between the races. To see horses struggling with the 1.5 miles, especially after running in the first 2 legs is heartbreaking. The other aspect is the fairness issue. I do not think Steve Coburn is totally wrong. If it were me, they would be required to run in one other leg of the Triple Crown to be eligible for the Belmont. It would level the playing field just as we do in the human sports world. Why can't we do as much for our horses? People state their would be an * by their name if we did that. Well, so be it. The horses won't care and ultimately, no one in the sport will care either.

09 Jun 2014 9:43 PM

Thanks, Steve.  Appreciate your writing and perspective.

09 Jun 2014 9:47 PM
Paula Higgins

Cassandra.Says, it is because Steve Coburn is NOT a politician that we should forgive him. A politician would never have said those words. He would have had a canned response and you never would have known how he felt. You know you said it well, we should be most concerned about the horses and jockeys coming home safely. I would imagine the person who said that can find it in her heart to forgive a man who is sincerely asking for forgiveness. Do it for his wife if for no other reason. She is a gem.

09 Jun 2014 9:53 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Horses don't like rap music. Maybe Tonalist can tolerate it but Chrome can't. That is probably why we don't have a TC winner. Some of the other stuff you mentioned sounds ridiculous too. I'm glad nobody stuck a microphone in my face after Smarty Jones was beaten in the Belmont. I was thinking along the same lines as Steve Coburn at that time which was basically- how dare they come in here and spoil it and they didn't even run in the other two legs. I was really mad at Nick Zito, Birdstone, and the owner until I came to my senses. I empathize with Steve Coburn. In the heat of the moment I understand but it is unfortunate. It is better to be prepared for any outcome. I was sure Smarty would win. I thought it was destiny. It comes as a shock when it doesn't happen and you believe it will with every ounce of your being. The microphone wouldn't have been in front of my face long though because of the tirade of profanity.

09 Jun 2014 10:00 PM
Summer's Guest

A guardian angel never abandons it's subject...she was there, with him being stepped on and cut and very tired...California Chrome, had his Angel...indeed!!!

09 Jun 2014 10:05 PM
Jersey Girl

On Saturday, for so many of us, a heavy heart at California Chrome's struggle and ultimate loss turned to horror as Steve Coburn was offered a mike and threw a tantrum.


Where was, "I'm so proud of my horse, trainer and jockey."

Where was, "Congratulations to Tonalist and his connections." (And bad job, NBC. You guys should have at the least made sure Tonalist was appropriately recognized.)

America's love affair with CC is real. The images of his bloodied foot, and the videos of his, and his jockey's gutsy fight to push on, can't help but grab you, and move you.

I think, and I hope, that Mr. Coburn's apology is sincere.

And as we are now reminded of just how many battles CC waged coming into the Belmont, for certain California Chrome and his jockey Victor Espinoza have taken us on a lovely ride.

Steve, your description of California Chrome's spent trek through the tunnel is wrenching. We'll never know if, minus the clip at the break, he would have won, but as many have already said, we'll always know he's a champion.    

09 Jun 2014 10:05 PM

Steve, you never cease to amaze me. Much has been said in the media about Coburn's comments but, as usual, you are right on the money with your words. Perhaps now we can put aside all the bad publicity and concentrate on the horse. No matter what, that was a great effort by Chrome to finish where he did and no one should forget that.

09 Jun 2014 10:06 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve Coburn

    Fuggetaboutit. You apologized and that's what counts. Don't let an outburst in the heat of the moment detract from all of the great stuff you experienced and we experienced with you. You are OK, we know that. It happens. Like Steve said, it's time to move on. Don't let a little thing like an untimely microphone get in the way. It's really no big deal. It was and is a great run. Chrome's chances in the BC Classic are very good. A Derby win, a Preakness win and a BC Classic win wouldn't be too shabby. How many have done that? It's not a done deal, it will be a horse race but he is capable of pulling it off. Chrome just needs a break and he'll be ready to conquer the world again.

09 Jun 2014 10:08 PM

Munga Man 09 Jun 2014 5:33 PM

Please do not take offense but in order to prevent rumors from getting started I must point out that California Chrome has a "grabbed quarter" and not a "quarter crack". There is a distinct difference in the two.

DontHateMe 09 Jun 2014 5:11 PM

My attention was drawn to the same thing. Had Victor persevered the last three jumps like he did the previous eighth he would have finished a solo forth, not in a dead heat for 4th.

09 Jun 2014 10:25 PM

As usual, and amazing piece of writing Mr. Haskin!  I was thoroughly convinced that this one was going to do it, and left with absolutely NO faith in the american thoroughbred after witnessing how flat he ran!  But after a couple days of thinking about the feats of Point Given & Afleet Alex not that many years ago, and now with your words, I guess I still have a LITTLE faith left that someday I will actually witness that pegasus that we call a "Triple Crown Champion"...

09 Jun 2014 10:26 PM

California Chrome was brilliant in defeat - his injury, though minor had a major impact on his ability to press forward in the stretch  - even more important -  I'm convinced CC should have been OUTSIDE horses rather than inside - IMO, that was a MAJOR error in judgement by the jockey that I assume was thoroughly discussed by the trainer prior to the race.  The biggest race of his life with a proven winning recorded running OUTSIDE horses and he is ridden inside???

I've carefully reviewed ALL of CC prior starts and he just does not 'seem' comfortable inside horses even though he 'appears' to take the kick-back well

09 Jun 2014 10:26 PM
Lise from Maine


I think it was more hurt and disappointment plus the high expectations underneath it all that got to Mr. Coburn relating to his outburst.

For weeks prior to the derby, his emotions ran "high" and everything came "crashing down" within just a minute or so at the Belmont.

This was very difficult for him.

I don't excuse his behavior and especially towards his wife.

A "high" and then a "crash" is not good for anyone.

Another way to look at Mr. Coburn's behavior is that maybe we were shown "the real" Mr. Coburn.

Who knows?

Great article, Steve!

After all, it is all about California Chrome. He will get his rest and hopefully come back and win again.

Best wishes to Mr. Coburn and California Chrome!

Thank you!

Lise from Maine

09 Jun 2014 10:31 PM

Beautiful as usual Steve.  You really love the horses and it shows.  Thank you.  You never disappoint.

The person who compared Chrome's injury to a "hangnail" may want to look up what the trainer of Ride On Curlin had to say about Chrome and his perseverance.  He compared the injury to having your  toenail ripped out. Very painful and many horses would have quit running completely. The back part of a horse's foot is very sensitive and not covered by the hoof.  The fact that Chrome kept running his heart out when he was bleeding and in pain - and only came up less than two lengths short to fresh horses - only proves his class.  In addition, he had another cut just to the side of the main tendon, where Matterhorn's hoof (I've seen the close up pictures of the start, it was his hoof) hit first before sliding down to the foot.  A deeper cut there would have been career-threatening.

I wish California Chrome a speedy recovery, some well-earned time off (they once indicated he may even get turned out to just be a horse for a bit) and a brilliant return this fall and on to the Breeder's Cup.

And I can dream that maybe a certain other young bright red chestnut with a lot of white will be the one in two years to break this drought.  Ziconic - Zenyatta's son by Tapit.

09 Jun 2014 10:32 PM
Susan from VA

Actually, I was somewhat glad to hear that California Chrome had injured his leg/hoof at the beginning of the race.  Before I learned that, I thought that maybe he just couldn't handle a mile and a half.  He probably won't have to handle a mile and a half again, but I hope he recovers (mentally and physically) from his injury and continues to show what an outstanding race horse he is.

09 Jun 2014 11:10 PM
sue hynes

Well done, Steve (as usual). Your image of our strong, courageous CC all sweaty with veins bulging out and a bloodstained hoof will stay with me forever. I love California Chrome and am SO glad you reinforced what I've been trying to say this weekend: can we please go back to look at the horse hero who worked his heart out to please all of us, including his owners/team, this whole journey. He tried so hard, tired as he might've been, hurting as he might've been, he tried so hard to give it it ALL. What a wonderful horse, California Chrome is! Let's not forget THAT for a moment. Thank you for the reminder of this champion.

10 Jun 2014 12:00 AM
Walt Gekko

In my view, this whole argument shows the need to revive the bonus system to encourage horsemen to run their horses in all three races (as noted elsewhere).

10 Jun 2014 12:43 AM

Steve, thank you for your thoughts on Mr. Coburn's statements, both the rant and apology. You reminded me of Mr. Coburn's belief that his sister was California Chrome's guardian angel, and how this may have contributed to his let down when Chrome did not win the Belmont.

I was appalled by what appeared to be  poor sportsmanship at it's worst and hoped that Mr. Coburn would "sleep on it" and come forth with an immediate apology.  When he refused to apologize the next day, I was very concerned that the co-owner's statements would taint a fabulous colt's accomplishments.

Thankfully, Mr. Coburn apologized, and very publicly today, and I'm going to choose to believe he is sincere.  I've read through the comments thus far, and it seems most of us are willing to forgive, if not forget.  Certainly, none of us should hold the rest of the team at fault and certainly not the horse.

Like many, I strongly feel the mishap at the start affected Chrome's ability to finish as strongly as he is capable of when 100%  I disagree with Cassandra.Says comment that the injury was merely a "scuff".  I think the photos show quite convincingly that it was indeed, Matterhorn's hoof, and not his own, that grabbed the quarter.  I'm certainly not going to "claim foul" on Matterhorn; these things happen at the start.  It seemed to me to be a combination of Chrome breaking outward and Matterhorn inward that caused the contact, and I think that maybe in a sprint race, adrenaline would mask the discomfort of having a good-sized chunk of the heel bulb torn away.  But in a race as long as the Belmont, I have no doubt Chrome was definitely feeling pain in that foot, at least during the last half of the race.  He showed a lot of guts and determination to continue to give 100% and never quit trying.  When you consider that the only horses in front or alongside him were comparatively fresh horses and arguably better bred for the distance, I am truly impressed with the heart, talent and quality of California Chrome.

10 Jun 2014 1:45 AM
rashid ali

as usual,Mr.Haskin, polite and civilized feedback.

10 Jun 2014 2:50 AM
yoemite dancer

Steve, you are right on the money in your comments. Enjoy your column immensely. It's been a wonderful ride. Still too early to write Chrome off, and too early to proclaim Tonalist the second coming.

I am looking forward to seeing Shared Belief race. Have only read comments about him.

Have a great day!

10 Jun 2014 7:24 AM

Mr. Haskin, your words/thoughts were exceptionally moving. I really needed to hear from someone who knows and understands this brilliant and sometimes heart-wrenching sport. You soothed my soul and for that I thank you. I still love Chrome and believe he will go on to do more great things.

10 Jun 2014 8:09 AM

Thank you, Steve, wonderfully written. We needed to regain our perspective, and remember that our focus and appreciation should be on this beautiful horse and his amazing journey and accomplishments. Nothing should be allowed to detract from that.

10 Jun 2014 8:41 AM

The suggestion by Soldier Course that the Triple Crown be scrapped in 4 years if there is no winner is ridiculous. In the overall context of sports a 37 year drought is not uncommon. When was the last time the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns or Toronto Maple Leafs won a championship? The Chicago Cubs haven't won a championship since 1908 yet no one would suggest that Wrigley Field should be demolished for that reason.

10 Jun 2014 8:43 AM
Bill Two

For those of us who lived in the seventies it's all the more heartwrenching when a horse gets this close only to come up short. Wonderful story until Coburn,s rant.  What a horse!

10 Jun 2014 10:02 AM

It was so wonderful to take the Triple Crown dream out of its box and look at it and hold it once again.  It is so hard to have to put it away, after having come so close with such an extraordinary horse.  This has been such a magical ride, that it was devastating to see it end on what might well have been a very sour note.

Of all the reports which I have read, your wrap-up had the one ingredient which was missing from so many others: compassion.  Compassion for a man whose deep feelings got the better of him in an extremely stressful and disappointing situation.  

Mr. Coburn has often spoken of how closely he linked California Chrome with the memory of his deceased sister.  He lost two dreams when a Belmont victory was denied.   He has done his best to make amends.

We still have this amazing horse and the unique (and sometimes irascible) cast of characters which surround him.  Thank you for being our scribe on this journey, Steve.  You have woven words with such a beautiful clarity of imagery that they have become as much a part of the story as the individuals themselves.  

We'll move on, with hearts full of gratitude for a horse which resurrected glimmers of the glory days of the past, and what it feels like to be on the threshold of history.  Perhaps the best is still yet to be.

10 Jun 2014 11:20 AM

Well, Mr. Coburn has apologized, and his comments were made in the heat of the moment (and the next day). But the fact remains that in my 50 years of being a racing fan, I have never heard a more classless reaction to losing a race than CalChrome's owner after the Belmont. He called the winner's connections "cheaters". The Evans family, who have done more to promote racing than Mr. Coburn ever will. While I do believe that he truly regrets his statements, who wouldn't? The epitome of total lack of class.

10 Jun 2014 11:43 AM

Chrome had to face what every previous TC winner did. They got the job done. CC did not. You can debate all day. He did not win. Racing luck is indeed part of the sport. There is nothing wrong with the races as far as 5 weeks and 3 classic races. Some who are TC winners did in fact run 5 races in 3 weeks on several occasions. I am sad CC did not win. IMHO he was not good enough. I want  a TC winner who stands up to the others. They took on all challengers. They were the best of the best. Many returned to run another year as well. Do you think you will ever see that? CC was not good enough. The best overcome everything thrown at them and make zero excuses. That is why TC winners are legends. I just hope Chrome gets some rest and that I get the chance to see him Breeder's Cup.

10 Jun 2014 11:45 AM

Long time reader and fan, first time commenter.

Kudos Mr. Haskin. I would have much preferred seeing your editorial on my home page rather than Pat Forde's.

It's unfortunate that we can't celebrate Chrome's success while having a legitimate discussion about why today's American thoroughbred can't contest consecutive races without needing weeks to recover.

Thank you again, Mr. Haskin, not just for this piece, but for all the enjoyment your writing has given us over the years.  

10 Jun 2014 12:01 PM

Thank you Steve for helping us all put this in perspective and move on.  I had many thoughts but your writing says it all and of course so much more beautifully.  I find California Chrome so much more of a champion in defeat ( especially after learning of his injury late Saturday evening)  Mr. Sherman says it with class " He laid down his body"  The true heart of a champion.  We "Chromette's" in California love him even more ..... if that is possible.  On a different subject, I know now Beholder sustained  a deep gash too.  Some tough going on some of our California shippers.  

10 Jun 2014 12:33 PM
Fran Loszynski

Here's how we move on Steve: Congrats to Afleet Express for his kid's maiden win, Congrats to Tonalist for his win in the Belmont and now here is something for Chrome's fans to ponder. What an awesome horse but don't feel sad because somewhere someone is saying "Wasn't that an awesome Kentucky Derby" Here is a little story, when Afleet Alex could have won the Triple Crown and didn't I met a woman and her son on the way to the casino one day. I was wearing my Afleet Alex hat and she said my son's name is Alex he has MS and now is using a walker. At the time of the Preakness watching Alex fall and get up it was an incentive for him to try harder as he grew older. I replied "Too bad though he didn't win the Triple Crown". She looked at me wiped away her tears and said: "My son was only 14 years old and didn't know what a Triple Crown was, he did know that his hero fell like him and won his race!" So to the owners of California Chrome, sometimes there are happenings that are greater to others than we can realize and California Chrome in his own right has touched someone in a special way--it doesn't get any better than that. Take Care to all the fans

10 Jun 2014 12:47 PM
Mister Frisky

Of course another TC winner would be great,espically for those who didn't see the three in the seventies.If and when it does happen unfortunately it won't solve even one ill that plagues this now backpage cable coverage sport.Racing has and always will be a wagering game,it's all about the handle at the end of the day.In my humble opinion the new fans brought to racing in the event of a horse breaking the TC drought are just spectators.Very few if any are going to start redirecting some of their precious disposable income and start becoming dedicated horseplayers.So in the end it's expensive day rates,small fields,and doped up horses dying at an ever increasing rate.Its gonna take more than the Chosen One to save this Titanic.

10 Jun 2014 1:28 PM

Thanks, Steve, for putting some context and finality to this unfortunate episode. I'm of those who believe that he is sincerely sorry for his outburst and the trouble it caused. If I had every emotional outburst that I've experienced during a stressful time broadcast to millions, it would be mortifying. Coburn's love for his sister, his belief in her as a guardian angel, and his desire to have a Triple Crown be for her was touching, so I well understood his emotions in that moment. And I couldn't help but notice that he kept referencing the horses in his rant, as if it wasn't about him but his horse. I got the sense that he wasn't so upset that HE didn't win the TC, but that THE HORSE didn't win.

10 Jun 2014 1:55 PM

Haskin wrote:  

But when I think back to this year’s Belmont Stakes, the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body. He had given every ounce of himself, and with it all, still was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths

for these wonderful words that captured truth..... thanks.  

10 Jun 2014 2:48 PM

Steve, thank you for your insightful and balanced piece deconstructing a moment which will go down in the records as one of sports' worst faux pas. This is an example of your excellent writing at its best, and I'm glad you were there to observe first-hand and chronicle what you saw. I still don't excuse Coburn for his rant, but I appreciate your perspective on what was running through his mind when he ran off at the mouth.    

10 Jun 2014 4:58 PM

We lost a great and intelligent lady recently and I can only feel that a couple of great quotes of hers' can be directed at both Coburn and Haskin.


" I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Maya Angelou

First to Coburn, shame on you for the way you made the winners feel. Grow up at age 61 and please quit acting like a brat.

 And to Mr. Haskin, I will never forget how strongly your writing made me feel as I wept over your statements about Chrome after the race. Thank you for a great Triple Crown experience, your writings made me feel every moment of the trip.

And secondly to Coburn only,

"If you don't like something, change it. It if you can't change it, then change your attitude",

Maya Angelou

What a loss to humanity, her passing, but what a great legacy she has left us all. We can all learn something from what this great lady has left us.

10 Jun 2014 6:48 PM

Chrome will be remembered more for his defeat in the Belmont than with any of his wins...it showed heart and as Mr. Haskin stated, he was only beaten 1 and 3/4 lengths after getting hurt...a true champion.   Tonalist and his connections has my congratulations, a few days late.  I just hope he continues to preserve the credibility of winning a "champion's" race by continuing to race and winning some if not all of the next G1 races.   I'm looking forward to seeing him and Chrome again in the Travers (if Chrome is fully healed up from that nasty cut.)   I would prefer to see them in the Travers as its a 3YO race but if it has to be the Classic, then so be it.

Mr. Haskins : This has been one of the best TC trail and would like to thank you for taking us through it with great stories and specially great handicapping on your part.  I'm sure it must be exhausting for you both physically, mentally and emotionally.  Hope you find some time to re-charge and take us to an exciting 2nd part of the year.

It's not exactly how I have it worded in my mind but this is exactly how I feel :

"   Yes, I will remember Tonalist, an exceptional racehorse in his own right, and his affable trainer who was extremely generous in sharing his thoughts each morning on the track apron. But when I think back to this year’s Belmont Stakes, the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body. He had given every ounce of himself, and with it all, still was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths.    "

10 Jun 2014 8:48 PM


He didn't say he was sorry the next day when he should have and Art Sherman thought he would. His wife a Class Act, this guy will make millions and he put down the system. 11 horses are the best and got it done and one more thing, we had 3 or 4 very good Horses that got injured and couldn't get on or finish the Triple Crown run, C Chrome may not have been the best anyway.

10 Jun 2014 8:59 PM

Very nice article.  You always make sense , or bring tears to my eyes (in a good way).

I was lucky to see all the Triple Crown winners in the seventies and have been hoping for another for many years now.

California Chrome is a very talented horse and he ran a brave race in the Belmont.  I hope he gets some well deserved rest and comes back even stronger.  

I now understand how an owner might lose his cool in the heat of the moment.  Reading some of these posts makes me want to address a few comments… but I don't want to be that kind of negative person.

10 Jun 2014 10:43 PM

Dr. D,

I thought the work ponies out on the track were going to start break dancing to the rap music.  It was LOUD.  Not the right venue for it I did not think, maybe would have been cool somewhere else.

None too happy with NYRA right now.  I barely caught a glimpse of CC and Victor coming out because we were blocked from standing at the rail.  Just securing a 6inch by 6inch piece of real estate to stand on was trying and I'm not kidding.

Nice to see a video on Youtube of California Chrome returning to Los Al in Cypress, CA Sunday night.  Some guy kisses him at the barn, cute.  So sad to see him leave us on the east coast but I know he has to go home.  Wish I knew what he was telling the quarter horses there!

11 Jun 2014 1:09 AM
Jimmy The Finger

Thoroughbred Racing is a sport. That requires some sportsmanship. Coburn displayed shockingly bad sportsmanship. The Triple Crown procedures have been established, and if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen. These people bred this horse for $10,000. He's won the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, earned over $3.5 Million. Under NO circumstances should they be doing anything but thanking their lucky stars, popping off about how unfair Horse Racing is, calling people cowards and cheaters.

Nobody deserved to win the Belmont more than the Evans family, who have put millions and millions into Thoroughbred Racing going back decades.

Hopefully this guy's 15 minutes are over, for he has shown his true character.

Also, in all this, nobody seems to be saying anything about Bob Costas, who was a total jerk for asking Robert Evans if he was a coward during the trophy presentation. This was extremely inappropriate. I think Costas was pretty much as bad as Coburn.

11 Jun 2014 8:54 AM

Wonderfully written. I tendered not to be so wrapped up in what the owner said sensing he was overcome with emotion at the time. People are not saints. They make mistakes. But as you said, it was a great day of racing, and we should be focusing on CC, Tonalist, Palace Malice, Closed Hatches and all the other wonderful animals that gave there all for our entertainment that day.

I have seen the wonderful 70's and maybe that will be my limit. But I do hope that Shakespeare's words come true. If not for myself, but for the sport and for all the younger fans we have now and to come.

11 Jun 2014 9:18 AM

There is no doubt in my mind that the injury affected Chrome.

Matterhorn drifted over into Chrome's lane at the gate. There are pictures and the overhead race video to prove without a doubt that Matterhorn came down on Chrome's right foreleg with his left front hoof. Chrome sustained a nasty scrape on his leg as Matterhorn's hoof came down his leg. Matterhorn's hoof then caught a quarter on the left bulb of the heel removing a chunk of the fleshy area of the bulb. If you look at the close-up photo that Barbara Livingston took, you can see the area of the scrape and the area that the chunk of tissue came off the bulb. The scrape came dangerously close to a tendon. I shudder to think what would have happened should that tendon have been bruised or cut.

In addition to stepping on Chrome, Matterhorn threw Chrome slightly off balance.

The pictures and the video speak for themselves. They are clear evidence that show without a shadow of doubt what happened.

So coming right out the gate, Chrome had to regain his composure from being bumped and what would have been a painful injury to his leg.

Theories of course abound as to whether or not this impacted Chrome's performance. And the experts have been crawling out of the woodwork with their opinions.

Some say no, others say yes. Some say he felt nothing due to adrenaline or endomorphins. Others say he did.

Billy Gowan, Ride on Curlin's trainer I think described it best.

Many, many horsemen and horsewomen have stated that based on their experiences, such an injury is painful for the horse and no doubt did impact his performance.

Based on my own personal experience, I know beyond a reasonable doubt that it does not take a lot for a horse to experience pain and sometimes even intense pain as the result of injury to lower leg and to this general area of the hoof. The hoof wall itself has no nerve endings, but the soft tissue within the hoof wall and above it and in the heel does.

The bulbs are fleshy mounds of tissue which are actually considered to be part of the heel. Between the bulbs there is a soft area that makes a slight indention. It is an extremely sensitive area on the horse.

Now for anyone who doubts that such an injury would be painful, consider how you would feel if you took off running and someone scrapped a metal object down the back of your shin bone and then took out a sizeable chunk of your heel. You are bleeding and as we all know or should know, pain is often intensified when bleeding is occurring.

The front legs and hooves of a horse carry all the weight. These horses run up to 40 MPH in a race. Everytime Chrome came down on that leg, the pressure on his weight pushes that hoof into the dirt, even though it is only for a second. Everytime he landed on that leg with the weight coming down on the heel and then propelled himself off for the next stride, that pastern flexes. Thus he no doubt felt two jolts of pain, one when he landed and one when he stepped into the next stride. In between each stride, there was no doubt a stinging sensation as the dirt and sand entered the wound.

Horses like people have different thresholds of pain.

Even among my horses, their reaction to pain, regardless of its location on the body varies from being very stoic to cringing depending on the horse.

Across a lifetime of having horses, I have had to deal with a lot of injuries and conditions that affect the lower leg and hoof. Almost to the horse, they have all been impacted by the injury enough to affect their everyday walking around, much less racing down a sandy track at top speed.

If we are to believe all that has been written about Chrome, he has never been sick and never had an injury. He just may be a horse that has a low threshold for pain.

Lumping how all horses into one basket when it comes to pain is just silly and totally illogical.

It will of course be a topic of debate for years to come.

In my opinion and I stand behind my opinion 100%, it did impact Chrome's performance. I am not trying to make excuses, but rather being logical and forming that opinion on facts as they have been presented to us and my personal experiences.

You can tell that Chrome never really got into that long, floating energy efficient stride. He was having to work harder for each stride and did not have that classic kick when Victor asked for it. If you listened to Chrome's body language during the race, it would be abundantly clear that something was wrong.

Consider too, Beholder, She suffered serious cuts and a grabbed quarter in her race and she lost.

Some have made the remark that there was no way he felt pain, because horses that suffer a fracture still try to run, using Barbaro and Ruffian as examples.

For someone to come up with that kind of conclusion also has some deficiencies when it comes to knowledge of horses.

Horses still retain their instincts that go back through the eons of time that allowed them to survive.

Their instinct is to run when there is danger. Their instinct tells them that they will fall prey if they go down.

If you have ever had a horse with a serious illness or injury, you know that they will fight to stand back up if they go down. I have yet to see a horse that was down not struggle to rise until they have to give up due to pain or exhaustion or being physically incapable to get up on at least three legs.

It just plucks my last nerve that people interject their so called expertise when it comes to horses, when it is woefully apparent that they do not understand the mind of a horse or or the instincts that drive them.

Would Chrome been able to run down Tonalist and Commissioner and win, even by a nose had he not suffered an injury. I think he would have or at the very least he would have been battling them for the win.

Thank the good Lord above that Chrome's guardian angel was there and kept him safe from taking a misstep that could have resulted in a fall or a life ending fracture and protecting him when he came out of the gate.

That would have been the real tragedy if the day, not the loss of the race.

11 Jun 2014 9:30 AM
Ted from LA

Judge not lest you be ye be judged. Let he or she who is without sin cast the first stone.  So ends my biblical knowledge.  I forgive.  The oddest part about this whole thing to Ted from LA is that some people judge an apology.  How is Ted from LA to know if it is sincere or not?  I would rather error on the side of trust.  Besides, to air is human. Get it Dr. D?

11 Jun 2014 10:12 AM
lunar spook

I would like to mention the fact that once again NBC SPORTS did a lackluster and very unprofessional job in their coverage , but that's to be expected , its not just horse racing , its golf , Olympics , hockey , you name it , anything they touch turns to , I pray some day another network will win the rights to cover the tc races ! nuemier , costas , rice, etc. .

11 Jun 2014 10:56 AM

As always, Steve, you have said it best.  Thank you.

11 Jun 2014 11:07 AM

Just a snippet of Rudyard Kipling--

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Fortunately for us, we all saw the true person, we saw the Seamy Side of Racing exhibited by someone that can really never been seen in the same light; that he tried to project. Of all the great stories and personalities of both winners and those who saw some defeat along the way in a career of accomplishments and character; Coburn doesn't and can't share in that same luster!

11 Jun 2014 11:30 AM
Soldier Course

As I was falling asleep last night, I had a thought that had not occurred to me before. I wonder what would have happened if NYRA had stuck to its guns about its no-nasal strips rule when CC's connections threatened to skip the Belmont Stakes unless the horse could wear one. This was a rule that had been in place at NYRA tracks ever since the strips had started being used. When NYRA backed down in the face of a "boycott", the connections had another instance of "good luck". Then I thought about what Art Sherman said about the root of Coburn's rant:  he'd gotten too accustomed to good luck in California Chrome's campaign, which gave him a sense that it couldn't run out. The nasal strip decision reinforced that delusion. So when cruel reality intruded last Saturday, Coburn fell apart in front of all those people inside NBC's camera, like a spoiled child at best and a bully at worst. This story would have had a better ending for California Chrome if NYRA had said no.

11 Jun 2014 2:44 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Ted from LA

   To forgive, da plane! da plane! Or is it da microphone! da microphone!

11 Jun 2014 3:07 PM
Arts and Letters

All it took was one rant to leave a bad taste in the mouth and wipe away all the good feeling about the fairytale story of CC.  Personally, I felt very sorry for the connections of Tonalist - their great moment was sullied by one owner and Bob Costas.  

The good news is that probably in a couple of years, no one is going to remember all this, just the horse.

11 Jun 2014 3:59 PM

I feel the Belmont truly does define California Chrome. What I will always remember is the hard effort and the true heart he showed at Belmont. No he didn't win, but he didn't give up--not for one second. He will be back, with a slightly-chastened owner, giving us the best of his three-year-old year. You know, racing isn't all about winning. We all love winning horses, but there are also horses we remember for trying, like Alydar. Alydar beat Affirmed three times.

As for Chrome, he's won way more than he's lost and he still should have our hearts.  

11 Jun 2014 4:11 PM

Thank you so much, Steve, for the compassion you've shown in your response to this incident. I never thought about the fact that Mr. Coburn's belief system had come crashing down in the space of two and a half minutes. That is an incredibly painful thing to go through. If all people displayed the empathy you've shown here, the world would be a better place.

11 Jun 2014 4:42 PM

Yes it's time to move on. I only wish that CC didn't get hurt I really would love to have seen how far he would have went had he not cut himself. Not to say he would have won but it makes one wonder considering he only lost by less then two lengths. What a gusty horse CC is. I hope to see him race again along with being in the winner's circle.

11 Jun 2014 4:55 PM

"But when I think back to this year’s Belmont Stakes, the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body."

Stupid me!  I thought you were a friend of horse racing.

PETA will just love to exploit this picture you painted.

11 Jun 2014 5:54 PM

For now the "Storybook of California Chrome" has been set aside. Is the story "to be continued"  or will there will be an epilogue to the story that announces that he has been retired to spend his days courting the lovely ladies that will come calling?

While those of us who love this colt wait, we have time to bring closure to the loss of the Triple Crown so that we can move on.

To arrive at closure, we often have to experience emotional healing that has different stages that come in a different order. There is denial, anger, sadness, self doubt and most importantly the shedding of tears that cleanse our hearts and souls.

Chrome's loss of the Belmont was heartbreaking for me, but only a few tears welled up in my eyes.

While I watched the video of his long, lonely walk with Raul and Willie I was deeply saddened at the sight of three broken hearts, walking side by side. Just as you commented Steve, "But when I think back to this year’s Belmont Stakes, the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body", I too will forever have the image seared in my mind of a colt limping back to his stall on a blood soaked foot. That beautiful head, which  would be up proudly, was hanging low. Those bright eyes that would be looking all around were looking down and filled with sadness. Those ears, always up listening or when he racing, one pointed forward and one back listening to Victor.  That face that always carried that look of sweetness and happiness now had the look of defeat written all over it. That gleaming copper coat that was always as bright as the California sun was a dark, dull brown from the sweat. Every fiber of his body was screaming pain and fatigue.

There was to be no walk to winner's circle today, no garland of flowers and no adoring fans to pose for and no roaring crowd shouting "Chrome Brought it Home". There was only the clicking of his hoofbeats, a few cameras snapping pictures and the only voices were those of a few people speaking in low hushed voices..:"look at that foot  and asking "wonder where the owners are"?

Though my heart was breaking, still not enough tears to cleanse my heart.

As the evening wore on and even into the wee hours of Sunday morning, the social media was on fire with Facebook, Twitter and blog postings, most of which were heartfelt condolences for Chrome and his people. There was also an eruption of the swirling controversies. In addition to “Fresh horses and cowards” and calls for changes in the rules in the quest of the Triple Crown, we had pointing fingers of blame popping up like weeds in a barren corn field after a summer rain. Some cried “foul” as the result of “fresh horses”. Some blamed Victor. Others blamed Mr. Sherman. Many blamed a racing schedule that resulted in a tired and weary colt that entered the starting gate.  But mostly the blame was placed on the shoulders of a three year old colt. Voices that had been largely silenced after impressive wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, where now loudly proclaiming…”we told you so”…we told you he did not have the pedigree…we told you he would not win…we told you that he would be a dud in the end…we told you on and on. The voices were as rude, arrogant, gloating and unrelenting as ever.

But still not enough tears to cleanse my heart.

When I awoke on Sunday morning, for a split second I thought I had been having a bad dream but in another split second realised that everything I had images of racing in my mind, did indeed happen.

But still not enough tears to cleanse my heart.

I immediately started checking Facebook and Blood Horse and everywhere else I could think of to get a report on Chrome's condition as well as Ride on Curlin and how the other colts came out of the race. I was so relieved to see the quick video of Chrome walking the shed row, still limping but head up and looking reasonably well after the race. He was not "gaunted up" and he had not lost the flesh that was covering his ribs before the race. Relief!

But still not enough tears to cleanse my heart.

The video of his departure later on Sunday morning showed a bright eyed and while not quite yet bushy tailed Chrome walking gamely out of the sheds and out into the sun. There was that glistening coat, with a somewhat softened glow. He walked up the ramp and stopped. He turned his head to left and then to the right and back to the left again. It was if he was taking one last lookie loo around and saying.."Been there, done that, time to move on and head home".

The cleansing tears flowed and I smiled...and said "There is my Chrome". My healing was in process and I was finding closure.

The video of his return to Los Alamitos started with him being backed off down the ramp. I thought "oh you silly boy....no other horse but you"! He still looked great considering! He knew he was home, so happy to be back in his stall and receiving the love and admiration of those who were there to greet him. He shook his head and neck and body as if to rid himself of the smell he had brought with him from New York and greedily reached for his haynet. Chrome, sweet Chrome was so glad to be back at home sweet home.

The final cleansing tears flowed and closure was complete.

Chrome left his blood and his sweat and a piece of his flesh at Belmont.

He dug down deep into places that he himself probably did not know he had to give of every inch of his heart, body and soul to run the best race he could with the cards that he and Victor had been dealt.

The test of a champion is not always winning, but in how he runs the race. California Chrome passed that test Saturday.

As I looked at the still pictures of the race, a thought came into my head when one popped up of Chrome and Wicked Strong in the dead heat. Symbolic of what we all need to face the adversities that life tosses our way to overcome... Strength and Courage were racing side by side.

There is a picture floating around on social media of Chrome with a quote from the beloved late poet Maya Angelou "

"people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

You have made this person feel hope is still there for  our dreams to come true. To feel that when we need to, we can dig down deep and find courage to face head on the challenges we are presented with.

Chrome, your story has now come full circle from the sweet face little foal with the sweet disposition to match standing so devotedly by your recovering mother, to a yearling described as playing well with others and loving to run to a 3 year old racehorse that has a deep bond with your humans and who "laid his body on the track" to try and win a race and a crown.

Your name might not be on the Triple Crown trophy, but your name is now on the list of all the great horses that have inspired us with their courage and strength: Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Ruffian, Smarty Jones, Barbaro, Eight Bells, Snowman and Sgt Reckless just to name a few.

You are a reminder to us all that great things often come from unexpected humble beginnings.

“The golden age is before us, not behind us.” Steve, I can't help but think that this applies to California Chrome as well, at least I can hope that it does.

11 Jun 2014 6:13 PM
Paula Higgins

Art Sherman says CC is doing very well. He is eating well and holding his weight. In a few more weeks they will send him back to the farm for 6 weeks or so. Right now he is mostly in his stall getting lots of TLC. Good to hear. Jerry Bossert wrote an article today saying he believes that the gash was why he didn't win the Belmont. It could be. He ran an incredibly courageous race imo.

11 Jun 2014 9:04 PM

California Chrome could have broken down if he had taken a bad step while trying to run more comfortably on his injured foot. I also think that he felt the whip more than any other time in his life, which added to the pain and confusion.  I lost my voice cheering for him at Belmont that day, but did not lose one ounce of respect for him--he's a champion. Your description of him going through the tunnel made me cry...again.

11 Jun 2014 11:46 PM

Thank you Steve for your spot on perspective.  I traversed the country to experience Chrome's run at history and admired his courage in defeat.  I have no regrets although disappointed at the outcome.  I met many interesting characters at Belmont and was awed by the expanse of the track.  It was an excellent card.  Hats off to Tonalist.  I never thought a Tapit colt would conquer that distance.  I look forward to Chrome's return and will not forget my visit to the city that doesn't sleep.  In retrospect I comment to friends that there is no sure thing in racing.  That is the beauty of the game and heightens my appreciation for Affirmed and Slew.  Secretariat and his predecessors were before my time, but I admire them from afar via the historical record.  You sir have made Ruffian and Forego and so many others come to life for those like me who are too young to have experienced those horses firsthand.  Thank you for enhancing my love of this beautiful and at times heartbreaking sport.

12 Jun 2014 12:18 AM
Drinks from a glass !!

thank you steve     great day of racing   kudos great commentary by all       ..

the champ gave it all he had and we enjoyed all of it ...

12 Jun 2014 2:38 AM

The fact that Chrome came out of the race with no weight loss and a good appetite seals it for me that it was the injury and not the distance or being tired before the race. My big worry is how did he come out of the race mentally?..Did he leave his blood and sweat and chunk of his flesh and his confidence on that  track? And since horses have forever memories, how much will the incident at the gate impact him? Working with horses is as much a mental thing as a physical one.

12 Jun 2014 10:53 AM
Melissa P

Thank you! No one will forget California Chrome. This is the horse that won the three incredibly important races he competed in prior to the Belmont seemingly for fun. This is the horse who, while injured, still ran his guts out in the Belmont Stakes. I truly pray it's not over yet. He's just a 3-year-old who is growing each day. We still may be blessed to see the best he has to offer.

12 Jun 2014 10:53 AM
Hail No

Good gosh, Windolin, what a beautiful and moving retrospect, very, very, nice!

12 Jun 2014 2:50 PM
Love 'em all

You folks can bet on one thing!  Steve Coburn will never have to hear his wife ask:

"Steve, are you a man or a mouse?  Well, squeak up!"  

That man proved to the world that he is human .... and he is a real man!   Even more of a man when he apologized.  Yes, I believe it was a sincere apology ... just a day later than most of us would've liked.  

CC will always be my #12 TC winner, 'cause I'll never see another one at my old age of 73.  

12 Jun 2014 3:00 PM


What on earth are you talking about?  First, in defense of Steve, he is one of the greatest turf writers not only of our time, but of ALL time, horse racing is his passion, and he has the genuine love of the thoroughbred at heart.  Apparently you are not an athlete or have not been around them.  The "picture that Steve painted" is one of an athlete, any athlete after a tough or fierce competition.  There is nothing horrific about it, even human runners veins protrude after a 10K or 5K or marathon race.  Weight lifters veins protrude and they are huffing and puffing too.  I huffed and puffed myself up and down the basketball court in my day.  There is nothing abnormal in California Chrome's post race physique, it's an athlete after a tough competition.  The bleeding hoof, a battle scar to show for his fight to win.  Unfortunately athletes in any sport have to walk away with minor injuries to show for their valiant efforts.

PETA can't be that shallow that they don't understand athletics, and if they are they need to go to school in the paddock themselves.

12 Jun 2014 7:20 PM

Letting Coburn off the hook for his childish rant is inconceivable, If he had even half as much class [ he doesn't ] , as his horse, it never would have happened. California Chrome is a wonderful, a very good horse, but he is not a great horse, not Triple Crown great anyway. He simply failed in the third leg like other horses have failed in the third leg, and for Coburn to suggest that the rules of horse racing should be changed because his horse failed as others had, is ludicrous. The fact of business is, Chrome would be better off if he were in the ownership of a man , or woman, who had a sense of dignity at least approaching that of the horse !!  

13 Jul 2014 8:23 PM

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