Whoa Nellie, Maybe Coburn's Right

By Jack Shinar

In their rush to heap ridicule on upstart horse owner Steve Coburn for complaining about the Triple Crown series, the racing press and, apparently, most of the sport's fans, are missing an important point. He's right.

The system is rigged against the best horse completing the Triple Crown. He's also correct in saying that, at age 61, he'll never see another one actually pull it off in his lifetime unless something is changed.

Coburn, the outspoken co-owner and breeder of 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, complained after his colt's defeat in the Belmont Stakes that horses that don't qualify with enough points to make the Derby field should not be allowed to jump into the subsequent races as spoilers.

His rant was not eloquent, and he most assuredly said things he shouldn't have. Coburn was immediately jumped upon by the racing wags as a "poor loser." And yet, those of us who have been following his horse know that this is not a new subject for him.

Coburn brought it up earlier on the Triple Crown trail when he felt forced to run California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby—which he and D.A.P. partner Perry Martin did not originally plan to do—for fear that the charismatic colt's win in the San Felipe Stakes would not garner enough points to earn a place in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

How much did that extra grade I race take out of 'Chrome? There's no way of knowing, of course, but it had to have added to the rigors of the Triple Crown, as it did with I'll Have Another, injured prior to the Belmont after taking the Santa Anita Derby and the first two jewels two years ago.

Meantime Tonalist, a worthy Belmont Stakes winner and clearly a star in the making, earned zero points on the pre-Derby trail. He arrived at his home track a fresh horse off a sharp Peter Pan win and raced in the Belmont Stakes with no penalty, not even a few extra pounds.

And we've seen the same thing happen time and again to Derby/Preakness winners in the past 36 years. It can be argued that the truly great ones—such as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, or Affirmed—faced the same conditions. But none of those horses, indeed, none of the prior Triple Crown winners, were up against the full fields of fresh shooters such as 'Chrome faced.

Does anyone really believe that all of the dozen Derby/Preakness victors since Affirmed in 1978 failed to win the Belmont because they weren't worthy?

Predictably, the racing press is all over Coburn about his opinion. One thing I've noticed during the decade-plus that I've been covering this sport is that when the establishment is questioned, the industry circles the wagons and the wags lead the way.

Tonalist's owner, Robert S. Evans, is from a monied family with a long history in racing, the son of legendary breeder Thomas Mellon Evans, who owned Buckland Farm in the Bluegrass country.

The California Chrome folks, they're nobodys from hicksville. They were fun and refreshing and made for a fine story with their cheaply-bred colt, and the press exploited them to the max. But like the connections for Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, they are likely a one-hit wonder and will soon be forgotten.

When other sports face changing times, they adapt. But not racing. Tradition shall be honored at all costs.

So the mere suggestion of a simple change such as moving the Preakness and Belmont back a couple of weeks so that maybe more than three of the original 20 Derby entrants would show up in the subsequent legs of the series is met with howls of outrage. "Cheapens the crown," they shout, "dishonors past champions," they insist.

No it doesn't. It simply reflects the fact that times have changed and horses don't run every two weeks any longer. It doesn't make the Triple Crown any easier to win. It just helps even the playing field.

But don't get worked up about it because it will never happen. Not in racing, which will continue to be wrapped in tradition until it finally strangles itself.

Jack Shinar is the California-based Night Editor and race writer for BloodHorse.com


Leave a Comment:

Dawn in MN

To Coburn's point, if they didn't run two weeks ago, and the weekend of the Kentucky derby then they shouldn't be in the Belmont?

08 Jun 2014 4:44 PM
Soldier Course

When racing finally strangles itself, it will be from uttering words like "nobodys" from hicksville" and "cheaply-bred" about decent people and horses who dared to love the sport.

08 Jun 2014 4:47 PM

Sir Barton and Gallant Fox raced the Preakness and Derby in less than a week, which would be insane today. For the benefit of the sport as it is today, it'd be helpful to put 3 weeks in between each leg. In addition, horses eligible for any triple crown race should first be eligible for the Derby.

08 Jun 2014 4:50 PM
NH Gal

Well written and thank you for sticking up for the little guy.

08 Jun 2014 4:51 PM

You hit the nail on the head with this article.  I couldn't agree more.

08 Jun 2014 5:02 PM

Whoa Nellie.......Thank you for writing this article. This is the ONLY article I have found that understands and is fair.   Sure Coburn didn't eloquently state it, but his point is fair and should not be criticized by so many.   He has a right to his opinion, which I share, and he is a heck of a guy for standing up for what he believes in.

  Thank you again for writing this, you are the best journalist at Bloodhorse I have ever read and it made my day to read what you wrote.

08 Jun 2014 5:04 PM

100% agree with all the comments posted in this article and by Coburn. He has nothing to  apologize for. If you do not make the playoffs for football, baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer, etc. you do NOT get to compete for the SuperBowl, National Championship, World Series, etc. If you do not make it to the Derby, the top - elite 3 year old thoroughbreds, then you do not get to play in that sandbox! Very Simple!! If you are not the best, you cannot take it away from the best...sitting on the sidelines resting. It is the most rigged unfair rule that might of been ok back in the day when you had 4 horse fields...not today. This needs to be revisited and changed. It is a bad bad thing to do to the horses, owners, and everyone involved in the training to the horse to the big dance all three races. Not just ONE!

08 Jun 2014 5:07 PM

I wouldn't have agreed with this on first blush, but you make a few valid points.

08 Jun 2014 5:08 PM

Agree with you 100%. Gutty,call. Well done.

08 Jun 2014 5:11 PM

I don't think he's right.  He has a point that the TC needs tweaking, but I don't see this as the solution.  A lot of the points from the Derby qualifying total come from races as 2 year olds.  Not all horses race at 2.  More importantly, not all horses SHOULD race at 2.

So if you have a big, gangly 17 hand horse like Tonalist who isn't ready to race early and/or you have a horse who gets sick in the spring and couldn't have raced in Derby or Preakness, that disqualifies them?  

And, no, I don't have a solution, though I tend toward changing the time between the races.  Make them the first weekend of May, June and July?  But there are reasons not to do that for the Belmont (July 4th being such a huge party already in NY).  Ok, then swap the Preakness and Belmont in order.  Or pull the Preakness altogether (sorry, Old Hilltop) and replace it with the Travers or Haskell.  Or keep the 3 races but spread them out Canadian or British style, with the last of the 3 coming in the fall.

But I tell you one thing we got out of all this, besides a shining chestnut star - we wanted more publicity for horse racing, and by george, be careful what we wish for, because we got it!

08 Jun 2014 5:14 PM

Any changes won't make it easier to get a Triple Crown winner. Most Grade I owners are not interested in a 5 or 6 year racing career for their colts. Instead, they wish to acquire a colt with good breeding, then win ONE Triple Crown race and perhaps a couple of more Grade I races and then retire the colt to breeding. That is where the big money is. A dead colt has no value to them morally, emotionally or finacially. So, if the TC races are spread apart, some owners will still enter their colt in only one leg of the races because it is easier to score a win in one race than in three. If required to race all three, some owners will skip all three, if they feel their colt cannot perform well. And with go for the fall series and Breeders Cup races. Good Breeding plus Grade I wins = success and money.

08 Jun 2014 5:33 PM
Carlotta Cooper

So, you would keep a Woody Stephens out of the Belmont with his horses? No one would be allowed to point for the Belmont if they have a horse who is better-suited for a mile and a half race? Many people already think American Thoroughbreds are short on stamina. I'm not sure closing off the Belmont to fresh horses would help the situation.

08 Jun 2014 5:35 PM

California Chrome is a very good horse. So was Funny Cide, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, etc. etc. etc. Triple Crown winners should be great horses, like Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. That is indeed a very high standard. Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones, and Point Given could have made that leap except for unforseen circumstances other then new shooters or time between races.

Steve Coburn wants to change the Preakness and Belmont into restricted stakes (only for horses who competed in the Kentucky Derby). That is ludicrous. Take that horse home and beat up on California breds if you want to limit your competition. Otherwise, call Robert S.Evans, congratuate him and apologize for acting like a dumb ass!

08 Jun 2014 5:37 PM

Shinar makes an excellent point: the Triple Crown schedule was designed when horses typically raced every two weeks. Coburn is probably right too as well when he says that we will not see another Triple Crown, but even if we do, at what cost will it be? How many 3-year-olds won't develop as they might have if they were given a more rational schedule? I'm not in favor of making the Triple Crown easier to win (ironically, increasing the time between races will probably make it harder). I'm in favor of making it easier to take a 3-year-old through the Triple Crown season without burning it out.

08 Jun 2014 5:38 PM

The system does (and did) make for an unequal playing field, but the larger issue is that it's harmful to the horse (should their owners choose to have them compete in this series)-as are so many other practices in racing. This issue is, though, but one example/perhaps somewhat a symbol of our lack of consideration for the better interests of the horse. What another- the Derby, at 1 1/4 M in early May, and with gigantic fields, is today a rather "unnatural" and extremely over taxing/harmful contest for them...So, this is much about where to draw the line- horses' best interests vs our own pleasures.  

08 Jun 2014 5:40 PM

Why is winning the KY Derby so important in the first place? There have been horses that have won it and that was the biggest win for them. The Derby was at one time important but with so many race tracks all over the US it is just another grade one race. Man O'War never competed in the KY Derby and yet he was one of the greatest race horses. Racing is a business first and foremost. You need money to race. Also winning the Triple Crown or any of the races involved does not guarantee your horse is going to be a great stud horse either. This said I do agree with what Jack Shinar has said.

08 Jun 2014 5:45 PM

I think the sentiment of the 'impossible' Triple Crown is a misperception.  There have been so many close ones - that with a break here or there or a better ride, no one would be having this conversation - new shooters or no new shooters.

08 Jun 2014 5:47 PM
big john t

I don't agree with you at all. Yes it would "cheapen" the Crown. The reason it means so much is because it is so hard to win. California Chrome raced under the same rules as all of the other triple crown winners. He was not good enough to win the Crown although he is a very good horse. It takes an outstanding horse to win it. And yes the owner of Chrome acted like a real sore loser. When another horse comes along with enough class to win the Crown it will happen. Don't change the rules to make it easy just to have another Triple Crown winner. Coburn's comments were disgusting.

08 Jun 2014 6:14 PM

Jack Shinar ~

.  This is a tough and sometimes cruel business - "Cheaply -bred", "nobodies" and terms and words that Coburn stressed should be taken seriously and not dismissed and "forgotten" in the new world of thoroughbred racing and breeding and its business of "tradition".I have been saying this throughout my comments here in BH.  Thank you for confirming them - I can feel good about it now and continue to applaud Chrome for his efforts and guts while the racing business  continues to "strangle itself".

08 Jun 2014 6:15 PM

An excellent riposte to knee jerk responses. UK racing changed their Triple Crown platform recently, the French changed their Derby recently. The owner and trainer of Tonalist both made valid points for changes in the Triple Crown series, and not to change the US Triple Crown series.

It's not that long ago that New York racing allowed lasix in because many thought that not allowing lasix was preventing a possible Triple Crown winner or preventing 'star horses' from coming to the major races in New York. Was that a positive or a negative.                                                            

Everything is never simply black or white, it's the evolving gray that matters.    

08 Jun 2014 6:19 PM
D. J.

Coburn isn't being criticized for saying fresh horses have an advantage--My God, people have been saying that for decades. And many have argued for better spacing between the Triple Crown races to keep horses fresh. He's being blasted for saying running a newcomer in the Preakness or Belmont is "a coward's way out." It was completely classless and deserved to be criticized.

08 Jun 2014 6:20 PM
Sue MacGray

I actually get more upset about the huge KD field than the spacing of the races or new shooters. That cavalry charge is made for a 'one hit wonder' that can't move forward in the next two. I think Afleet Alex was one that could have won the crown except for a rough trip in the KD. CC was a well-seasoned and trained horse, and Sherman did a GREAT job with him. I don't think the grabbed quarter helped, and there's no way to know how much it affected him but he showed a ton of heart, hanging on at the end. I'm not for changing anything though, unless it's adding a week between the Derby and Preakness.  

08 Jun 2014 6:38 PM

It's Steve Coburn's opinion to change the run for the Triple Crown (yes I know big argument right, different races, different rules, etc.) and what he's said and how he said has angered so many people!

I wish that all these people who are so disgusted with Coburn would be more disgusted with equine abuse and slaughter.  Wouldn't it be great if everyone showed their total support for the horses and had zero tolerance for all equine abuse!  It's an ugly part of horse racing some fans don't care about or dare to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves.  

Ask yourselves why do horses breakdown, how do these poor horses get sent out of the country for slaughter when they've run their hearts out for heartless human beings that only care about money.

Get mad about the bigger problems too!

08 Jun 2014 6:39 PM

they know the rules and just cos his horse doesn't win the triple crown he wants to change the rules? so what are we looking at here, 20 runners for the kd, 10 for the preakness and 3 for the belmont? yeah, that sounds great. or maybe a walkover for the belmont? triple crowns and grand slams exist all over the world in every sport going. no one says you have to compete in them all. and they are not supposed to be easy. he loses for the very same reasons every horse has lost since 1978 and then complains about why he has lost. it is not called the triple crown for nothing. it is hard. the way he wants it, he would have been about the 8th triple crown winner since affirmed. grow up and take it on the chin and come back back for the breeders cup. but most of all grow up.  

08 Jun 2014 6:40 PM

"wrapped in tradition until it finally strangles itself"  --  well said!!!  and sadly true.  

08 Jun 2014 6:41 PM

Thank you for stating what I thought was the obvious. I didn't hear Coburn's rant either yesterday or this a.m. so I can't speak to whether or not he was offensive in how he stated his opinion, but the substance of what he said is what he's been saying since the Derby. I think that the TC could use adjustment, and maybe if there was a little more time between each leg, more of the Derby field would run in subsequent races.

08 Jun 2014 6:45 PM

I agree with this article and am glad BH published it.  One thing I have been struck with is how many horses are in the belmont.  None of the TC winners from the 1970s faced such large fields.  I agree that change is needed both for the TC and horse racing in general, and it should be directed by fairness in competition and what is in the best interests of the athletes.  Tradition is a poor argument against change.  

08 Jun 2014 6:50 PM

I agree with you.  Let the fresh horses enter the Travers.

08 Jun 2014 6:53 PM

@ davids. I don't think the british have changed their triple crown. 2000 guineas, derby, st leger. last achieved by ninjinsky in 1970. before that it was bahram in 1935. so a long time between winners. thera er 2 triple crowns in the uk. one for colts and one for filles, with only the leger in commmon, usualy. oh so sharp did it in 85. and that will not be repeated. here


08 Jun 2014 6:59 PM
Scott's Rail

There is some valid points in your article. I was wondering how many of the owner's entered their horses to get the added benifit of VIP, parking, more tickets availible for their cohorts, etc..for the Preakness and the Belmont...I like to sit up front too.

08 Jun 2014 7:00 PM
Crickett Hoffman

Interesting:   "And we've seen the same thing happen time and again to Derby/Preakness winners in the past 36 years. It can be argued that the truly great ones—such as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, or Affirmed—faced the same conditions. But none of those horses, indeed, none of the prior Triple Crown winners, were up against the full fields of fresh shooters such as 'Chrome faced."

This comment must be passed on and addressed.  No more fresh horses in the fields.  Maybe then we can see a real champion.

08 Jun 2014 7:06 PM

Couldn't agree less with you. As for Coburn, at best he's a clown. At worst, well, let's not even go there.

I hate it when people champion the cheapening of the TC.

08 Jun 2014 7:11 PM
Wrapped around his hoof

The industry suffers from the Anaconda Syndrome. The ability to attract interest from the masses hones financial  benefits and popularity if you disregard this u will be running your horses on your own. 36 years should tell you something. There is no worst blindman then he that refuses to see.

08 Jun 2014 7:12 PM
Bloodline Bob

Horse racing is The Sport Of Kings. Mr. Coburn is NOT in that class yet. When the owners of SMARTY JONES + CALIFORNIA CHROME came to win the elusive 3rd leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park...it was The Kings{Marylou Whitney, Robert Evans} that stopped them. That is what is great about the sport of horse racing. The David vs. Goliath aspect of this sport is what I love the most. I hope that does not ever change. By the way, I cheer for both the non-Kings + the Kings of this great Sport.

08 Jun 2014 7:13 PM

Jack Shinar you're a mess.

First off Tonalist and Commissioner both carried seven , yes seven more pounds than they ever carried it before and over 1.5 miles.  That track was nothing but speed and you had a plodder almost wire it.

As far as snobbery goes: say the name Seattle Slew three times.

You can moan all you want but several horses have come so close. Which means it's not just damn possible but probable.  Fresh horses are something every horse faces in every race.  

If we have to wait a hundred years for a crown then so be it.  Everyone knows what they are.

It's ridiculous that we spend tens of thousands per year to race 5x's a year. That's what is ridiculous. When owners and tracks start putting incentive on endurance that's when breeders will start breeding them.

Gutsy performance by Comissioner. He did his daddy proud.

08 Jun 2014 7:18 PM
Robert Unzicker

The Triple Crown is an honorary acknowledgment, just like the Grand Slam of tennis.  It is not a series that is entered.  Changing it would serve no purpose. The point is not to gain a Triple Crown winner - the point is to have the best three-year-olds in the country face off against one another during the entire year.

08 Jun 2014 7:19 PM
Terry M.

One simple solution is to require every horse to qualify to run in the Preakness and Belmont, just as they have to for the Derby. Then they would have to run a few more times in stakes company before being allowed into a classic race, instead of being like Tonalist and Matterhorn, both of whom were making just their fifth career starts and would never have qualified to run based on their records prior to the Belmont. Matterhorn, who injured the favourite, had no business even being in that race.

08 Jun 2014 7:33 PM


08 Jun 2014 7:56 PM

Amen!!! You definitely hit the nail on the head.

08 Jun 2014 7:58 PM
richard warnick

Lets shorten up all the fences in mlb then we could have more 700 home run hitters. Then wecould lower the baskets ln the nba. There would be more 100 point games. Please lets not cheapen the triple crown.

08 Jun 2014 8:14 PM
Walt Gekko

While I understand the raw emotions of the owners of Calfornia Chrome after what had happened, there was ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NO EXCUSE for that.  I seriously doubt if Tom Brady ever were fortunate enough to have a horse in The Belmont Stakes he would have acted that way.  Mr. Coburn I think needs to realize the rules have been in place this way and should NOT change. That said, there are some changes that need to be done, but NOT with spacing and so forth, but instead with ENCOURAGING the connections of top three year olds to run in all three legs:

What the Triple Crown tracks SHOULD do is encourage trainers to race their horses in all three races by reviving the point system that was in effect during the late 1980's and early '90s. I would cut the purses of all three Triple Crown races to $1 Million and have Churchill put in $2 Million and the other TC tracks $1 Million each into a bonus pool that would be paid out as follows to the top point earners who race in all three Triple Crown events:

1st: 30 points

2nd: 20 points

3rd: 10 points

4th: 5 points

5th: 4 points

6th: 3 points

7th: 2 points

8th: 1 point

The bonus pool could then be paid out after the Belmont Stakes as follows:

1st: $2.5 Million, but quadrupled to $10 million if a horse wins the Triple Crown.  A Triple Crown winner would then be subject to additional bonuses of an additional $5 million for winning EITHER the Breeders' Cup Turf or Classic at three AND THEN for staying around a chance at another $10 million for winning the BC Turf or Classic at four, with that bonus in effect in every subsequent year after that.  The Top points earner (if not a Triple Crown winner) would get $5 Million in each subsequent year after age three for winning the BC Turf or Classic.

2nd: $1 Million PLUS additional bonuses of $3 Million for winning EITHER the BC Turf or Classic at three and in each subsequent year after that.

3rd: $250,000 PLUS additional bonuses of $2 Million for winning EITHER the BC Turf or Classic at three and in each subsequent year after that.

4th: $150,000 PLUS additional bonuses of $1 Million for winning EITHER the BC Turf or Classic at three and in each subsequent year after that.

5th: $100,000 PLUS additional bonuses of $500,000 for winning EITHER the BC Turf or Classic at three and in each subsequent year after that.

THIS is the way this problem is fixed, NOT by moving the dates back.  If anything, if I were running Churchill, I would be pushing tracks to go the other way and bunch their preps closer together with bonus points in the Derby points system to horses who would race in ALL FOUR designated rounds of preps and further bonus points for racing in designated rounds at two and DOUBLE all points for the BC Juvenile winner.  The idea would be to have more horses like California Chrome, who had 10 starts before the Derby and had a sound bottom underneath that many horses do not have going into the Derby because of too much "babying" of top horses.

08 Jun 2014 8:43 PM

The only real take away from all this should be that the timing and, perhaps, distances should be adjusted. Yes, it would no longer be The Triple Crown of before, but it would be a more reasonable and respectful one for the participants (the horses) involved...All the rest of this verbiage is, essentially, nonsense. For example, keeping it as it is, but for denying some to enter, would still similarly tax those who would compete in all three...And, by the way, nothing new here; I can readily recall Stage Door Johnny's defeat of Forward Pass.  

08 Jun 2014 8:54 PM

Secretariat's Belmont field could have been all fresh horses and he could have started the race from his barn and he still would have won that day.

08 Jun 2014 8:59 PM

Making a change wouldn't change the integrity of the TC races. Back in the golden age of racing, all the horses, whether they were racing in the TC races or not, were out there racing. As I mentioned in another blog, in the 1973 Belmont, there was only one new shooter who did not compete in any of the 1st 2 TC races. However, he did not come into the Belmont a fresh horse. He raced a grade 1 race just one week before the Belmont. All racehorses ran every 2 or so weeks whether or not they were on the TC trail. So, the greats of yesteryear were not racing at the disadvantage that today's horses are.  What horse today runs the Derby, skips the Preakness & races somewhere else before the Belmont? It's unheard of. It was commonplace back then. So, you never had the discrepancy of those that rested for 5 weeks or longer & those that didn't.

08 Jun 2014 9:01 PM
Alisa Harrington

I can't help but agree with Mr Coburn's points. In the passed the Derby horses most went on to the Perkness and then it was the Belmont. I do think all those horse that have the points to make it in the Derby are the only ones that go on to the next two legs of the Triple Crown. Good Luck to all next year and may we all have a great season of horse racing.

08 Jun 2014 9:04 PM

Afleet Alex & Point Given should be example enough of why the series shouldn't be changed.  For what ever reason they didn't  take to Churchill Downs but went on to win the final 2 legs.  

08 Jun 2014 9:09 PM

Thank-you, I prefer direct over snarky elitism. The Triple Crown isn't all that "traditional" and chances are we will never see Tonalist out of NY. He won't run in any race that qualifies for the Breeders cup and I say good riddance to his connections they behaved and said things that were completely uncalled for also, so where is the outrage on that???? Matterhorn should have never been in the race and his lack of experience probably cost California Chrome the Crown, Where is the outrage, again just snarky comments. I never heard of Ride on Curlin having a breathing problem before this race and the Security that forgot to let the connections of General A Rod know it was time for his vet and drug test damn near got him disqualified. Tonalist did not have what it takes to compete in ANY of the pretrial races and I would bet dollars to doughnuts he would have never even finished fourth on an injured foot. There should be a required point system to get in any of the Crown races. That actually would be the cream of the crops. And look at it this way, if Tonalist had EARNED BY POINTS the HONOR to run in the Belmont and won, he just might be getting some respect as a winner, instead these people will go down as the people that put the finishing tarnish on a crown that used to be a meaningful and worthy thing.

08 Jun 2014 9:11 PM

A lot of people are condemning Mr. Coburn’s statements after the Belmont, but he is right. Personally this industry needs a huge wake up call. When they get one, they are famous for ignoring it. His statement about it not being fair rings far truer than most realize. People keep comparing the present day Triple Crown with the one of yesterday. There is no comparison except that the race name and distance (except the Preakness) have stayed the same. The order they have been run in has even changed. The TB industry no longer breeds horses like they did 30 years ago. The animals today are not built to go the distance (the Triple Crown schedule and what leads up to it). Horses like Slew and Affirmed are of a by gone era, and Secretariat was just a freak. I had the privilege to see Citation before he died and saw all 3 of the above win their Triple Crown, and I really don’t believe I will see another in my life time and I am not that old. Breeders have become far more interested in the monetary end of the business and not the actual breeding. If breeding took the fore front then all of the poor conformation that goes right into the breeding shed would not happen. I get that this is a money driven industry, but where does pride in your product(horses) come into play. It just doesn’t. They harp that changing anything about the Triple Crown would ruin its integrity, but the important part the horse has already been compromised. Ironic!!!! They cannot have it both ways. It is just not going to happen.  People say they are open races , but the Derby requires points, the others don’t. This industry needs to decide what is important. The draw to the Belmont was over the top, and the prospect of a Triple Crown was what drew these people.  I have never figured out the point of running a fresh horse against ones that have been steady at it since January. Where’s the sportsmanship in that??? What exactly does this horse accomplish winning this race when he didn’t even attempt the other races???? A purse? What he accomplished was to beat 3 tired class act horses in California Chrome, Ride On Curlin, and General A Rod. These three are the champions not the winner. He beat good horses,  in that they ran two legs of the Triple Crown and the qualifying races before, in Medal Count, Samaart, Wicked Strong, and Commanding Curve. Commissioner had a race in April and then the Peter Pan.  All the Belmont proved is that if you have a fresh horse then the odds are in your favor of winning because today’s horses just aren’t made as tough as the horses of the past. My problem with the scenario that played out is that horses we breed today just can’t handle the grind. If there is another Triple Crown winner it will have to be a true freak and the chance of that is very slim considering how they are bred today. I don’t blame CC’s owner one bit for saying out loud what many of us felt. I really don’t think that he is sour about losing when you realize the implications of what is really being said. There seem to be only two options: (1) change some aspect of the Triple Crown series to level the playing field or (2) start breeding horses to do the job and match stick speedsters are not the answer.

08 Jun 2014 9:11 PM

Sorry but from a casual racing fan, I have to agree with Mr. Coburn's point. As someone said in an earlier post,if you do not qualify for the World Series, Super Bowl, etc, you DO NOT COMPETE!! I believe the Triple Crown is so prestigious an award that allowing horses who sat out 1/3 or 2/3 of the prior races should not be permitted to compete. The critics of Mr. Coburn are correct in their assessment of the character of his statement; I didn't like what he said either, or the manner he spoke his feelings. But he spoke the truth and to deny that is, IMO, rather small-minded. Put yourselves in his place: he was living a dream that was shattered!! How does one react to that? Probably much the same way as he did. Worse things have happened. No one was physically injured by his tirade. Feelings might have been bruised but people will get over it. IMO, just as in all competitive sports, participants need to qualify for the big prize.

08 Jun 2014 9:19 PM

In the thirty-six years since the last Triple Crown winner, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has been shortened from two miles to a mile and a quarter, the Woodward from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth, the Coaching Club American Oaks from a mile and a half to a mile and a quarter, and the great triple consisting of the Metropolitan, the Brooklyn, and the Suburban has been downgraded out of existence.  Two year-old sales were not part of the landscape in 1976, and the focus was far more on stamina and soundness with great horses such as Forego and Kelso establishing themselves as legends.  Why no Triple Crown winner in thirty-six years?  Those qualities which allowed horses to successfully compete in three such races over such distances are no longer the focus in North American breeding.  In Europe, mile and a half races are viewed as middle-distance rather than marathons, and the top stallions are now to be found in England, Ireland, France, and Japan.  The problem is not the number of weeks between races, but the change in focus in North American breeding and racing.  The Belmont has become an anomaly, an anachronism, a relic from an era when the Mellons, the Evans, the Phipps, the Hardins, the Galbreaths and the Taylors bred for classic success.  The focus on two year-old racing and reaping a return on a two-year-old purchased in April of its two year-old year as well as the shortening or elimination of what once were true tests of stamina and soundness in addition to the selling-off of great foundation families have created this problem - not the spacing of the Triple Crown races themselves.

08 Jun 2014 9:23 PM

The real tragedy here is that California Chrome has outrun his pedigree, his birth-state, and at least one of his owners.  He is class personified.  The trainers and the in-barn connections of Chrome are also class personified.  Mr. Coburn has probably (single-handedly) lost the Horse of the Year title for his horse.  You can be as committed to your horses and your racing program and be successful beyond your wildest dreams, but if you annoy the racing gods, they will get even, just when you think you're unbeatable.  I have to say that the D.A.P. is the most-accurately named racing partnership in history.  And the cutout figure of the jackass will always remind me of the co-owner in the cowboy hat.  Shame on you, Mr. Coburn.  I suspect you had a bundle down on Chrome's nose.  Please sell the horse to someone who will appreciate what an incredible animal has meant to millions of people worldwide in the last 3 or 4 months.

08 Jun 2014 9:23 PM

Mr. Coburn may have a point, as do others who feel that the Triple Crown races are too close together. There is another aspect of this argument that is getting missed. That is how horses are bred and trained in this era of racing. 31Smart commented here that both Sir Barton and Gallant Fox won the Derby and Preakness with only one week between them. Racehorses used to show up at races every week, two weeks. Trainers didn't sit out four or five weeks or more between races because the horses could handle it. They were bred for stamina. That is the element missing is SO many of our racehorse stars today: Stamina. Somewhere along the way, after the 1970's, the mindset shifted to breeding fast, precocious horses who could win early then be retired to create more fast, precocious horses. Because, yes, the breeding shed is where all the money is. Sure, we need our sprinters. But we also need to get back to breeding for stamina. THAT is what will win a Triple Crown! If you have a horse that can handle three races in five weeks, training in between, new shooters/spoilers in each race then you deserve a Triple Crown. Yes, things need to be changed but we're looking in the wrong direction for it.

08 Jun 2014 9:24 PM

GREED:  that's the word in this discussion.

Coburn wanted another win for more money.

Most people who agree with him: greed:  they bet on CC and lost.

Every professional sport plays more games than they did 40 years ago:  greed, more gate money.

I laugh at the most heard comment:  "I want to see a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime," again, personal greed.

People who support Coburn's beliefs: take a look at Secretariat's reruns.  then tell me that any fresh horse could beat him.

Let's stop the talk about trying to make good horses, GREAT ones.  They don't come along too often.

08 Jun 2014 9:25 PM

What a jaded article. Are you suggesting that the industry will "strangle itself" unless it acquiesces to the crowd wanting to redefine the Triple Crown path?

When you say that times have changed and horses are running less frequently, what is your opinion as to why? Do you think the industry should further accommodate lighter/faster over endurance/soundness by lowering the standards to win the Triple Crown? And then what? Decades of inferior breeding that would result in more disposable horses.

Instead of stooping down to a lower ability level, why not expect the industry to rise to the challenge? If they are going to slowly commit suicide, it's because they are producing mediocre horses instead of memorable horses.

08 Jun 2014 9:37 PM
Panty Raid

At first I too thought what a sore loser -but on second thought the implementation of the points system has already changed the TC races.  And the Preakness and Belmont need similar qualifying races of some sort. The system gives less points to horses at the age of two and more to horses that compete in the bigger races at three that is good.

But why give a horse the advantage of entering the preakness or Belmont without any qualifying what so ever ???

I know all the TC winners had to deal with this BUT THEY DID NOT HAVE TO QUALIFY WITH POINTS that is the difference who's to say if CC could have skipped the SA derby we may have a TC WINNER who

knows but he had to make sure he had the points for the derby in order to run. If you dont win the first leg whats the use ,,,,

Second item is WHAT ABOUT THE FILLIES THEY HAVE TO RUN AGAINST THE BOYS JUST TO QUALIFY……They should also have a few races that could get them points towards the derby.

I think what the main issue is that contention is fierce just to get to the gate in the Derby so the horse that makes the Derby is somewhat compromised and if he wins the first two legs he has a real dis-advantage going into the Belmont.

There are a many on here more knowledgeable then me but- I believe in the seventies if you won a major prep leading up to the derby you where in and there just wasnt 30 horses trying to get in the gate at the derby and lets not forget the field bet (for the young ins on here they gave you 6-7 horses for one) you could throw them out that was 6-7 horses.

            The point is that qualifying for the derby has already changed the nature of the TC Chase and that is a a FACT.

08 Jun 2014 9:38 PM

Vince, I was meaning the shifting of racetrack for the St. Ledger due to various reasons. There was some speculation here in the US, and not that long ago, that Santa Anita could become the home of the Preakness.

08 Jun 2014 9:42 PM
Lise from Maine


It is refreshing to hear Mr. Coburn speak the truth as he knows it.

Who would have dared to say those things?

He speaks his true feelings and thoughts, and he has a lot of courage to do so.

Good for him!

No apology needed.

I agree that the whole system is rigged against the winners of both legs of the triple crown.

Horse racing needs to change because the profession is dying, and I have only been involved in horse racing for only 8 years but I watch and listen carefully, and I see it dying.

California Chrome was injured so that probably effected his efforts.

God love him!

Thank you!

Lise from Maine

08 Jun 2014 9:58 PM

HOW ON EARTH could THIS WRITER "possibly say" that CALIFRONIA CHROME "will be forgotten"? He SHOULD HAVE WON! Worst ride I've seen Espinosa did it with War Emblem. Only THIS TIME "Chrome" BROKE GREAT, but in slight tangle/bump" in in between the FIRST and  SECOND JUMP "only" and then we was near or ON the lead and Espinosa "DECIDED TO TAKE BACK". ON the Rail! First "dirt" CHROME "ever had "Thrown in His Face". With racehorses it FEELS THE SAME as an "insult" but he ran on Brilliantly!!

So Yes! We will see and hear MUCH MORE from CHROME in the future. Saratoga's Travers Stakes is my best guess – with one "prep" Stakes after a lengthy layoff from all the "rigors" of the Triple Crown in the "NewAmericaMedia Dot.com!"

08 Jun 2014 10:00 PM
Carlotta Cooper

I agree with Walt Gekko (above) on bringing back the point system. Great job on tying it in with the Breeders Cup as a way to encourage horses to keep running. Now, this system would not preclude fresh horses from competing. It would probably result in larger fields in the Preakness and Belmont -- making it even harder to win a Triple Crown. People who are unhappy about a Derby winner facing larger fields in the later races would still be unhappy. But is the point of these races to produce a Triple Crown winner or provide the best competition? I think it's to provide the best competition for the horses. That should be how breeders are choosing which horses to breed later. A Triple Crown winner is great, if it happens, but I think it's more important for the best horses to be able to compete against each other in the toughest races.

08 Jun 2014 10:15 PM


Woody Stevens, 5 year straight wins at the Belmont also included some of those same horses running in the derby.  Swale, 1984 won the derby and Belmont. Caveat place third in the derby. Conquistador Cielo was pointed towards the derby and Preakness but had a leg injury, and later did win the Belmont.

08 Jun 2014 10:27 PM

Thanks for letting me know that Bloodhorse.com online articles are "Vetted" because there are DEFINITELY "Lots" of Nutjobs that LOST a LOT of "PLACE and SHOW" money. EASY MONEY!  NOT!!

Tens of Millions! CHROME was the highest "Bet" horse (many for nostalgia, like me).

"The Return of  Chrome"... That MOVIE should be what the owners seek now! With is pedigree he will definitely run until he's 5 and maybe 6. The Medyan racetrack in Dubai is RETURNING to "dirt" just like Keeneland has already started, and the weather has been so nice that they should be moving along quite comfortably.

NOW Keeneland "should" ANNOUNCE PUBLICLY that the Blue Grass Stakes will be run on the FIRST Saturday in April, so the winner or other "Point Winners" have 4 weeks before the Derby, like Santa Anita.

08 Jun 2014 10:27 PM

Thank you for writing this. I don't like how Coburn expressed himself but I think he has made valid points. As have you. I completely agree.

08 Jun 2014 10:38 PM

Steve Coburn and a lot of other people are misinterpreting the purpose of the point system for getting into the Kentucky Derby.  The race would be flooded with entries otherwise, a problem the Preakness and Belmont don't have.  The 20 horses with the most points who qualify for the Derby are not necessarily the only 20 horses worthy to compete in all the Triple Crown races, just the ones most qualified on Derby Day.

I did the math: Steve Coburn's formula of only letting horses who ran in the Derby continue on in the Preakness and Belmont would have resulted in a minimum of 26 Triple Crown winners today, not 11.  I say minimum because there have been years in which winners of one of the Classics did not start in one or more of the others, but may have with the "fewer competitors" aspect factored into the equation.  A long list of Triple Crown winners would demean its value; claiming a Triple Crown should mean that you've beaten all comers, not that worthy opponents stayed out to pave the way for you.

I'm all for re-evaluating the time given between the races because it's what's best for the horses, but not excluding worthy competitors to make it easier for the lone Triple Crown candidate to win.

08 Jun 2014 10:42 PM
Thoroughbreds are the best

The Triple Crown is never given but earned.There are acouple of things that ould help make it better competitvely.  First, limit the field in yhe Derby to 14 horses. 20 horses are too many for the track nd offten doesn't allow the best horse to win.  Secondly, devise a rewards system for those that compete successfully in allt hree to encourage more participation in all three such as points awarded as another person on the blog mentioned. This would give owners and trainers more incentive to run in all three. Lastly, encourage homebred horses by giving a bonus to horses that are homebred. The money chasing money at the sales has had a very detrimental effect on thoroughbreds by encouraging rapid growth and precocious sprinters to dominate the industry.  Lastly, eliminate the drugs given to horses including lasix.  I don't care if it benefits horses therapeutically,  the perception is killing the industry.  Horses that bleed should not be racing nor should they be allowed to breed.The long term detrimental effects on horses and the public perception far outweigh the short term benefits.  JMHO.

08 Jun 2014 10:50 PM
Jack Pryor

If the anti-traditionalists would have their way, Rachel Alexandra would have been denied her run in the Preakness.  Mr. Coburn's comments were unsportmanslike and regardless of the reason for them they only made him look bad.  I daresay if the shoe had been on the other foot, he wouldn't hesitate to run a horse in the Belmont if he was fit and in peak form.  They just don't give away $900,000 every day and to turn down that kind of money to ameliorate the public need for a Triple Crown winner is ludicrous.  Folks, we've had this conversation before, from 1948 to 1973, the same moaning and grumbling and then, boom, TC winners were falling from the sky.  Winning these races is not supposed to be a gift. It's supposed to be hard.

08 Jun 2014 10:57 PM

It is amazing to me how so many people are embellishing Coburn's comments. He didn't say the system needs to be tweaked. He said the only horses that should be allowed to run in any of the TC races have to have raced in the previous ones. Really?? People are standing up for this? So if you have a trainer with a late bloomer who takes care of the horse by not running him before he's ready, we will punish the horse by not allowing him to run "fresh" in the Preakness or Belmont. We will have a Belmont field of 3 horses so that we can have a Triple Crown winner whose title means nothing. I have loved this sport since I was 12. I have never seen a TC winner. I would rather never see a TC winner than see one that was handed the title. Being a champion is about beating everything they throw at you. Not every potentially great 3 year old runs in the Derby...sickness, minor injuries, late bloomers, bad luck...these things can keep the better horse in the stall on Derby day.  AP Indy should not have been allowed to run in the Belmont?  We are becoming a society of people wanting things fair and undeserved. Participation trophies, rules where every child has to play in a game, crying foul when things get challenging. If racing makes the TC so easy that horses are winning every 4 or 5 years even, I will stop watching. This is not like the playoffs. In fact, I feel facing new challengers is essential to being a TC champion. If you need comparisons to other sports, it's more like tennis or golf.  You don't say tennis players or golfers have to compete in specific events.

It was classless. The point he made is not valid. Stop trying to put words in his mouth. I'm sorry because I really liked the horse, but Coburn lost any chance at respect from this fan.

As for the debate sparked by others to tweak the Crown, I personally would never want any change other than maybe 3 weeks between them all and maybe making it later in the year.  Other than that, it would no longer be a challenge to me personally.

08 Jun 2014 11:13 PM

Anyone who wants their horse to recuperate as fast as they did in the good old days can just take them off lasix. (That's not an option, of course, if he's by Lucky Pulpit.)

I take your point, and applaud you for daring to say it, that there's a tremendous amount of gratuitous adulation for owners who parlayed inherited wealth into a long reign at the top of racing's earnings list. Nothing is ever mentioned about them standing major sources of unsoundness or the suspicious tilting of racing purses towards the specialties of their horses, such as the vast sums in the Bold Ruler years allocated to two-year-old sprinters.

You've got to admit, though, that the connections were in the vanguard in drumming up unreal expectations for this horse, originating all our 'information' that the horse had not only held his weight but had gained, had won the Preakness with ridiculous ease, geared down in the final sixteenth, (something I am unable to detect on many viewings of the replays), was working perfectly, had never been better.

The Triple Crown is not for the best (publicized) horse. Dozens of champion three-year-olds have not won it. It is for the horse who is best early at three, across a span of distances, sound, precocious and tough.

Several horses who matured into all-time greats and Hall of Famers were up the track in the classics because they were still underdeveloped early at three, notably Forego, or failed to make the races at all, like Dr. Fager, still considered a sprinter. Cigar was the best horse at three, but who knew? Given Northern Dancer's classic influence as a stallion, he was probably beaten in the Belmont because the tendon that bowed soon after was already talking to him. Majestic Prince's trainer wanted to scratch him because "He's lugging out. Something's bothering him." (It was a developing check ligament sprain.) This wasn't enough to hold back the howling mob and Canadian Frank McMahon was forced into over-ruling Longden and ending a brilliant career. Some spoilers won on stamina but were 'one-trick ponies.'

The scions of old racing families know how to behave in public, even after a pitcher of juleps, and have been trained to lose graciously. One congratulates the winner, rubes, in this and all else. Save the candor until you are among friends.  

08 Jun 2014 11:23 PM
Fan of Damascus


First of all, I am not a fan of news / sports media putting microphones in front of individuals who have just lost a heartbreaking game or competition.  While it makes for good TV, it is too often unfair to those who are smarting from the loss.

Looking back at Steve Coburn's comments, I feel he was missing a big point about what yesterday's race was all about.  It wasn't only a contest to see which horse could win a 1 1/2 mile race worth over one million dollars, California Chrome and all horses who enter the Belmont off victories in the Derby and Preakness are racing for immortality.  A prize that should not be easy to attain.

To those who compare the Belmont when the Triple Crown is on the line to the Super Bowl or World Series when the line and who point out that you cannot win either the NFL or MLB championships without competing in the regular season are making a poor analogy.

The Derby is that spring championship.  To win at CD on the first Saturday in May, it is a time when you bring the best from California, Florida, New York, Louisiana and Arkansas together with horses who also excelled in the Blue Grass Stakes and a few other key races.  The Derby then determines the best three-year old up to that day.  A title Chrome earned and deserved.

Looking at the Belmont infield via TV and seeing the cut out silks of Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Citation and the other TC winners, that is the group Chrome's owners rightfully wanted to join.  

To do that, you must beat all comers - old foes and fresh faces alike.  Not easy - certainly.  Unfair - no, it's not that.  It is simply a darn hard task to ask of a horse.

To be immortal you must be more than simply the best of your year just like being judged one of the greatest NFL, MLB, NHL, etc. teams of all times requires winning more than one title in any given era.

Because of these tough requirements there might be droughts - even long droughts.  But like the Grand Slams in tennis and golf, when some great horse wins the Triple Crown, we weep for joy at the greatness we will have witnessed and the sense that something special, almost magical took place in our midst.

For that, we will have to wait at least one more year.

08 Jun 2014 11:57 PM

I disagree with Mr. Coburn and Mr. Shinar.  The tradition may seem archaic, but if the space between races remain the same then you couldn't fill the gates with enough horses if you limited the entries to the 21 eligible Derby contestants.  Furthermore, if you wanted to space the races out limiting the field would still be detrimental to the amount of horses in the starting gate for the Preakness and the Belmont.  The Triple crown winners were the best horses of their crop, and they raced the other top horses.  Until a "Super horse" comes around the likes of Secretariat or Slew we won't have a triple crown winner.  Until the trainers can find a better way to train for the triple crown, it won't happen.  Finally, please tell me why (other than money) would anyone want their horse who lost in the Derby knowing their horse couldn't get the 10 furlongs to race at 12 furlongs?  Up until this year the Derby field was based on graded earnings.  If you would want to limit the fields in one way or another for all three classics it would have to be open to over 30 horses.  

It was a poor display of sportsmanship and an even worse option to "fix" the triple crown.  Their horse performed admirably but lost.  Back to the drawing board and allow him to relax for a while and train him to make a statement in the Breeders Cup.

09 Jun 2014 12:02 AM

I don't believe people are "all over" him for his opinion.  It was "what" he said, "how" he said it, and "when" he said it.  AND he not only did he not congratulate the winning connections, he insulted them.  He acted like a poor sport plain and simple. And he certainly can NOT predict the future so he can not say he will never see another triple crown winner in his life.  Just because his horse could not get it done, does not mean a superstar will not do it next year.  That is why they run the races....

09 Jun 2014 12:35 AM

This industry needs to decide what's more important: tradition or having a future. To you who say making any changes would cheapen the Triple Crown, what would the demise of the industry do to it? Millions of Americans were interested (even enthralled) for a few months only to be disappointed yet again. Racing can't keep saying, "Oh well, maybe next year," and expect anyone to care any more. Some of the ideas for change are better than others, but continuing on the same path is doom.

09 Jun 2014 12:48 AM
chestnut horse

If they want a triple crown winner, they need to quit retiring the horses after 4 or 5 starts only to breed another horse who will retire in 4 or 5 starts. Breed them for stamina. Did he really need the big workout? Just jog him leading up to the race.

09 Jun 2014 12:59 AM
Post Time

as a foremer jockey/ horse trainer and owner he was dead on!

09 Jun 2014 1:22 AM
Jen W

I can't even BELIEVE Bloodhorse printed this crap!  Figures it comes from a California based writer!  Let's just give every participant in the Triple Crown the coveted trophy!  What a load of crap. SO DONE WITH THIS NONSENSE!  In EVERY RACE, you will face fresher horses than your own!  Should we limit EVERY race?  SO idiotic! STOP trying to pacify a man having a hissy fit cause he can't exploit his horse into making more money!

09 Jun 2014 7:34 AM

It's not beyond reproach to make changes to the Triple Crown.  They essentially eliminated any chance of a dominant female getting into the Kentucky Derby with the new point system.  Untapable showed she was worthy of a spot in the Derby when she crushed rivals by 8 lengths in the Fairground Oaks, but she couldn't run in the Derby even if her connections wanted to!

09 Jun 2014 7:38 AM

You are so right with your comment! This game is rigged from the start! The only winners are Professional Gamblers with a story like this. When the odds are 5000 to 1 respecting history, and Coburns story filled the the Belmont and betting offices completely, the next time, Belmont has to pay a premium for a horse like CC to lose a reputation and winning strike of 6! Read the ¨Belmont Stakes Overnight TV Rating Strong¨  

09 Jun 2014 7:39 AM


“The system is rigged against the best horse completing the Triple Crown.”

It is overwhelmingly clear you are also suffering from the California Chrome syndrome. When exactly was the system rigged? Did the rigged system prevent 11 horses from achieving TC glory? This is clearly a blog driven by emotion that has ignored some pertinent cold facts.

Let review a few example of the rigged system:

Big Brown blew away the competition in the Derby and Preakness and was a flop in the Belmont. What part of the rigged system contributed to his loss?  A fresh horse caused him to be pulled up. This stuff cannot be made up!

Smarty Jones was defeated in the Belmont by Derby participant Birdstone. Under Mr. Sore Loser system, Birdstone would qualify for the Belmont despite the fact he skipped the skipped the Preakness and entered the fresher of the two.

Real Quiet, Sunday Silence and Alysheba were a few others that failed in their bids for TC glory. They were all defeated by horses that contested the first two legs of the TC. No fresh horse was responsible extending the TC drought in those years.

“He's also correct in saying that, at age 61, he'll never see another one actually pull it off in his lifetime unless something is changed.”

Unless you and Mr. Sore Loser can accurately predict his demise before the 2016 TC series and others, then the above quote and endorsement amount to gross nonsense. There is a difference between ‘never’ and ‘never likely’ what has not occurred in 36yrs can easily occur in one.

It took a horse the caliber of Secretariat to break a long drought. In the last 20yrs there have been 7 attempts at TC glory. That equate to approximately 1 in every 3yrs. During this period there were two occasions in 3 consecutive years that the TC was in play. Horses falling into various categories have won the Belmont over the last 20yrs. None Derby participants is just one category from which the winners emerged.  

Mr. Sore Loser got an excellent horse on the cheap. In his first time in the spotlight he has accused other owners of unfairness and being cowards.

If a horse is acquired for $1M and was one point shy of making the Derby cut, should it be disqualified from contesting the $1.5M Preakness and Belmont? Try telling that to someone spending $1m on a horse. Tell telling that to the breeders and fans of said animal.

The comments of the co-owner of CC should be dismissed and should neither be endorsed nor accommodated in any forum. If the TC has become so unattainable, why were there no complaints regarding the system beforehand. Seven horses in the last 20yrs were just not good enough on the day. One co-owner was not a gracious loser and saw it fit to disrespect and regard as other owners cowards upon their success. That’s a human trait that has no place in a progressive society.

The fact that his comments and positions have endorse by those who should be more ration is equally disturbing.

09 Jun 2014 8:05 AM

First, to those who don't want to change anything about TC races- the Preakness has been run at like six or seven different distances, so changes can happen without harm.  Second, I believe that the attitude of so called blue bloods has already harmed racing to some extent- just look at the treatment of the "nobody" owners at the KD not just this year but in past years- as well as the treatment of Turcott for wheelchair access ($$ and "who" one is, is what matters).

But let's be fair- the TC is designed for blue blood racing pedigrees not nobodies or upstarts.  The blue bloods would be shamed if such a cheaply bred horse as Chrome won.  If that happened how could they ever continue to justify breeding, selling and buying million $$ horses?  It is all about money AND their closed circle.

When all the nobodies quit betting on racing enough to impact some folks pocket books -or- something happens to impact pocketbooks, then and only then will traditions be changed.

09 Jun 2014 8:08 AM
Cappy Dick

A racing fan for over 45 years just one thing to say. "If you can't breed them find a new line of work". Oh I can't get enough hits in baseball, lets make it 4 strikes.

09 Jun 2014 8:10 AM

the most common culprit in horse racing beat Chrome, luck. Grabbing a quarter,as all riders/trainers know, can be very painful. Right up there with a hoof puncture. Everything else is speculation.

09 Jun 2014 8:33 AM
Salvatore Carcia

You are speaking to two issues here: eligibility and schedule.

The point system is only relevant for the overcrowded Derby. The Derby is still the most important race in America and it requires a systemic approach for eligility. The other legs do not and should not. It would be a travesty to prevent the TC contenders from facing the best of the day.

With respect to schedule, it makes it easier to win the first two legs and more difficult to win the third. Extending the schedule might make it more difficult to win the Preakness and a little easier to win the Belmont. I think it balances out in the end. I like the idea of extending the series a little.

09 Jun 2014 8:37 AM

Coburn was right. Any horses that run in the Belmont should have had to run in the KD and Preakness. It's the only way to level the playing field. Changing the time between races misses the point


Sent from my iPad

09 Jun 2014 8:38 AM

I don't know why there would be any momentum to Coburn's rantings.  Again, the solution isn't dilution.  No sense in making the Triple Crown ordinary.

Secondly, I've been offput by the rude remarks from Coburn since the Preakness.  He may be apologizing now for his emotions, but he is not an ambassador for the sport when he thinks he has some bully pulpit to change a historically significant series in the Triple Crown.

The sad news in all of this is that Tonalist and Clemente's brilliance in prepping for this race has been overlooked.

09 Jun 2014 9:08 AM

I agree that tradition trumps everything in racing, which is one of the reasons why racing has problems.  

Look at major league baseball--it created the wild card system and the sport brought in a new legion of fans, spurred on by the fact that their teams were still alive late in the season.  Same in the NFL.

Adding two weeks in between the Derby and Preakness and Preakness and Belmont will acknowledge that racing today is definitely different from when Citation, Secretariat, et al, won the Triple Crown.

Boxing went from 15 rounds to 12 rounds for championship fights; at the beginning, some people complained.  Now, nobody cares and you still have great title fights.

Racing, please take your head out of the sand and realize it's the 21st Century.

09 Jun 2014 9:15 AM
love all horses

Well written, what you say is true and more people will agree with you as time goes on without EVER having another Triple Crown Winner.

09 Jun 2014 9:43 AM

I disagree that it should be changed.  You don't 'dumb down,' you 'breed up.'  The problem is the lack of incentive to do that.  The Triple Crown is a tradition, not a governed event.  Three tracks worked together to set up a 'test for a champion.' The mere fact that some have run that gauntlet successfully is proof enough that it can be done. If it hasn't been done in 36 years, then something needs looking at but I don't think it's the setup.  A few thoughts:  Maybe bump the series down the road a month.  Keep the spacing, but move it down a month to allow "Jan 1 3 y/o's" to mature a little more, maybe get one more prep race under their belt. It would allow 'late bloomers' to get a race or two in as well.  Consider having two Derbies as qualifiers to complete the last two legs...sort of like 'heats' in Olympic sports. There could even be two 'heats' for the Preakness for those that didn't show in the Derby heats.  Surely both of those would come up with a large enough field for the Belmont which would only be one race.  All of the contenders would have competed in all races, unless pulled for whatever reason. Those are just some thoughts so no need to go berserk.  I'm just trying to inject a different perspective other than changing the times between races.  It would be a slap in the face to all previous winners of that gauntlet.

09 Jun 2014 9:43 AM

A clever twist of words in this piece fooled a lot of people.  The author said that Secretariat, Slew, and Affirmed didn't face FULL fields of fresh shooters.  In doing so, he convinced many readers that the playing field was much different on Saturday and that CC faced all new, fresh horses.  The fact is that Secretariat, Slew and Affirmed all faced fresh horses.  None of those fields was made up up exclusively of horses who had raced in the Derby and Preakness.  Author also chooses not to recognize that the Maryland and New York circuits have for decades ran their own local preps (Tesio and Peter Pan), which have always been recognized as perfectly legitimate ways to earn a spot in one of the Triple Crown races. So, Maryland and New York would need to decide that their preps are less meaningful if others decided that only the Triple Crown races mattered.  The system is fine, because prior winners did, in fact, face the same conditions (Even Citation had to face a bunch of fresh faces - didn't matter).

09 Jun 2014 9:53 AM
Melissa P

Thank you for your column. Thanks for thinking a little differently. Should Steve Coburn have said, "I can't talk to you right now, I'm too upset" and left to look after his horse? Sure! No doubt. Should he have waited until he was calmer to express himself? Sure again! Didn't happen that way. He's a passionate man who thinks his horse hung the moon and he was upset. He's not accustomed to the "politically correct" world of upper crust racing. I don't think bashing him for his opinion is any better than his outburst. The world needs to give the man (and his horse and family) some room to get out of the rarified air they've been living in for a while. I do believe in the system as it's always been. All the triple crown winners have had to face new shooters; but I also agree with Mr. Coburn in that I, too, doubt we'll ever see another (unless the timing changes) due to the way horses are bred, trained and raced today.

09 Jun 2014 9:57 AM

Excellent piece.  I totally agree.  And frankly- I appreciate that Coburn stuck up for his hard working horse.

09 Jun 2014 10:12 AM
Needler in Virginia

Well said, and well written. California Chrome has been considered "that upstart Cal-bred" since the beginning. WHY he's an "upstart" is anyone's guess, considering his blood lines AND Kentucky bloodlines are the same. Maybe it has something to do with time zones........

If the Triple Crown is going to be the most special, and hardest won, award in American racing, it should be played on a level field. Mr Coburn did go a bit over the top, but at the same time he has a very valid point. Does the conversation begin now? NAH! Not a chance, and more's the pity.

09 Jun 2014 10:21 AM

Many mixed feeling about changing the Crown races.Not sure how only allowing Derby points horses would work.Some of the Derby contenders are not horses whose best distance is over a mile or a mile and a sixteenth or even a mile and an eighth. Why run a horse in a race you know is too much for him despite points?

09 Jun 2014 10:31 AM
Proud Acres

Ok, here is my 2 cents.  I love California Chrome, he is beautiful and I believe a great horse. However, I do believe that the triple crown should stay the way it is except I believe that the point system should be done away with to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and the amount of $ should again become the qualification for horses to get in.  I'd like to see a smaller field in the Derby as well.  I think 20 horses is setting it up for disaster and makes it dangerous for the horse and jockey's.  Cutting down the number of horses will let the cream rise to the top, also, it would allow top notch fillies to enter since we have had some really awesome fillies of late that have been horse of the year.  That being said, tradition is tradition and I'd hate to see things changed other than what I have stated

09 Jun 2014 10:37 AM
Karen in Indiana

I think the field size in the KD may have more to do with no TC winner. The race spacing has been the same for a long time, but the largest field size that a TC winner had to face was 14. Allowing 20 is more about financial reasons than racing.

09 Jun 2014 10:43 AM

I agree. Mr Coburn was emotionally charged. At least he opened up a dialogue. It's not fair to the horses who have run thier hearts out to come in with fresh horses.If they don't qualify for the Derby they shouldn't be allowed to be in the Preakness or The Belmont.Apples to Apples it is not. Love Chrome, he is a great athlete & magnificent horse. Love his owners & trainers & staff also. Enjoy your rest you certainly have earned it.

09 Jun 2014 10:44 AM
broken crown

I agree with the comments Mr. Coburn made after the Belmont. I think there are fewer true sportsmen involved in the game today and more opportunists. My solution - change the weights in the Triple Crown races. Make all horse carry equal weight in the Derby (126). In the Preakness, Derby starters should receive a 5 pound weight allowance (121) from the new shooters (126). In the Belmont, horse running in both the first two legs should receive a 10 pound weight allowance (116) from the new shooters (126) and 7 pounds from any horse competing in only one of the prior Triple Crown races (123).    

09 Jun 2014 10:52 AM

This would make sense if in the past most horses ran in all three races and now that is no longer true.  However, that in fact is not the case.  In the 11 years that the Triple Crown was won, a total of 18 horses ran in all three races, the 11 winners and 7 others.  No Triple Crown winner ever faced more than 2 horses that also ran in all three races, which both Assault and Seattle Slew did.  The rest faced 1 or 0.  Which means that the vast majority of the horses they defeated in the Preakness and the Belmont were "fresh" horses.

If this change were made we'd routinely see 2 or 3 horse fields in the Belmont.  This year a maximum of 7, and likely only 6 would have run in the Preakness, and surely some of the badly beaten runners would not have gone on to the Belmont.  Sure, we'd end up with a "Triple Crown" winner every two or three years, but it wouldn't mean anything.

Plus this would require Pimlico and Belmont to agree with Churchill Downs' ridiculous point system.  Races like the Illinois Derby and the Peter Pan would be destroyed, which wouldn't hurt Belmont Park but would be devastating to Hawthorne.

The Triple Crown will be won again if no changes are made to the series at all.  Steve Crist said it well - if the time between the races is lengthened or if only Derby starters are permitted to compete, then they'll just be three nice races.  There no longer will be a Triple Crown.

09 Jun 2014 10:59 AM

The problem, as pointed out by the emotional outbursts of Mr. Coburn, is Churchill Downs INANE new (not traditional, folks!) "point system", which takes the training schedule out of the hands of the horsemen, and puts the control with some suited gentlemen who sit in an air-conditioned office in Louisville. I think everyone should just boycott their premier race next year, until they get off their high horse and start being more gracious towards people like the racing owners, retired stars of the sport, like Ron Turcotte, and allow the old system of graded earnings to dictate who starts. We would not have had either War Emblem or Mine That Bird with today's criteria. The whole thing is a meat grinder for three year olds, and they have made it WORSE with the point system. Carl Nafzger would have been chained to their criteria with Street Sense, rather than having the training program he designed (which, BTW, actually WORKED!!!!!!)

09 Jun 2014 11:01 AM

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. 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 11:04 AM

Mr Coburn has been wearing his heart on his sleeve for all the races - he was wearing it after watching his dream shatter.  I don't believe he was angry about losing money.  Remember he believed his dead sister was California Chrome's guardian angel.  Maybe she is now that we know he was cut shortly after coming out of the starting gate and still came in fourth.  He did come on Good Morning America this morning and was sincerely apologetic.  I for one am still a fan and if the racing world wants to snub California Chrome already for a possible Horse of the Year title then shame on them.  In the end it's the public that keeps this sport in business.  I am all for tradition, but it isn't tradition to have so many horses skip one or two of the TC races.  

09 Jun 2014 11:29 AM

Mr. Shinar, you made some very compelling points. Thank you for your insights. However, never say never!

09 Jun 2014 11:31 AM

I think that the 3 crown should be moved, according to today's training and racing methods to 4, 4 & 5 weeks. It's like we're saying, we're going to abuse you and see how much you'll take. Let's stop force abusing these greats.

09 Jun 2014 11:59 AM

Everyone else has had their (not necessarily well-thought-through) say, so...

I say: Yes, we should mess with the Triple Crown.

Not by changing the spacing of the races, not!! by shortening the distances, and not by limiting entrants in the second two legs to Derby runners (under which rule Medal Count, by the way, would be the Belmont winner, and I would have had the exacta).

But by limiting entrants in the Derby to 14 maximum, and by doing it in such a way that a horse need not necessarily win his final prep to get in.

The Triple Crown winners in the past didn't beat 20-horse fields. This ridiculous field size ensures that every year there's a false pace and there are horses who get in trouble and can't run their race. It makes the race harder on all the horses. It's only a matter of time until there's a Grand National-style pileup. It needs to be revised.

Both the previous earnings system and the current points system to get in mean that horses pretty much have to win a major prep to run. This sounds reasonable at first. But it means that these young horses are asked to peak early, and stay at their peak for four or five, not three, races. California Chrome did win three Grade 1 races in a row -- the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness. Leaving aside the issues of his injured hoof and iffy trip, he had every right to be tired by the time the Belmont came around.

If you take the winners and second-place finishers of the major preps -- the Santa Anita Derby, Bluegrass Stakes, Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby and Wood Memorial -- voila, you get a field of 12, with two spots left over to be awarded by committee, perhaps to fillies who have won major Oaks preps but haven't raced against colts yet, or by graded stakes earnings over a mile.

My .02.

09 Jun 2014 12:03 PM

I was reading yesterday regarding some of the comments that were made towards CC and his connections. What I read I just couldn't believe it. From what I gathered is that only the eastern horses are good enough to compete in such grade 1 stake races and the California should keep their horses their. If that's the case of where eastern horses are better bred and such, then why do they go compete in the Santa Anita Stakes or even go to Dubai? Another point to think about is what about the European horses?? Didn't the three main foundation stallions start the lineage outside of the US (I'm thinking that the comments made should be retraced to the lineage of the eastern hores)? I must be mistaken here. So if the Breeder's Cup is held in California, then why let the eastern horses come and compete? I just have to say that some people have to grow up.

Getting back to CC...I didn't know that he was hurt from coming out of the gate, but he ran his heart out for us fans. Was the distant too long...no I don't think so. When in pain, no one and I don't care who you are whether human or animal, you're not going to run up to your best potential. I can also see Mr. Coburn's comment regarding newcomers to the Belmont or Preakness. Yeah things change over time and it's definitely a time for change as I'll never see a triple crown winner at this rate. I was too young to remember Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and affirmed as I have to watch videos of them. With that being said, why not retire both the triple crown and triple tiara trophies and forget about the triple crown races for both divisions. Yeah we'll still remember the the Great Eleven, but that will be all. Horses are now being bred for speed and not comfirmation/bone density. How breakdowns have there been? Look at Ruffian who could go the distance and she was bred for speed, yet is was racing commissions who wanted the ratings to go up. Look what happened there, it was just the opposite once she broke down. Racing suffered and I think it will again this time around to a certain degree. I'll follow CC, but that's about it. I won't be watching the other races.

So if we're going to allow newcomers into the middle of the playing field, well I guess the same can be done with other sports like the Super Bowl, Olypics, Stanley Cup, etc. If newcomers who are fresh are going to compete, then it needs to be allowed all throughout the sports industry.

The way I see it, and yeah it's the same as Mr. Coburn said...It's three, it's math, and it's not hard to count to three. So if you compete in the Derby, then your allowed to compete in the Preakness. You skip the Preakness then you're out of the Belmont. You skip the Derby and try to enter the Preakness or Belmont, you're out. So yes it should be that a requirement is made that a horse runs in all three or it's one strike and you're out. That's it, no ifs, ands, or buts.

I know I'll get a lot of criticism, but I really don't care as I believe that there needs to be a change otherwise once again the racing industry is going to decline in ratings. CC is America's horse just like Seabiscuit was. So wake up and let's do something about the way things are done as at some point I even think I'll give up watching the Preakness, and Belmont. It's just not worth it.

Think back to Sunday Silence and Easy Goer...I felt sad that we didn't get a triple crown that day, but it was fair race as both horses were in all three races. Wicked Strong was right their with CC and they both came up short. What about Riding on Curlin? It's just not fair to any of these horses, and it's a shame that the Jockey Club and the racing commission just doesn't see it. It's greed that got Ruffian killed and does it need to be the same with these others? So the ratings were up...why was that? It's because America wanted to see a triple crown win...that's why! You won't be seeing those ratings again unless another horse like CC comes along.

So I hope that this situation of where we have east against west with horses will stop, or even colt against filly...my moto is if you get greedy...bad things will happen.

So good luck to CC and his connections and I can't wait to see this beautiful colt race again and not get hurt.

God Bless and Best Wishes "Chrome!"

09 Jun 2014 12:17 PM

Everyone talks about the stamina of horses from yester year, Gallant Fox, etc. and of course it's true.  It's also true that there was no public scrutiny, and really no private either because horse breakdown was considered "good for the breed".  FGS, trainers could give their horses heroin!  The very existence of the sport has a completely different emphasis in 2014 than in 1875: Entertainment.  It is not entertaining to watch race horses break down, this sport WILL die if we don't adjust the demands and the fairness to the current cultural climate and scrutiny that other sports have made adjustments to.

09 Jun 2014 12:20 PM

Please. Secretariat and Affirmed did not win the TC because conditions were easier back then. They won because they were great. No fresh horse has ever run a 2:24 on dirt. Affirmed had to beat Alydar three times. The TC is so special precisely because it is so hard to do. These horses validated their greatness, not only in their TC races, but also after the TC, by continuing to win. I'm perfectly fine with no change to the format. I believe that one day a horse will come along who is so dominant that it will happen again.

California Chrome is a nice horse. I was rooting for him, and he may yet prove to be great. There are certainly great horses who have failed to win the TC. It's not the only measure of greatness. Is it really more impressive than what Forego did, in winning four straight Woodwards? Or Tiznow, with two straight BC Classics? Goldikova? The list goes on...

As to what Coburn said, I think he was wrong, but he is a new owner and he was very upset and emotional. And yes, he's said all that before about new horses coming in and "upsetting the apple cart". But he's also wrong.

I think there is something to the fact that horses are no longer bred to go the distance that makes it more difficult to win the TC. Perhaps if you mandated a certain number of 1 1/2 graded stakes on dirt, it might encourage more breeding for distance. But you could only do that with a governing body for horse racing.

09 Jun 2014 12:23 PM
Soldier Course

In all probability California Chrome lost the Belmont Stakes because he sustained an injury to his right front hoof coming out of the starting gate. That injury was not discovered until after the race was over, so the poor devil ran on, heeding the cry: Keep going, Horse.

The outcome of the Belmont Stakes does not prove that California Chrome is not a "great" horse. It does not prove that he "couldn't get the job done". What the outcome does prove is that California Chrome has more stamina and heart than any other horse I've seen this year. He'll never have another chance to prove he can win the Triple Crown. But his greatness is another matter. He deserves another chance to prove that he had it all along. I hope he gets it.

09 Jun 2014 12:23 PM

I'll agree with maybe an extra week between Derby and Preakness making Belmont mid June,but there is a reason we have had 11 TC champions and that is because they were champions and their might have been a couple of others if it had not been for bad luck, and that might be the category CC falls under and not someone else's fresh legs. And then there is the fact that every leg is independent of the others. If all three legs were run in Kentucky I would totally agree, but they are not. True champions take on all comers win or lose and do it with grace.  

09 Jun 2014 12:35 PM

Let me preface this as a long time fan of the sport, I have been curious about something. Though I have heard many comments as to lengthening the distance between races or re-creating the bonus of the 80s for those horses that race in all three legs of the triple crown, I am curious as to why the race must occur early in the three year-old year. Why hasn't  there been discussion about making it an event for four-year-olds keeping the point system intact. Why is it necessary to race these colts till the end of their three year old year and then begin breeding them? Why not see them run when they are the fully grown adults?

09 Jun 2014 12:43 PM
Stellar Jayne

Jack - Thank you for speaking your mind.  You couldn't have stated it better on all points made.  Nothing will change!  Coburn is a decent man who has an A+++ horse in California Chrome and his team.  I don't care where they come from, or how much money they have or don't have. Any horse who carries the blood and genes of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Mr. Prospector, Raise a Native, Northern Dancer, Buckpasser,Sir Gaylord, etc. is not any more a 'cheaply bred' horse than any that eats the Kentucky blue grass and sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars!  

09 Jun 2014 12:50 PM

The discussion is now on the table thanks to Coburn. It will lie there & gather dust. If his concerns were to be addressed & acted upon there should be an asterisk next to any Triple Crown winner's name after Affirmed to show that modifications were made to make it more plausible for an eventual TC winner.

09 Jun 2014 1:04 PM

I have very ambivalent feelings about the Triple Crown series. For every horse that has made their name and proven themselves in the TC races, too many potentially great horses have been ruined by being rushed to get into the TC races by overly ambitious or greedy owners and trainers. The Kentucky Derby is really just the first big national test of the 3yo crop. Many of the best 3yo's are excluded from a real chance of winning because they are April or May foals. Instead of the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby would be a better, more competitive race the first Saturday in June. Better yet run it on the Fourth of July as the Kentucky Derby is supposed to be the Great American race. If the TC series is changed, Run the Derby on the 4th of July and the Preakness and Belmont the first Saturdays in August and September. More 3yos would be competitive and the horses could be developed more slowly early in their 3yo season. Stronger, better conditioned and more mature horses would run in those races and they would be better races. Winning the TC series would still be a great achievement. Draw a line over the previous TC series, honor the great horses of the past by all means but I believe the July 4th, August, September series I have proposed would generate just as much excitement, be better for racing and much better for the horses than the current TC series.

09 Jun 2014 1:09 PM

As much as I agree with Steve Coburn on this issue, if only the horses that ran in the Derby & Preakness were allowed to race in the Belmont Stakes, the field would most likely be VERY small. Unfortunately, not many horses are up to the challenge of ALL 3 races within 5 weeks time. Look back over the past 30+ years & notice how many horses drop out, due to injuries or lack of stamina. We should be breeding for strength if we want the Thoroughbred breed to survive the rigors of racing for the Triple Crown.  

09 Jun 2014 1:09 PM
Plodding Claimer

While I agree very much with your valid points here in this article I'm still balking at some of Coburn's direct comments and antics throughout the Triple Crown.

Would he have the same feelings if his horse won the race? If he felt so strongly about "new shooters" tackling the Triple Crown where were his comments before the Preakness when California Chrome faced 7 "new shooters" with only two of them (Ring Weekend and Pablo Del Monte) with enough qualifying points for the derby. Additionally, he had another 3 weeks of build up to make these comments again. This was a great edition of the Triple Crown from top to bottom less all the talented horse who fell off the derby trail due to injury (New Years Day, Shared Belief, Cairo Prince, Honor Code, Top Billing, Hoppertunity, Constitution) and I couldn't be more proud of California Chrome's success, and hope they give this horse the much needed rest he deserves and point this horse towards the fall and ultimately BC Classic.

But where are Perry Martin's comments on the matter? Art Sherman's? Victor's? They handled this entire process with nothing but pure class and no excuses. All be it the exercise rider Delgado did go on record that the horse "loved the track and felt had the most confidence of any of the races" pretty sure he said he thought the horse would win by 5+ lengths.  

Steve made this all about himself against the game. All his attacks on Churchill (which may have slightly been warranted), the signing of autographs, gesturing with his hand holding 3 fingers before post, tipping his hat to the crowd, all maybe a bit over the top.  I'm fairly new to the game, industry, and am young only 25. I still have a glimmer of hope that one day I will see a Triple Crown winner, and bless his heart, I hope Steve Coburn and all of those who closely follow and love this game get that chance as well.

If anything there should be more on Tom Durkin who has devoted his life to the game not seeing a Triple Crown winner in his 9 tries calling the Belmont Stakes. This would have been a nice swan song for him.

Everyone who claimed that this was a weak 3 year old class...Bayern validated that he maybe a top sprinter, Kid Cruz made a wise choice forgoing the Belmont for the Easy Goer and is now on track for the summer 3 YO stakes and lets see what happens with this lot who endured the TC and not forget about last years 2 YO champ Shared Belief let alone the monster Filly Untapable who like Cal Chrome running against the likes of Game on Dude, Palice Malice, Lea, Will Take Charge in the BC clasic, would love to see her run against Close Hatches, Princess of Slymar, Beholder, etc in the Distaff.

Though California Chrome didn't win the TC, still think racing as a whole is slowly improving and ultimately has to see the first half of the year as a success with a very bright outlook for the rest of 2014 season and beyond.  

09 Jun 2014 1:19 PM

The Triple Crown is a media contrivance which violates good horsemanship. Nobody, other than those who only pay lip service to placing the welfare of the horse uppermost, would bring a Grade I winner back in two weeks without the lure of the TC. Therefore, it should be no surprise that few KD losers run in the Preakness. I think the sages of Pimlico should put back the Preakness 1 week and see what happens.

09 Jun 2014 1:21 PM

Tradition is a beautiful thing and nobody wants to tarnish the Triple Crown by making it easier to win. Well,"easier" is the wrong word, we need to make it fair and level the playing field a bit more, without excluding new shooters. No one wants "easy". It's meant to be a test for greatness. Here's the fact that's getting ignored, today's horses are not the iron horses of yesteryear. We are running a different species today. Until that point gets across, nothing will change. You are correct.

09 Jun 2014 1:26 PM
Bonnie Saul

Perhaps Chrome's co-owner has said what many of us have been thinking for a good many years.  In the past (when I once worked with these animals) running the horses every few weeks was the norm.  It not longer is.  In the past few years we have had some high profile accidents and resulting deaths of some great horses that maybe were pushed far too soon in their lives.  I won't name them because we all know who they are.  These 3 major races draw the best of the best and huge crowds.  For the sake of this sport these races should be separated out a bit more to give all that run in them a chance including the winners.  Chrome's co-owner is also right that if we consider these races the proof of a champion then then need to have a system setup that ensure only those with qualifying points can run in 1 or more.  I don't believe that we need to insist that they run all 3 though.  Because 1 1/2 miles isn't a doable option for some pedigrees.  But qualifying for them should be a factor always.  Not who has the biggest 'opt in' payment down the road.  If we ever expect to see a Triple Crown winner again - we must modify the racing system now to accommodate the changes the industry now face.

A point also needs to be made that 'calling names' for either the new horse owner with their 'not as expensive' pedigree horse versus the 'old hands and families' needs to stop.  Plus the using negative words to express your disappointment.  I am as disappointed as Chrome's owners that he didn't win, but, I would never call the opt in entries names for this point.

Lets get out of the dark ages of racing and make this sport much more 'people' friendly and 'horse' friendly.  Maybe then we will get more people back interested in this sport!  We cannot afford more negativity in it as it ruins it for all of us.

09 Jun 2014 1:43 PM

California chrome ran the Belmont

On three legs an finished in the front. He has a place in history and the hearts in the people that very few have. I don't blame Mr. Coburn for popping off considering the poor treatment they received at the Derby. Junior isn't simply a horse he's more family. Important to racing

09 Jun 2014 1:49 PM

I think that Coburn’s comments were made while he was upset and came across as sour grapes and rightly so.  But at the same time he does have a point.  

The TC was historically run by the best of the best 3 year olds, which until the last couple decades were owned largely by the "Kings" of the sport (Phipps, Hancocks, Belmonts, Ridleys, Janeys, etc) - the family dynasties who bred these horses didn't sell them they raced them and looked to improve the breed.  Money wasn't the only focus and due to what can be called their "elitism".  Yes they still ran new shooters against horses going for the TC but especially by the Belmont there was rarely a full field of fresh faces (they didn’t start horses in these races just for the prestige of having a starter if they entered a horse it was almost always because the horse had a legitimate chance).  

Now that horse racing has evolved into all types of folks owning them from the founding families of American racing to the large partnerships to the folks that are first time owners investing on the low end hoping for a huge dream – it has increased the number of starters in the TC races dramatically both for the prestige of simply having a starter in the gate regardless of the fact that the horse is either outclassed or is clearly a sprinter that will never be able to stretch out (Trinniberg being a prime example).  This being said the horses today are not facing the same influx of horses that the previous TC Winners did – and while quantity doesn’t equal a challenge that can’t be overcome it does increase the chances of bad racing luck (being forced down inside, held wide, forced to check, or stepped on by horses that are still green or simply outclassed).  

Changing the spacing of the TC is not going to eliminate this problem and while our stakes horses typically don’t run but once every 4-6 weeks now remember that our claiming/allowance horses still get out there and run mostly every two weeks – so while they might not be as talented as our stakes horses they are still able to run every two weeks and make enough to stay on the positive side.  I am not saying that I advocate running a horse that often but at the same time horses need to be out and working so if you are clocking them for 4-6 furlong works every week what is so different to them about running every two weeks if you skip the works?  Running hard is running hard, race or work, and if the horse is sore stop on them and give them the time they need to get healthy.  That is how the bulk of our horses day in and day out get their jobs done – if you pull up any claiming/starter allowance or optional claimer on any day you will find horses that are running every two weeks no works in between and still manage to get a paycheck – granted they don’t all win but they cover their bills in a lot of the cases.  Oh and by the way – these horses have the same breeding that our stakes horses do maybe a generation removed but not always so in my humble opinion that negates a lot of the comments about us not breeding for stamina and endurance – because those traits are not only for stakes horses going a mile and a half.

Bottom line is everyone in this game needs to remember no horses no racing so take care of them first and do what is right for the horse (from breeding for soundness, correctness, speed and stamina equally to waiting on a good horse to mature even if that means you miss the first Saturday in May and all the classic races).  When that special horse comes along and has all the qualities it takes to win the TC it will happen without changing the spacing of these races.  There are many other prestigious races out there for three year olds later in the year not the least of which is the Travers…and sometimes there are horses that aren’t ready to run until late in their three year old year and still manage to become one of the greats without ever being anywhere near a classic race, not starting in a TC race is not an unpardonable sin even if you think you might have a budding Eclipse champion.  Not sure but you might recall there was this horse who barely made it to the gate by the end of their three year old season and still managed to achieve championship status – maybe you remember a horse named Zenyatta?

09 Jun 2014 1:54 PM

It might help to bring the "Triple Crow Challenge" back.  $5M to the winner of the Triple Crown and if no TC winner, $1M to the horse with the highest finish in all 3 races.  It will bring back more Derby starters and will increase the value of the winner as a stallion.  Ultimately that helps in producing foals with some stating power instead of hot house flowers that can't run more than once it 8 weeks.  It's a win all around!

09 Jun 2014 2:29 PM
Preakness South Stables

Jack both you in your Article and Steve Coburn in his post-race comments are 100% correct!! Racing needs to Adapt.  1.) Preakness needs to be moved 4 weeks after the Derby and the Belmont on the 4th of July Weekend (5 weeks later) is an Excellent idea that Racing insider D. Wayne Lucas has been advocating for years!!

09 Jun 2014 2:37 PM

no,i'm pretty sure he's wrong....Tonalist was injured,,he was nominated for the trail..

wasn't A.P. Indy  injured,,missed the first 2 that won the peter pan then the belmont..the the BC classic,,i think he was the first 3 year old to do so...

what is really needed is the triple crown hallenge to make a comeback..it will be even harder for a triplee crown winner tohappen if the races are spread farther apart and an insult to those who won,and even a bigger slap in the face to those 12 who lost,,why  oh why do people try to change tradition...it sickens me,,

09 Jun 2014 3:11 PM

Keeping fresh horses out of the Belmont certainly is not a viable option if the Triple Crown is to remain a test of greatness. Any 3 year old should be allowed to challenge the horse going for the crown. What would be the point of running against the same field of horses in all 3 legs? The open invitation to new shooters is what makes it a true test of superiority. Fairness can be implemented in other ways. Weight assignments, longer time between races, etc. The Triple Crown can be reduced from being an impossible feat to being a test for greatness suited for today's thoroughbreds, difficult, challenging, but obtainable. It could be done keeping all due respect to the rich tradition of the sport. Getting it done, a monumental task.

09 Jun 2014 3:24 PM
Donna Heim

I have agreed with Coburn since Mine That Bird smashed the Derby and endured a spoiler(Rachel Alexander, whom I love) and a change of riders because of her. He came pretty close to beating her anyway.

09 Jun 2014 3:45 PM

To maintain the integrity of the Triple Crown and still achieve the goal that the best horses race in all 3 legs of the Triple Crown, the only option is money.  Working in concert together, I am sure that management of CD, Pimlico, & Belmont along with breeders and owners can entice a corporate sponsor to put up a $5 Million dollar bonus to the horse with the most points earned via these 3 great races.  Money talks and will make the top 8-10 finishers (assuming that they come out of the Derby healthy) think seriously about running in the Preakness along with the Belmont.  

09 Jun 2014 4:18 PM
Soldier Course

I just saw a video of Steve Coburn's apology on GMA this morning. Painful to watch. Obviously someone told him to do this. I felt like I was back in the 1950s, watching a boy apologize to his teacher, after his father had given him the whipping of his life.

09 Jun 2014 4:27 PM
EM James

Before making changes in distance or schedule, consider controlling drugs given to these horses throughout their training and racing careers. Drugs make recovery time after racing much longer, thus limiting the number of races in a given time frame. If we change the racing schedules to meet the capabilities of the current horse, we destroy the meaning of historically superior achievements.  

09 Jun 2014 5:45 PM
Your Only Friend

What do you mean "Colburn" could be right.......he is absolutely right on target.......owners/trainers will never agree because too much money at stake.....their late blooming horses would not be eligible.

09 Jun 2014 5:47 PM

Very well stated. I agree.

09 Jun 2014 6:07 PM

Great article I hope they consider some changes I do think Mr Coburn is on the right track as some others regarding changing time off between races. I have wondered about maybe making the 3 races distances all the same. The triple crown trail is grueling and after all these horses are still babies. A mile and a half is really a lot to ask of them and most will never cover that distance again. I wish Mr Coburn had taken a deep breathe before he spoke, but can understand his heartbreak of the moment. I think many of us fans felt that too I know I did. California Chrome is wonderful and did accomplish greatness. I am proud of him and his  owners who believed him. Thank you

09 Jun 2014 6:35 PM

This whole article is completely idiotic.  First of all, Coburn has likened himself to Donald Sterling, and who in their right mind would buy anything Donald Sterling said at this point?

Next, the person who wrote this story goes on to infer that horse racing "is rigged" in some way, before then implying that, despite his belief, the spacing of the Triple Crown still matters to him.

Horse racing is simply not significantly "rigged" in any sense of the word, and those who believe as much simply don't belong in racing, or in a meaningful discussion about racing.

Steve Coburn, like Donald Sterling, needs to understand that no one cares what he thinks, or whether he ever sees another Triple Crown winner.  Who anywhere feels that Steve Coburn has any right to see another U.S. Triple Crown winner in his lifetime??

This is a guy who employed a jockey who was just one-out-of-60 at races of 7 furlongs or more at Belmont Park, and whose horse returned with a bloody foot, and he's still too stupid to figure out how and why his horse lost.

Steve Coburn was never "forced to run California Chrome (or any other horse) in the Santa Anita Derby".  What idiot would suggest that to have been the case?  That ungrateful ass, Steve Coburn (Immortalized Sunday in the headlines of the New York Post as the "Triple Clown"), merely had the same opportunity as others to run in the Santa Anita Derby, and in the Kentucky Derby, and he took said opportunity, which is fine.

By what moronic logic should Tonalist have been made to race with "a few extra pounds" in the way of a "penalty" in the Belmont Stakes???  What are you people thinking?  

Prior Triple Crown winners were in many cases facing effectively no competition at all, and thus their accomplishments, most embellished over time, were mediocre in many cases.  (the entire Belmont field behind Alydar combined for a single maiden win and a single allowance win during the previous ten months!!)

This in no way justifies the stupid impulse known to some that is to make winning the U.S. Triple Crown easier on its surface.  Clearly the U.S. Thoroughbred breeding industry has being doing that on its own for nearly three decades now.  Andrew Beyer can document as much for you.

The fact remains that someone wins the Kentucky Derby every year - period.  No matter how many more years Steve Coburn might live, somebody (and usually only one) will win the Kentucky Derby each year.  That is basically a given.  Now from that point... that certain somebody will be the only one with any hope at earning the Triple Crown.  Thus he will be the only Derby starter with (owners who take) exceptional interest in winning the Preakness.  Only IF said Derby winner wins the Preakness, does the Belmont Stakes need to matter beyond being what is merely another 7-figure horse race on the schedule.  Nobody else gives a dang!  Does anybody remember or really care much about the Triple Crown accomplishments of Mane Minister??

This notion that is to water-down the fields for the Preakness and Belmont is completely absurd when to do so would diminish the could-be accomplishment of anybody who did indeed manage to win the U.S. Triple Crown.  The diminished accomplishments of past Triple Crown winners are at least shrouded by time and by poorly preserved records.  But there would be nothing, in the present, to obscure the fact that a group of clueless and unsatisfied people in the 2014 present, motivated by a poor sport like Steve Coburn, lowered the proverbial bar in order to let society know another Triple Crown winner.

Besides, the potential "gain for racing" about the U.S. Triple Crown is already at its apex at such point as when a Derby-Preakness winner is soon to start in the Belmont Stakes.  Does anybody think that racing "gained" a great deal at all by Seattle Slew's having been completely trounced in the Swaps Stakes three weeks after winning the Belmont Stakes while still undefeated?

And yes, the twenty dual classic winners since 1979 failed to win the other leg almost exclusively because they weren't worthy.  Perhaps the most deserving and talented of all 3yo's since the 1970's was Easy Goer, and even he probably shouldn't count as "worthy" if he couldn't even beat Sunday Silence most of the time.  Just imagine what Easy Goer would do to Real Quiet, or to California Chrome if somehow they could all meet on the race track as like-aged runners!

Easy Goer met a solid group of nine foes in his Belmont Stakes, while Secretariat was flattered by having met just 4 foes in his - a race which was effectively over upon their reaching the far turn.  What Secretariat did beyond that was mostly a function of circumstance and nowhere near to being as impressive as time has misled people into believing.  (liken it to Rachel Alexandra's having once won a 3-horse race by 19 lengths in a situation where, in the 9-furlong race, her two foes were kind enough to burn eye-to-eye through early fractions of  :44 3/5 and 1:08 4/5 with Rachel' racing 3 or 4 lengths behind them and later effecting the only result which made any possible sense)

Getting back to Steve Coburn...  well, lets just say, that Mickey Taylor never ever behaved in such ungrateful fashion, and only a complete fool would suggest that California Chrome could be anywhere within a country mile of Seattle Slew as an accomplished Thoroughbred.  And even if Seattle Slew had never existed, well, Steve Coburn and his ungrateful ways would still have found themselves 3/4 of a length shy of would-be Belmont Stakes winner Medal Count.

Other sports???   Last I knew, the World Series still had 7 games max.  Last I knew the "Triple Crown" in baseball somehow managed to survive intact despite a 45-year gap (1967 to 2012) between winners.  The author here and others are simply not thinking correctly when even beginning to contemplate altering something that is so traditional and meaningful because OF that tradition and because of a truly challenging set of individual tasks.

And the truth is, that no matter the size of the foal crop, and no matter what you do to the Triple Crown, SOMEbody has the Triple Crown in-play each year on the first-Sunday-following-the-first-Saturday in May... and that's quite enough.  There is no guarantee that YOU will ever see another Triple Crown winner in your lifetime.  And nobody owes you as much...  (a whole lot of baseball fans died between 1967 and 2011, but major league baseball wasn't altered to be played on ice, or to be played in lingerie just to please the now-deceased)

To alter the U.S. Triple Crown is to run the risk of rendering it obsolete, as is the British Triple Crown.

09 Jun 2014 7:23 PM

While Steve Coburn and Jack shinar make valid points on how difficult the Triple Crown is to win, I do not believe there is any good reason to change tradition and the rules of the Triple Crown races. First if the sport of horse racing and fans are just looking for a good Triple Crown winner then go ahead and change the rules, but if there all looking for that one special one in a lifetime super horse then the rules are just right. Yes it takes a one of a kind special super horse to win the Triple Crown. Secondly I must respectfully disagree with Jack Shinar and Steve Coburn. In my opinion California Chrome should have won the raise and Triple Crown ,if it hadn't been for a twist of fate and an unfortunate accident and injury out of the starting gate. It was not the rules that beat California Chrome it was bad luck. He is that Super horse that should have won the Triple Crown and there will soon be another. It has been done before and will be done again, yes all the stars must be align perfectly but that's what makes the Triple Crown so great.

09 Jun 2014 7:38 PM

How about making it so horses *can* run five times in three weeks?  Prohibit Lasix in the Triple Crown.  Horses will recover sooner after each race.  No one ran on Lasix in the Triple Crownss of 1978 and before.

09 Jun 2014 8:04 PM

He may not have stated it as tactfully as he could have, but Coburn makes a point. Every other premiere sporting event has either a seeding or qualification process to the finals. If the three most important American races are to be considered the Triple Crown, why shouldn't they stand together? Perhaps it is time for racing to shed some of that tradition?

09 Jun 2014 8:19 PM

Changing the Triple Crown rules, a controversial subject to say the least, right inline with the Jockey Club finally joining the 21st Century and allowing A.I., a change long overdue given today's DNA capabilities. But that's another story.  Changing the Triple Crown eligibility opens a lot of issues and none would be beneficial to our sport.  For arguments sake say they change it, any subsequent horse winning the previously elusive prize would be looked upon as being inferior to the prior winners who won under current herculian condtions.  Indeed, horses were a lot hardier in the past which now leads to another argument against change.  With today's horse and the rigors of the Triple Crown trail one could see the potential of a Belmont with a 3 or 4 horse field as the rigors of coming through the first two legs has put many a good horse on the sidelines. Not to mention that winning under changed rules wont put your horse in the special category but rather be written of as no big deal, it will be said you won without facing any and all top 3 year old contenders let alone should it end up an embarrassingly short field. The Triple Crown is hard for a reason and that reason is it takes an amazing horse combined with the stars aligned and amazing luck to win it.  Changing the rules now would only cheapen the quest.  California Chrome is a tremendous horse who has brought much needed attention to our sport.  His trainer and crew are to be commended for a job well done. Had he not been injured at the start we could have seen a Triple Crown.  One will never know for sure how much the outcome was due to a tired horse facing fresh runners, a horse who didn't want the extra distance or an injured horse but for whatever reason, he is a tremendous race horse who was gallant in defeat and I personally am as proud of him today as I would have been if he had won.  Its my humble opinion were I ever to be blessed with a contender and should I win I would want my horse to be held in the same esteem as the prior winners.  Change the rules and cheapen the quest.  On a side note pertaining to the horses that don't run in all 3, its a trainers responsibility to his horse that they manage their races to showcase them at their best.  This is usually referred to as doing a good job and that is something we should always admire.

09 Jun 2014 9:24 PM

Ridiculous comments.  Typical of today's world.  There will be another Triple Crown, when we get another super horse.  Not until.

09 Jun 2014 9:35 PM

Here's what you do folks.  You find a sponsor, or group of, to put up the bonus money to make the triple crown a points series.  You add 1 week between each race (3wks between Drby/Prk & 4wks between Prk/Bel).  Because of the number of horses in the Derby, you award points 1st-5th, then 1st-3rd in last two legs, and award BIG bonuses to the top 3 finishers overall.  The level of comp would still keep it tremendously difficult to win the triple crown, but we'd have a much better product overall!  In a perfect world, this is how ALL divisions of racing would crown its champions (Eclipse awards), rather than writers voting on them!  But back to the triple crown.  I suppose after the derby you would have horses who wanted to run in the preakness or belmont qualify by 3yr old stakes earnings?!?  And if that does'nt happen to fill the field, then allow whoever wants to run.  I think this is fair, makes sense, and upholds tradition while moving the sport forward all at the same time!  .....NOW, who's gonna up the money...?!?  Just send me a reply and we'll get the ball rolling...thanks in advance! lol

09 Jun 2014 9:59 PM

Your comments were sorely needed. Thank you! You are right though, nothing will change.

09 Jun 2014 10:21 PM

Mr. Shinar's article is a breath of fresh air.  In almost every industry, business, and sport, needed changes are made in an effort to bring a progressively better "product".  The horseracing industry is so tied to the past that when the sport fades away, there will be no one but themselves to blame for it.  Heavens if they would ever listen to a fan (a customer in the business world) but, instead, do things just because "that's the way we always have done it".  The way the current Triple Crown is operated is a farce and, quite frankly, doesn't exist.

09 Jun 2014 10:25 PM

Shinar is right about horse racing. Believe it or not back in the 70's horse racing was more popular than the NFL.  The NFL embraced television while horse racing said they "weren't going to give their product away for free" (sound familiar anyone still paying parking and admission to the track).  Horse Racing continues to shoot itself in the foot and then wonders why it is limping

09 Jun 2014 10:29 PM

Thank you Jack for your article! I love horses, all horses as does Mr. Coburn I believe. There is no doubt California Chrome is exceptional and special. There is also no doubt the rules for the Triple Crown are questionable at best. This is not new or a mystery.

Congratulations to my favorite jockey, Joel Rosario, who I hope to meet in person one day, and Tonalist as well as his connections.

If horse racing wants to get involved with meaningful change they will step up to the plate and stop racing two year olds and having high pressure schedules for three year olds. We have a clear understanding of a horses anatomy and physiology in 2014 and it is well known this activity is NOT appropriate at this age. Begin at four and go from there. Shame on the vet world and pharmaceutical world as well. Yes there are honorable ones but greed has prevailed.

So stop this practice and you will find new owners and fans.

Respect and love to California Chrome and his connections.

09 Jun 2014 10:38 PM

This is NOT a playoff or tournament. The Triple Crown is unique in that to "win" it a horse has to sweep three grand, historic races which stand on their own very well, thank you very much.

09 Jun 2014 10:59 PM

" times have changed and horses don't run every two weeks any longer. "

I think that's the main point of this whole argument...I think anyone who's been following this industry for the last 20 years would agree that we no longer breed stamina horses and add to that that horses are retired before they actually get some foundation in them for money equates to horses who are no longer capable of the rigorous campaign to win the Triple Crown.  

I'm on the fence whether horses who didn't compete in the Derby and Preakness should be allowed to run in the Belmont but it's the race of champions, and to me, a "champion" should at least have a G1 win in their resume before they are allowed to run in the race.  Tonalist didn't run in the Derby and the Preakness and he had a prep race in a weak field in the Peter Pan.  

I'll let them sort it out but I hope they realize that if this continue, we would lose the prestige and the credibility of the Belmont Stakes if we keep seeing horses who wins the Belmont but was never competitive the rest of the year, I haven't looked it up but I would guess that the 11 horses who failed to win the Belmont has better records post Belmont than the "fresh" Belmont Stakes winners.  Except for Summer Bird, Birdstone and Point Given, much of the last 20 winners were not as competitive in post Belmont races.   Of course, I could be wrong and I'm sure someone will correct me.

The only hope we have of seeing a Triple Crown winner is next year and the following year when Zenyatta's babies starts racing :)   If they can't do it, no one can !!  (well, maybe Rachel's babies)

09 Jun 2014 11:23 PM

Saw this on ESPN earlier today...

from 1971-1976 47% of the horses who ran in the Belmont did not run in the Derby or Preakness.  From 1987-2006 42% did not run in the first two legs.  From 2007-2014 only 40% of Belmont runners did not run in the first two.  So the number of Belmont entrants who did not run in the first two is actually declining.

Secondly, every horse to win the TC has had to face fresh horses in the Belmont.  

Maybe the problem is the other winners had it too easy.  Here are the numbers of horses the other TC winners beat in the Belmont:

Sir Barton 2

Omaha 4

War Admiral 6

Whirlaway 3

Count Fleet 2

Assault 6

Citation 7

Affirmed 4

didn't have time to look up Secretariat or Slew.

Lastly, these three race are not a series.  They are independent events.  That would be like saying that if you don't compete in the Australian Open then you can't play in the French Open, Wimbledon, or the US Open.

As far as the schedule, Sir Barton won the Preakness four days after the Derby and Assault won with a week in between.  Citation won the Belmont four weeks after the Preakness (yes I know he raced in between, but he wasn't required to.)

So yes, maybe some things need to be changed, but the rules about who can enter isn't one of them.

09 Jun 2014 11:30 PM

Very nice column Mr. Shinar.  I agree, just maybe Mr. Coburn has hit on something.  Perhaps his choice of verbiage and venues to vent these issues is not ideal,but I think he has made some valid points.  I know he loves that horse and went all out in its defense.  Perhaps racing is really "stuck in the 1970's" and the current rigors of the Triple Crown races don't match up to the training regimens and campaigns of today's thoroughbreds.  Perhaps a study needs to be done on the changes that have evolved in racing since the 1970's, changes in medications, changes in the breed, overabundance of injuries, early retirements, light 2 yr. old foundations, etc.  I don't know what the answer is, if it is more incentives to run in all 3 TC races, more distance between the races themselves, or something else.  Change can sometimes be good, racing is so steeped in tradition it is afraid of change.

One could make an argument too that a true champion should be able to run on any surface,which CC has done, and be able to beat anyone, rested or not.  Apparently when it comes to the Belmont though, fresh wins out over continual momentum.  I for one would love to know what would have happened had it not been for the heel clipping.  I'm getting tired of heel clipping in the Belmont, it happened to the other beautiful chestnut, Animal Kingdom too.  I don't know what the answer is but I agree that tweaking needs to be done in some manner.  Congratulations to Tonalist, but it just does not seem fair that CC has run his heart out in 6 straight wins and Tonalist has been resting and skipped the TC until the Belmont.  The victory belongs to the spoiler.

10 Jun 2014 2:03 AM


You completely missed the point of this article...

10 Jun 2014 3:31 AM

Great to see a well thought out article, most of the racing community these days just parrots the establishment line regardless of how it applies to today's thoroughbred...it is a point that at least merits discussion.

10 Jun 2014 3:46 AM

How would the racing world and public reacted if California Chrome didn't race in the Belmont? If the owners had said we needed to train early to qualify for the Derby. It is in the best interest for our horse not to run the Belmont. The potential to win a Triple Crown is too much of course even though the odds are against it. It is the Derby first, and then the Preakness and Belmont are fantasy. Who really trains to win all three? One would hope that luck and/or sheer greatness prevails. Chrome had a sustained, brilliant run of races and has exceeded all the other colts in his class. He is a gutsy champion and showed courage against all odds. Too bad he had to enter that race for society's sake and fall victim to human misjudgement. I think it is possible he could have won staying on the rail and uninjured, but would'ves and could'ves are only wishes. I think a great horse got taken for granted by his jockey, connections and fans, too, after a long grueling campaign.

10 Jun 2014 8:58 AM


Thank you for clarifying that the connections did have concern about racing in the Santa Anita Derby but due to the points systems felt they had to. Most of us who heard him complaining thought he should have said something prior to the loss.  

Personally I love your idea about the new shooters and weight added. I think leaving the dates are fine. But for horses that don’t run all the races maybe there should be a weight variable or extra entry late fee to enter that race to be added to the purse, or bonus to the horses that do run all the races and place in the money. Someone mentioned a fee that goes one of the retirement thoroughbred foundations, another great idea. I do feel in a way it’s not fair but to change the dates or distance takes away from the great horses that have won the Triple Crown.

10 Jun 2014 10:03 AM

Why does it seem that, nowadays anyway, the solution to accomplishing a difficult task is to make the task easier instead of rising to the challenge? Yes, I said 'nowadays' so you already know that I'm an old coot who doesn't want to see the Triple Crown changed. Well, yes and no! Want to see another Triple Crown winner? Sure you do! So do I, and I've seen three! So yes, let's change the way we do things! Let's change 'back' to making stamina and endurance as important as speed when breeding. Let's change 'back' to not perpetuating unsound sire lines. Let's change 'back' to breeding sound racehorses capable of racing every two or three weeks as opposed to the hothouse flowers we currently have who are only capable of being paraded around six times a year. Want to limit the amount of entries? Let's change 'back' to prohibiting bute and lasix on race days and keep the bleeders, the inflamed and other unsound animals out of the gate. Yes, something has to change in order for us to progress in this sport but it's not the format of the Triple Crown. All of the above changes were done, and are considered being done, in the name of progress; well, I think the thoroughbred racehorse has suffered enough 'progress' for one species already!

10 Jun 2014 10:04 AM

Why not "table" the Triple Crown? Get a vetted group with the owners of Secretariat, Slew, and Affirmed.  And say...."horses are not bred the way they used to be. Most horses are not bred for stamina. Rather than change a storied tradition, we will place the Triple Crown in the history books."  We can acknowledge the greatness of those who won the Triple Crown, and move on.  

10 Jun 2014 10:52 AM

Hi Jack, LOVED this article.  I thought you might be interested in the stats in this article my daughter just wrote for Horse Nation.  We are both life long fans of the sport~  www.horsenation.com/.../why-i-hope-we-never-see-another-triple-crown-winner

10 Jun 2014 11:06 AM
Shoe Board Sal

A foolish and absurd argument.  The fact is that this year's Belmont would have consisted of a 3 horse field if this writer had his way.  What a thrilling spectacle it would have been between California Chrome, General ARod and Ride on Curlin.  I'm sure NBC and all of the vaunted newbies would have been awed by the spectacle of CC leading a total of two staggering foes to the wire. The Triple Crown consists of three COMPLETELY separate and distinct races.  It is a "series" by tradition only.  Each racing jurisdiction is allowed to accept whatever entries they deem fit.  For those sore losers who want to diminish the tradition for the sake of a cheap win, you have no idea what you are babbling about.    

10 Jun 2014 12:35 PM

It just hit me today what Mr. Coburn might have been saying... think on this... in what other sport can you go for the trophy of a series without competing in all phases.... bowling, baseball, football, hockey, golf, tennis, auto racing and the list goes on.  You are in from the get go or you are not in.  I'd never thought that before... Tonalist had no Triple Crown starts... 2 maiden weight starts, an allowance win and the Peter Pan.  He was not even Derby qualified.  I think Commissioner, however, was.  So maybe the spacing of races does not need to change but the qualifications do.  It's just hard to see a champ beaten by an entry who at a later time thinks he's gotten good enough to take down number one.  Try that in any other sport.  

10 Jun 2014 1:13 PM

Previous TC winners did not face fields of 20 in the Derby, or as stated in the article, Belmont fields made up primarily of fresh horses.  Although it has often been said that a great horse can overcome anything, that is not the reality, and I wonder if some of those TC winners would have failed the task if faced with today's circumstances.  And I will say yet again that today's TB is not necessarily less sturdy or capable of running more frequently--these are the same horses competing into their teens in the very arduous sport of 3-day-eventing--it is more a case of their owners and trainers being afraid to train them hard and race them more often because there's more money to be made on the breeding farm from a colt that's won 1 or 2 major Grade 1 races, than there is on the track.  It's also why the best horses avoid each other all year except in the Breeders Cup and maybe the Derby, because heaven forbid their horse have a blemish on the racing record.  The filly and mare division is the only one where a fan gets to see some on-going rivalries and the best horses racing past 3, presumably because there's not as much money to be made from them upon retirement as from a colt.  Racing was a lot better and more interesting when horses did run more frequently and stayed around for a few years to develop devoted fan bases, and there were a limited number of stakes races that mattered--the good horses couldn't avoid each other and we had repeated match-ups like Kelso and Gun Bow, Dr. Fager and Damascus, Affirmed and Alydar.

Sadly, it's all about the money, and this from owners that are already, many of them, millionaires and hardly in need of more money.  

I've been a racing fan for more than 50 years, and after last Saturday I have finally given up on ever seeing another TC winner, and over the past few years have suffered a serious decline in my interest in the sport, despite my love of horses and what until recently was a true passion for the sport.  So what hope does racing have of engaging new fans?

10 Jun 2014 1:20 PM
Soldier Course


I agree that it might be time to let the Triple Crown go. Perhaps it should be consigned to an earlier Golden Era, like our space program has been. Twelve people have walked on the Moon. Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown.

I suggested this plan on another BH blog: Run the TC as is for four more years, through 2018. If there's no winner by then, close it down. Forty years is enough time to prove you've still got the right stuff.

10 Jun 2014 2:06 PM
Carole Kennedy

Bravo, Jack! I could not agree more. Three to four weeks between the Triple Crown races and the horse needs to qualify for The Derby to begin on the Triple Crown trail.

10 Jun 2014 2:47 PM
Larry Stevens

The thing that Coburn did that was right was to apologize to racing. You are leaving out some important facts that as a writer you are leaving out or not aware of. Although I don't agree with the format of the Triple Crown, the fact remains that there had to be a way to limit the field for the Kentucky Derby in order to have more safety for horse and rider. Due to increasing entries, it was becoming more like a cavalry charge. There seemed to be 3 ways to do that, 1st a point system, 2d by money earned, or 3rd time trials. How many want to see all entrants enter time trials and then the top fastest times get in? I thought so! Everyone going in knows the rules and understands that it is an endurance contest. Using Coburn's scenario, you end up with 3 things, ALL BAD. 1st, you automatically lose the Grade status of the Preakness and Belmont. They no have to have a "R", denoting  them as Restricted Grade Races, because you have limited the entrants to only those that competed in the Derby. 2nd, you most likely will have 6 or maybe 7 head that want to try to tackle the winner in the Preakness. 3rd, if he wins again you face the reality of have a 3 horse field for the Belmont. All 3 are no win situations. Plus, tracks will not carry those races like that, and next, you lose your fan base.

10 Jun 2014 2:48 PM

Hi burroti - I read your article, and found it very thoughtful and appreciate your perspective. I, too, am a long-time fan of the sport, and am concerned about what is in the best interests of the horses. One of your sentences grabbed my attention: "...instinctively, it feels like it’s in the best interest of the horse to limit how frequently he/she has to go all out." It seems to me that the reverse may actually be true. I'm certainly no expert in breeding, but if I'm looking for a horse to go 6-9F, with longer durations between starts, then a horse with the genetic predisposition for durability/stamina will offer me no greater value than another who can get that job done. So I am, in effect, breeding out durability and stamina. It's counterintuitive, but I think that allowing greater time in between starts may be to the long-term detriment of the breed. I can imagine a time in the future, when a month in between starts is no easier on a horse than two weeks used to be.

10 Jun 2014 3:04 PM
Mister Blitz

Horse is Horse and Class is Class. Nuff said.

10 Jun 2014 3:10 PM

Another thought is maybe since we have a point system maybe they should have to have a certain amount of points to run in the Belmont or the Preakness if they skip the Derby.

10 Jun 2014 3:15 PM
Cathy in Washington

Are you going to put an asterisk after the names of the horses that win the Triple Crown after it's been tweaked so the "modern" Thoroughbred can win it?

Affirmed raced 13 times before the Kentucky Derby, Alydar raced 14 times. Affirmed went on to win HOY of the year at 3 and 4 and retired completely sound.

The problem is modern breeding and training protocol's.

The best thing they could do would be to go back to only 15 starters in the Kentucky Derby, so that it's not such a rodeo with so many horses running. Since 12 horses have come close to winning the TC it's possible to do, just have to have the right horse to do it, and it's not one of those hot house 3 year olds that's only had 3 or 4 starts before the derby.

10 Jun 2014 4:29 PM

This guy wants to cry foul and say that all of the other winners of the Belmont, some of which were triple crown winners, should not have had to race against a fresh horse, is absolute horse manure. For 100 plus years this has been the standard and to dumb this standard down is an insult to the breeders, the owners, of past champions.  It is the supreme test of these fine animals ability and breeding to win this last leg of the Triple Crown.  It's easy to forget that it takes more than money and pedigree to win a horse race.  It takes a great horse, and California Chrome is a great horse to compete on this level of horse racing. This guy should be on his knees giving thanks to be a part of the great sport of horse racing and to have been able to have a horse like California Chrome.  Instead he whines and moans that the horse that beats him has no right to win. I'll donate $1.00 for a little cheese to go with that whine.

10 Jun 2014 4:38 PM

If the Triple Crown is changed, it will no longer be the Triple Crown.  What makes it special, and what makes it garner so much attention, is that it is hard to accomplish.  Remember, there was a 25 year gap before Secretariat won it, so I'm sure all of these arguments have been brought up before.  Yes, the last 12 have failed, but of the recent ones in the last 15 years, which, aside from maybe Silver Charm, went on to have a "great" career?  Smarty Jones gets a break because he was retired due to injury, but none of the others went on to do anything truly great after their 3 year old year.  If the races were spaced further apart, would any of them have won the Crown?  Maybe.  But what if that longer break caused 4 or 5 of them to win...then the Crown would be easy, and it wouldn't gain the attention that it does now.  

That being said, there is one, and only one, change I would support.  You need to have a certain amount of points to run in the Derby, so why aren't there any points standings for the Preakness or Belmont?  That would at least insure top level horses run, and it would prevent a well off owner from putting in an extra speed horse who has no chance as a rabbit to benefit a closer or wear out another front runner.   Have a points system for each Triple Crown race.  People will still say that the fresh horse has the advantage, but at least you will see a good race with good horses...and if there is a truly great one out there, he will win the Crown, if he's worthy.

One more thing...Point Given won the Belmont, and he ran in all 3 races.  The short rest didn't stop him from winning at 1 1/2 miles, and he faced new shooters, so why should it stop someone who won the Derby?    

10 Jun 2014 7:58 PM

I have read these same kind of articles over and over pointing out how things in the thoroughbred industry have changed but it still hangs on to tradition. That is so contradictory. How can things change and still have it's tradition. That is total nonsense.

The only thing this industry have hanged on to is the Triple Crown races and that's about it. The biggest and imo the biggest reason why this industry has gone downhill and subsidized by it's biggest competitor, the casinos, is the BREEDING FOR SPRINTERS AND MILERS.

The breeding for these frail short distance short career milers and sprinters pretty much resulted in:

--  the disappearance of the great classic distance thoroughbreds that ran in the industry's most prestigious races which then resulted in

--  in the loss of the popularity of these races from the Big Cap to the Handicap Triple which then resulted in

-- the loss of publicity of these races in mainstream media which then

-- lost it's ability to recruit new fans and bettors to the racetrack

-- fewer fans in the racetrack means tracks went for higher takeouts

-- which continue to upset established bettors

add to that the long list of "therapeutic" and race day medication just to get these frail sprinters to the gate and you have a vicious cycle.

NO - it is not simulcast, NO - it is not fresh horses in the Belmont

This industry is about THOROUGHBRED RACING

which supported the breeding.

Now it is nothing more than horse breeding. The triple crown races is the last "tradition" where the Kentucky horses that run in them are not really bred for it.

Yes another TC winner might pop up but just don't tell me they are comparable to the past TC winners. I have nothing against these horses we breed today. They give their all for us. Just don't tell me that Wise Dan winning 2 HOTY award is comparable to John Henry and winning another one this year will compare him to Forego.

That is about as far from tradition you can get.

10 Jun 2014 9:15 PM

Good article.

10 Jun 2014 10:48 PM

Sorry Jack, liberal thinking is wrong.  Leave it alone.  We don't have to give the Triple crown away.  Somebody will earn it, or we will forever appreciate just how good the previous Triple crown winners were.

10 Jun 2014 11:28 PM

Never mind picking on Californians!  My Blue Jays haven't won the World Series in many years.  The Baseball Elites are picking on non-Americans!  Let's change the rules to make it more fair:  make it so only Canadian teams can play in the World Series for the next few years.  That'll even up the score.  Yeah!

10 Jun 2014 11:42 PM

No, its coming, it has the clout now (crist, drf article)

Look for announcement before the new year 2016, no can do for 2015  ......one month between yum brand-prkna-ny

10 Jun 2014 11:47 PM
Mythical River

Let's talk about 1985 and Spend A Buck.  Some of you hear may not remember the outrage when Spend A Buck's connections skipped the Preakness and skipped a Triple Crown attempt to race in a non-grade I race to get a bonus that was offered to the Derby winner?????  Their argument?  The Preakness and Belmont do not offer enough money. After that year, the powers that be began changing the Triple Crown events by adding more money and bonuses.  That was nearly 30 years ago and it has been 36 years since we have had a Triple Crown.  Since then, we have had the "field" horses removed and have had 50-1 shots win the Derby several times.  To fix THAT, they added a Money Earned stipulation to be able to get in the Derby... thus phasing out the dreams of owners like Coburn and all the little guys out there (I sat next to Coburn's step son on the train to Belmont where he informed us that Coburn had to mortgage himself to the hilt to be able to keep California Chrome in the races that he had to be in to get to the Derby).  

Since you had to have money earned to get in the Derby, other smaller tracks began offering high purses and Churchill fixed that problem by coming up with a point system instead (which is heavily weighted to specific traditional prep races).

My point is, to say nothing has changed is not true.  Over the last 45-50 years, the distances and timing between races have not changed, but HOW YOU GET TO THE DERBY has changed very much. The field sizes for all three races has changed SIGNIFICANTLY. Very rarely can the the little guy get his horse to the race without MAJOR expense and cost to the horse's physical condition.

I agree that the point system and the ridiculous notion that a Triple Crown winner will save racing has forced California Chrome to run when he shouldn't have had to.  To add to that, the absolute pressure to run a Derby winner in the Preakness is overwhelming and I am sure the connections want to believe it won't affect their horse, but it does.

Steve Cauthen often talks about how exhausted Affirmed was and he was racing again a competitor that was just as exhausted as he was.  Imagine if there was a nice horse in that race that was capable of having a great race that day and catching both of them at the wire.  Would we look at them the same?  What happened to Secretariat and Seattle Slew after the Triple Crown?  They both lost in shocker upsets.  Tired horses.

Last year, when Orb ran by me in the stretch, the horse was barely able to gallop he was so tired.  He was never the same.  He ran in all three races.  The winner did not.

The point system is doing nothing but making it worse and we will not have a Triple Crown winner until they actually change something.  In my opinion, they should make ALL 3 races have the same conditions.  That is how Affirmed was able to defeat Alydar... what if Alydar had skipped the Preakness?  Think about it.

11 Jun 2014 12:20 AM

journeyman - agree 100%.

MRLady2014 - clueless.

PaulG - lengthening the time between races probably will make the triple crown harder to achieve.  

11 Jun 2014 6:48 AM
Lee in Virginia

Thanks for a great article.  This needed to be said.

11 Jun 2014 8:46 AM
lawrence vaccarelli

to Dawn in MN ...yes...and I agree

11 Jun 2014 10:43 AM
lawrence vaccarelli

to 31Smart ....you know back in those days there was no "test barn "...so yes they ran ran races close together....but what was the "fuel" ?.....food for thought.

11 Jun 2014 10:46 AM
lawrence vaccarelli

and before we go tweaking the triple crown, we need a national governing body...NOT  CHURCHILL DOWNS deciding on what races are good for points and which are not. a definite conflict of interest from a track which has its bias.

11 Jun 2014 10:49 AM

It's amazing how there are so many disagreement about the TC races. From points to earnings to schedule. Somehow what ills the industry is ignored.


Thoroughbreds that keep racing past their 3 year old into their 4th and hopefully 5th season so that they are in the mainstream headlines. Nobody knows milers like Uncle Mo or Shanghai Bobby. How many times have they been printed on mainstream headlines. Now check out Zenyatta.

It might be too late since most if not all the prestigious races has gone off mainstream headline except for the KD and the Belmont is the winner of KD wins the Preakness.

But this industry needs to go back to basic.


not just horses and sprinters and milers too me regardless of how good they are are NOT thoroughbreds.

11 Jun 2014 11:05 AM

First of all, we KNOW the time between the races has changed over the years. For instance: ".... Sir Barton's four wins were accomplished in a space of just 32 days.... (the 4th win being the Withers).

Secondly, Secretariat had time off from November to March. Seattle Slew did not run from October until March. Same for Affirmed. With the current point system, it might be doubtful that Street Sense, with a win in the Tampa Bay Derby (does that race even count anymore?) and a second in the Blue Grass may have even been in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Carl Nafzger would have been dictated by the racing schedule set forth by a posse of suits who stay in the air conditioned offices at Churchill Downs.

The problem is not fresh horses in the Belmont. The problem is the haughty attitude in Louisville that prevents REAL horsemen from being able to train three year olds in the way that is best for the horse.

Yes, Houston, we have a problem. Might as well face it. Write to CD and tell them to stop the insanity.

11 Jun 2014 11:21 AM

I have loved horseracing from when I was a little kid as my dad and I bonded over him teaching me to read the form but like its been said over and over the sport is dying and it is because it is now geared to breeding not racing. I love the breeding side but novices to the sport do not and so stay away in droves. The facilities need to be improved and the little guy , weather a 2 dollar bettor or a first ime owner, encouraged not disparaged. The TV contracts get more and more absurd and if I have to watch another celeb interview over information about the sport I will puke. Try to get the newbies interested in the history and the great horse (besides just Secretariat)The triple crown is no longer relavent - this from a guy who has every book on the subject. They refuse to change it but will drop all mention of sire and dam over hats that women have on. ANd no more commentators who dont know one end of the horse from another.

11 Jun 2014 1:23 PM

"... times have changed and horses don't run every two weeks any longer."

Why? Because the durable, hard-knocking Thoroughbred of days gone by no longer exists. Should the Triple Crown rules be blamed and criticized, or is it really about the overall state of the modern Thoroughbred breed?

11 Jun 2014 1:27 PM

As a former owner/trainer/breeder, with a bit more research, I would not change the spacing of the three races, but might offer one suggestion for the triple crown series.....and I realize it would "technically" change these races to "handicap"  BUT, when horses compete in either the Derby  or Preakness, or both prior to going on to the Belmont, how about a weight allowance of 3 pounds for the Derby and 3 pounds for the Preakness/6 pounds for both......so the so-called "fresh" horse would then carry 126 and a CA Chrome would carry 120!!!

11 Jun 2014 3:11 PM
broken crown

How about a simple solution that doesn't dramatically change the Triple Crown or decrease field size and at the same time rewards true sportsmanship and makes the races fairer to those who compete?

Change the weights of the Triple Crown races.

All horses should continue to carry equal weight in the Derby (126).

In the Preakness, give Derby starters a 5 pound weight allowanace (121) from the new shooters (126).

In the Belmont, Give horses that ran in the first two legs a 10 pound weight allowance (116) from the new shooters (126) and 7 pounds from horses competing in only one of the two prior Triple Crown races (123).

11 Jun 2014 4:00 PM

Thank you, Mr. Shinar! Yes, yes, yes, I totally agree! For heaven's sake, they don't run the Derby Trial on the Wednesday before the Derby anymore, do they? If they did, no one would enter! It's time for a change. "That's the way it's always been done" is not a good enough argument for maintaining the status quo.

11 Jun 2014 4:35 PM

You seem to fall in on the side of a lot of people today that think that we  as a society should subsidize mediocrity at every turn.  Chrome is not a mediocre horse, far from it, but the fact is he set no speed records in any of his races.  Unfortunately those other horses didn't realize how good Chrome is nor do they care when they literally stole the race right under his modified nose.   Coburn knew going in what the rules were so he has no legitimate reason to cry, but what you speak to is a broader question.   "When other sports face changing times, they adapt"  Indeed they do from first grade Tee Ball where everyone who shows up gets a trophy to major league sports where performance enhancing drugs take the place of ability and determination.  There will be another triple crown winner when breeders and trainers get better.

Chrome is a great horse, but he's not Northern Dancer, and will probably never produce a horse as good as he is nor will he leave behind a production record like Northern Dancer, who was not a triple crown winner either.  I have never owned a horse nor would I ever want to but I do admire people and animals that win.  In most instance animals in competition win in spite of what trainers and owners do not because of them. There's more to this story than meets the eye but I'd sooner watch water boil than venture out into the treacherous world of trying to write about race horses and that very nasty subject of "tradition".

Now you take care behind that cloak of journalism and I'll go feed my chickens. CD

11 Jun 2014 8:33 PM

I wasn't a big fan of Coburn's rant but as you point out he was headed in the right direction with some of his thoughts. The big difference is the Triple Crown races attract a lot more horses than a few decades ago. Nowadays more connections want their 15 minutes of fame by running in big three. In 1973, Secretariat met 12, 6 and 5 horses in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. This spring, California Chrome met 18, 9 and 10 horses. In another decade we will be seeing 20,20 and 20 horse fields in all three races. To win the Triple Crown, today, a horse must run the table against twice as many horses as Secretariat in a short 5 week span. And most of the Preakness and Belmont horses either skipped the Derby, the Preakness or both.. It will take a phenomenal horse to run the table under current modern circumstances. Racing experienced an incredible and instant growth in fan base with the emergence of California Chrome. All corners of mainstream media both local and national covered "Chromania". The "nasal strip" controversy was a national story. When was the last time that happened? Swaps/Nashua match race? It would have only grown bigger had he won the Belmont. Racing industry leaders should take heed, in a big way, to what just occurred. A Triple Crown Champion or two or three could generate the excitement needed to re-grow a fan base. Spread the three races out so that the winner of the Derby and Preakness is not at such a huge disadvantage running against significantly larger fields of new and or fresh horses. The move would do nothing to diminish tradition but would allow for a more fair opportunity at running the table against a bunch of new and fresh horses entering the series..

11 Jun 2014 9:58 PM
Bobby j

On the day when Secretariat won the Belmont you could have entered a hundred fresh horses in that race and the results still would have been the same.  

11 Jun 2014 11:21 PM

As long as they use a point system to qualify for the Derby, they should do the same for the rest of the series. Coburn could have said it better, but he spoke from the heart. I agree with most of what he said.

11 Jun 2014 11:41 PM
Rock man

Victor Espinoza should spend some time riding in Belmont park

The Belmont track is so different to other tracks in the world

The final long stretch in going 1 1/2 mile I would never take my horse outside to add to the distance CC has given you what you asked every time

I would not question CC if I were you

12 Jun 2014 2:36 AM
Rock man

Victor Espinoza needs to admit he was at fault for the way he rode CC for not having faith in CC for questioning the distance

CC did everything you asked him have faith

12 Jun 2014 2:39 AM
Rock man

CC gave all of us horse racing fans something special and it just makes me feel like we did not appreciate what he did for us all the memories we will have for the rest of our lives

12 Jun 2014 2:43 AM

I believe the word "rigged" is too strong and suggests illegality or something underhanded is at play.  Maybe "structured" would be a better term.  Fact remains, however, that those three races are not stages in one competition, they are separate entities.  Being in one race has nothing to do with being in one or both of the others.  I would have hated to have A.P. Indy denied a chance at the Belmont because he missed the Derby...bruised foot the morning of the race...and then the Preakness while waiting for his injury to heal.  He, like Tonalist, won the Peter Pan and then the Belmont.  Why should he or any other horse be penalized?  If one wants to shoot for the Belmont and not the other two, it's their prerogative. You mention that Chrome had to race two weeks before the Derby, something his connections didn't want to have to do.  Well, so did horses who won the Triple Crown in the 70s.  The races then (Wood Memorial) were two weeks before the Derby.  Yes, Chrome faced fresh horses, but....  If it became a competition of the same horses facing each other three separate times, with no new entrants, it would be pretty boring and nobody would care. How meaningful would it be if one horse beat the exact same field of, say, 13 other horses three times in a row?  (Does your being from California have anything to do with your opinion here?  :-)  )

12 Jun 2014 9:26 AM

What a load of drivel.  Changing the format of the Triple Crown by lengthening the time between races tarnishes it irreparably.  End it now, and start the snowflake challenge, admitting today's North American Thoroughbreds are incapable of running classic distances without months between races.  In Australia, trainers frequently use 10f races a week or two before as preparation for the 2-mile Melbourne Cup.  This is even done by horses with mostly USA bred parents.  Maybe instead of changing the format which has produced 11 champions, we return the sport to the "no race-day medication" of 40 years ago, when 3 horses managed to win.  

12 Jun 2014 10:35 AM
Arts and Letters

Let's say a rule had always been in place where horses had to run in all three triple crown races.

This would have eliminated:

Man O'War

Conquistador Cielo

AP Indy

Rags to Riches

And probably quite a few others if one researches further back.

This would ensure that the Triple Crown winner would be "not necessarily the best three year old of the year".  

Say a horse wins that kind of triple crown, but there's another, much better 3 year old that year, who couldn't start in the Derby for whatever reason, but wins everything else.  That would absolutely ensure the Triple Crown's insignificance.

13 Jun 2014 1:05 PM

I do agree with one of the author's observations:

"But like the connections for Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, they are likely a one-hit wonder and will soon be forgotten." I'm confident this has not yet occured to Steve Coburn.

13 Jun 2014 5:28 PM
Arts and Letters

I forgot to include Rachel Alexandra and Bernardini.

13 Jun 2014 5:53 PM

lets keep this simple, Keep the point system the way it is, only change for now lets say, the top 50 point getters become eligible for any of the 3 triple crown races, that way zero point getters don't get in the race

you must run to earn way into the crown.

14 Jun 2014 9:16 AM
Soldier Course

Rock Man:

I love your post about California Chrome. When I first read it I was puzzled. How can this person say that we have failed the horse in a sense, after all the love that everyone has poured out to him? But I kept thinking about what you said.

Here's what I take from your message: although I am not a Buddhist, I see that perhaps we failed to honor the "present moment" in California Chrome's journey through the three races. As soon as he crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs, we started thinking about the Preakness, and so on. We should have appreciated the fact that he won the Kentucky Derby and a spare, rather than hoping he'd give us more. California Chrome came from the clouds, and it is miraculous that he accomplished what he did. His story is about his winning the Kentucky Derby. It is not about his losing the Triple

Crown. I believe Art Sherman understands this.

I hope I remember this lesson for as long as I continue to follow horse racing.

14 Jun 2014 1:56 PM

I would like to think that all of the posters in favour of restricting entry in the Belmont have never been among those lamenting the lack of stamina in U.S. breeding, but I wouldn't bet on it.

The Belmont is the one significant showcase for the talents of the dirt stayer, and you want to throw up barriers to stayers running in it? If they must acquire Derby points, they will have to run earlier, in shorter races, than is optimal for their development. (That is, because they often develop more slowly, even less optimal than for milers.)

This Belmont was a clinic on slow twitch/quick twitch muscles. Romans and Pletcher indicated their understanding of the physiology of stamina. Quick twitch muscles are not so much sprinters' muscles as they are emergency speed muscles. They fire quicker. They're used at the break, to regain momentum after a check, to accelerate when headed, to find that extra gear, to make the final lunge at the wire. Deep closing is a strategy to deal with a lack of stamina; if you can have your horse canter the first 4 furlongs of a 12 furlong race, burning the oxygen that he breathes without using up the fuel (glycogen) stored for his quick twitch muscles, you turn it into a mile. If stamina is not a concern, put him on the lead. A grinder needs every yard of head start you can give him, because he can't match acceleration with a horse with a lot of quick twitch capacity closing late. Dale Romans did the right thing putting as much speed into Medal Count as he could. It looked as though MC had been put away, but eventually there he was alongside again. He just didn't have the capacity for instant acceleration. And in the shadow of the wire, the Tapit blood supplied the winning surge.

The (THE) Derby was just won by Australia, by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner. There are still people who think that's a no-brainer. The Japanese began their breeding programs on this theory, but they learned. This was only the second Derby-on-Oaks-bred winner in centuries. Usually, stamina on stamina gives you hunters.

Secretariat was great, Affirmed was better than Alydar, it's nice to see a race confirm what you already believe. But for me this was one of the great Belmonts, doing what the classics are supposed to do: displaying the breeding qualities of the best colts. I hope not all breeders were watching that fourth/fifth horse. They missed a clinic.

And speaking of which, the scuff on CC's leg wasn't bothering him at all; he was jogging and walking perfectly sound after the race.

15 Jun 2014 4:18 AM

Well written and thank you for sticking up for the little guy.

16 Jun 2014 6:18 AM

There is a trend to downplay the achievements of the "little" guys in racing.  I ran a horse the other day and the HRTV and TVG guys were ebullient in the praise of a couple of high profile trainers in the race, and at the same time made snide remarks about "no win trainer; no win owner" in dismissing my filly even though she is by Tapit and had had several good races albeit a while back.  She promptly dispatched the field and won for fun but the rude remarks continued.  I find it appalling that these folks gush over the "big" guys but fail to realize that without those that know we are up against it each time we race but do it for the love of the sport, the "big" guys could not race because there would not be enough horses.  The smaller barns that fill races make racing go not the stakes horses because statistically, there just are not that many.  Hopefully, and I won't hold my breath, they will change but I doubt it.

17 Jun 2014 7:37 AM

Very well put. I have made similar comments elsewhere on this website only to be met with derision and hostility. How sad is it that the very people invested in the sport cannot recognize that the sport has become all about poor sportsmanship?? The TC winners of yore faced the same horses, all racing back to back races. It was just how it was done; unwritten rules I suppose.

Now the "sport" seems to be knocking off the winner of the Derby with fresh horses in the next 2 legs.

The same people that support this will likely scratch their heads in wonder at the demise of horse racing.

18 Jun 2014 7:48 PM

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