SBD/June 9, 2014/Events and Attractions

Chrome Co-Owner Steve Coburn Sharply Criticized For Post-Race Complaints

Coburn this morning offered an apology for his controversial basketball analogy
California Chrome co-Owner Steve Coburn following the horse's failed Triple Crown attempt at Saturday's Belmont Stakes "blasted a system that allows anyone" to run in the Belmont after "skipping both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness," according to Michael Whitmer of the BOSTON GLOBE. Coburn "specifically" criticized first- and second-place finishers Tonalist and Commissioner. He said, "I look at it this way: If you can’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races. This is a coward’s way out, in my opinion. You know what? If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three. Those 20 horses that start in the Kentucky Derby are the only 20 eligible to run in all three races" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/8). In N.Y., Harvey Araton noted Coburn spent the post-race "attacking the time-honored process of strategizing owners and trainers trying to ambush the Triple Crown." Araton: "Out of the winner’s circle for the first time this spring, he was crying conspiracy." But the "truth is, it has forever been the same old story around the Triple Crown season" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/8). ESPN.com's Bob Ehalt wrote California Chrome's loss "silenced much of the crowd, but not Coburn, who vented on NBC about a system that he labeled as unfair to his horse." But for Coburn, the "rant against the structure of the Triple Crown was nothing new." He offered "similar comments" after the Preakness (ESPN.com, 6/7). The AP's Beth Harris noted California Chrome trainer Art Sherman "thought Coburn would apologize for his comments," but instead Coburn "went even further" yesterday. Coburn told ABC's "Good Morning America," "It wouldn't be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair because I got an unfair advantage" (AP, 6/8). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes Coburn's basketball analogy was "distasteful" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/9). However, Coburn did offer an apology on this morning's episode of "GMA" (THE DAILY).

WAIT... HE MIGHT BE RIGHT? In Louisville, Tim Sullivan writes there is a "narrow thread in Coburn's argument that is deserving of discussion," as Tonalist became the "ninth straight Belmont Stakes winner to have skipped the Preakness." Coburn's "mistake was in couching his complaints as character assassination rather than systemic injustice" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/9). In N.Y., William Rhoden writes a "peculiar aspect of Saturday’s race was that both camps -- that of the denied Triple Crown contender, California Chrome, and that of the lightly raced winner, Tonalist -- had complaints about the racing industry." Tonalist Owner Robert Evans "wants more space between the races." He said, "It’s better for the horses, and it would be better to promote it, I think -- a lot more time to create interest.” Evans, who spent 20 years as a member of the NYRA's BOD, "criticized the industry, and NYRA in particular, for failing to optimally market the sport." Evans "wondered aloud why NYRA didn’t regularly advertise its product" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/9). In Trenton, Mark Eckel writes under the header, "Like It Or Not, Steve Coburn Is Right About Triple Crown" (TRENTON TIMES, 6/9). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes, "When racing people get over their purse-lipped disapproval of Coburn’s outburst, they’ll see he has a good point." Coburn’s "point-blankness will be called classless or crude by some, but the fact is, he’s right" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/9). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote, "The messenger simply let his emotions run away with him and trampled all over the message, which would have been better delivered at a later date." A "legitimate complaint simply came across as sour grapes" (Baltimore SUN, 6/8).

IMPACT OF CHANGING THE RULES: The Baltimore SUN's Schmuck wrote it "seems unlikely that the format will be changed that drastically, but it seems likely that this latest Triple Crown near miss will intensify the effort to lengthen the intervals between the three races" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 6/7). In Denver, Terry Frei writes changing the rules now would "diminish the accomplishment of winning the Triple Crown under modern conditions" (DENVER POST, 6/9). SI.com's Tim Layden wrote, "To what end would the series be altered? To force a Triple Crown winner so the sport can finally breathe again? Is that necessary?" (SI.com, 6/8). ESPN's Howard Bryant asked, “Do you need to create something new to save the sport? I don't think so. This is the fun part of it. You had three Triple Crown winners in the ‘70s. It’s cyclical, it’s going to happen again” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 6/8). Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes, "Can we stop pretending that the Triple Crown has always been set up this way? Only three of the 11 Triple Crown winners got it done under the present format" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/9).

COMING DOWN ON COBURN: ESPN.com's Steve Davidowitz wrote Coburn "probably should have covered his mouth with a breathing strip or walked into a private soundproofed room before he conjured up the forces of evil as having conspired against his classy colt" (ESPN.com, 6/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde wrote Coburn "made a spectacle of himself on the way out of the massive old track." He "schmoozed with the public and he napalmed the winners in varying turns." Coburn is a "guy whose act has worn thin after five weeks of shamelessly hamming it up in a spotlight he'd never known before" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/7). In Boston, Steve Buckley wrote, "Before our eyes the feel-good story turned into one of those youth hockey tournaments when otherwise sane parents scream and shout and decry the injustice of it all" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/8). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote Coburn "devolved into a party pooper of the worst kind" (ESPNNY.com, 6/7). In Lexington, John Clay wrote, "It's a shame that Coburn's delivery of sour grapes tarnishes what had been a heart-warming story of a couple of work-a-day guys who spun a $10,000 investment into gold" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/8). The Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL's Sullivan wrote Coburn was "all mouth" and "no manners." He is a "boorish blowhard" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/8). In N.Y., Steve Serby wrote it was the "wrong time and the wrong place for a conspiracy theory" (N.Y. POST, 6/8). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Coburn "turned out to be a great frontrunner and a Belmont loser like his horse" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/8). In San Diego, Matt Calkins wrote under the header, "California Chrome's Owner Had No Class" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/8). In S.F., Pete Iorizzo wrote under the header, "Owner's Rant Puts A Ding In Story Of California Chrome" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/8).
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