California Chrome's Owner Was Wrong In Every Way

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Belmont Park - Wikipedia ImageAfter California Chrome came up short in the Belmont Stakes his owner, Steve Coburn, threw a fit. He called the owners of horses that had skipped the Kentucky Derby or Preakness "cheaters" and "cowards." And he suggested that horses should be not be allowed to run in the Belmont unless they had also run in both the Derby and the Preakness.

I understand his disappointment. But disappointment is no excuse to act like a small child and throw the game board in the air because you lost.

Let's be clear. California Chrome was not cheated out of the Triple Crown. Tonalist's connections obeyed the rules as did those of all the other horses in the race. And it's not like "new shooters" or "fresh horses" are a recent development. Enduring the grind of the Triple Crown while beating fresher horses is something every Triple Crown winner has had to do.

Moreover, the notion that something should be done to make the Triple Crown easier to win is profoundly misguided. As Jimmy Dugan said in A League of Their Own, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."

If you limited the Preakness to horses that had run in the Derby and then limited the Belmont Stakes to horses that had run in both the Derby and the Preakness you might have three or four Triple Crown winners in every decade. But who would care?

The Triple Crown is a measure of greatness. Ordinary horses aren't supposed to win it. Good horses aren't supposed to win it. It is reserved for the truly great - Affirmed, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Citation...

Would it honor their memory to dumb down the acheivement just so we could see it happen more frequently? Of course not.