The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Sports Columns

June 7, 2014

Rick Teverbaugh: Sour grapes enter into Belmont

Now, at least, we have something to discuss beyond what went wrong with California Chrome.

The horse's owner, Steve Coburn, said that Tonalist's wins in Saturday's Belmont Stakes was a "coward's" way to win. Tonalist skipped the first two legs of the Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — and pointed toward the Belmont.

Coburn made a point on national television after the race that he believes no horse should be able to compete in one Triple Crown race without competing in the other two. On the surface, it seems like a valid point, and it is but only partially.

Certainly a case can be made that horses who didn't compete in the other two races over the five weeks leading up to the Belmont have an advantage in terms of freshness. None of the horses who finished ahead of California Chrome ran all three races in the Triple Crown series.

Perhaps a rule change would give us more Triple Crown winners, but would it then cheapen those who do it? Certainly.

But Coburn was clearly wrong in using the word "coward" against the owners and trainer of Saturday's winner. Tonalist clearly was a legal entrant in the Belmont. Until rules would be changed, there's nothing wrong with the tactics used to get him the win.

There is another reason the tirade spoken by Coburn doesn't ring true.

First of all, where were his protests about Tonalist and other horses who didn't run in the other two races prior to Saturday's race? In fact, if the rule was in place that only horses who competed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness could run in the Belmont, there would have only been two horses for California Chrome to beat Saturday — Ride On Curlin and General A Rod.

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