Costas joined NBC’s Today Show on Monday morning to follow up on the 2014 Belmont Stakes. When asked about his response to Steve Coburn’s comments he
responded, “He raises a point that should be debated.”
with that, I’ll take this time to conclude my 2014 Triple Crown coverage by adding
my two cents on the discussion.
opinion is deeply rooted in tradition as I am staunch admirer of sports
accomplishments that often seem untouchable. Much like California Chrome I
always look forward to the next athlete that will pull a feat to within
reach. Then once they get there, and the speculation swells, there’s nothing like
seeing history take a back seat to an athlete that challenged and overcame.
that’s what all of us want to see in the world of horse racing. But because we
want it so bad are willing to bend the rules in order to embrace the next
champion? If so, what then we will call the Belmont Stakes? In my opinion, “Test
of the Champion” will no longer apply.
if we stick to the way it is, how many more times will we have to describe it as;
Almost. That I don’t know, but I still
think the next Triple Crown is not too far away. One of the biggest reasons is
because I have the hardest time believing the glory days of the 1970’s are so
far removed from this, the modern era of horse racing.
will acknowledge that the breeding has changed since then and that many other
variables have, as well. However, when you look at its core, is when you
will notice there isn’t anything different between then and now.
wish for the 2014 Triple Crown was, “it’s all or nothing”. And by that he was
describing his disdain for anyone that challenged his colt after skipping the
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
where Mr. Coburn’s reaction struck me as disappointing, inaccurate and the epitome
of a sore loser. Though his words were sour, there is actually one thing that I
could not agree with more. “Well, I thought he was gaining ground but he didn’t
have it in him apparently.” As tough as it was, I was rooting for him too, that
is sometimes what happens when an athlete faces a triumph so rare the name and legacy of the most talented will forever be remembered by it.
apologize that I did not dig any deeper into the racing immortals before the big
3 of the 1970’s, but this should prove without a doubt what side of the debate
that I am on. I’m sure many of you already knew, or maybe just learned, but in
case you want more specifics, this should also prove that recent history does not
support the owner of California Chrome, or his wish to be unchallenged by the
best colts in the 3-yr-old division.
In comparison to the 70's the
amount of time between races is the exact same. The distance of each race is also
the same. And as we see, it’s very rare that the majority of Belmont
Stakes entries also raced in the first two jewels of the Triple Crown. Contrary to many beliefs, the Kentucky Derby is the only Triple Crown race with so many conditions for qualification. But it has to because it is the granddaddy of them all. But to say that the horses I highlighted above only faced Kentucky Derby qualifiers in the Belmont where as California Chrome did not is simply not the case.
In order to gain membership into one of the most exclusive clubs in sports you
have to beat every starter, regardless of how often they have
raced, where they raced last or what their connections are aiming to do. If
they are there to spoil, get to the wire first.
Seattle Slew and Affirmed had IT as they were just too good. They would not be
denied and in the end they were much better than California Chrome. In order to end up there the rest of the team has to be ready as well because the horse will need the best strategy, the best ride and sometimes just good luck.
horse, however, that ever scores two of the three jewels is still a special
horse. They too are talented and should never be criticized for coming up short
because the Triple Crown is very tough to win. This is especially true when you have to face and endure a sudden injury at the worst possible moment; breaking from the starting gate. A grabbed quarter can be nasty and it sure didn't help California Chrome's chances in the Belmont Stakes.
that I have made my case as to what Coburn was missing, I will acknowledge that
it appears that some connections are just cherry picking and waiting in New
York for the champion to arrive. Unfortunately, the majority that feels this
way aren’t too familiar with horse racing, including the owners of California
thing that Tonalist is not receiving a lot of credit for is that he returned 28
days after his win in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes to score the G1 Belmont Stakes in
impressive fashion. While he may have been fresher, I believe the word “fresh”
being used to describe so many Triple Crown spoilers is a bit excessive.
prior to 2014 and excluding Big Brown in 2008, the past two Triple Crown
spoilers skipped the Preakness Stakes. But, when anyone talks about 2004, doesn't the
overwhelming majority believe that Smarty Jones missed his chance at
immortality by racing too hot, too soon versus being defeated by a fresher
how many people ever want to talk about Lemon Drop Kid. He never gets credit
for also racing 3 times in 35 days versus top 3-yr-old talent. Then the stats
in 1979 and 1981 just blew me away as the winners of the Kentucky Derby and
Preakness Stakes were actually fresher than the eventual Belmont Stakes winners.
final point in the debate is something else that I feel isn’t talked about
enough when this discussion is going on, especially on national television. We
are only a nose away from this conversation being obsolete. And who was it that
edged Real Quiet in 1998; Victory Gallop, a hard charging champion that also
battled him in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Like
1987 and 1989, it was a fierce competitor that was there racing head to head
every step of the way. We always seem to point to the horses that were new to
the arena where as we leave these tremendous athletes out of the conversation
because that year was different.
in my opinion, for they were the exact same; very good horses that were chasing
the best so far. When that happens, the stakes go up, the game gets tougher and
winning becomes even more challenging. And at the end of the day, that’s
with respect to Steve Coburn, despite the embarrassment he caused himself, his team, and the sport, I will end by saying that his apology to the
connections of Tonalist, the horse racing industry, and fans, was well received
by me. His attack fueled by the frustration of his dreams coming undone may
always tarnish the reputation of one California Chrome but I cannot tie his horse, trainer or jockey to his actions or words.
he almost officially became America’s Horse, it was a good show while it
lasted. Congratulations, California Chrome on an unforgettable ride. Congratulations, Art Sherman for proving that the engine only stops when it is ready. Finally,
congrats to Victor Espinoza on becoming a four-time Triple Crown race winner.
for the Triple Crown, the quest continues and while it does, I firmly believe
their will be an eventual winner.