A Point That Should Be Debated


Bob 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.”


And with that, I’ll take this time to conclude my 2014 Triple Crown coverage by adding my two cents on the discussion.


My 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.


And 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.


So, 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.


I 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.


Coburn’s 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.


That’s 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.  


I 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. 


Secretariat, 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. 


Any 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. 


Now 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 Chrome.


One 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.




Sure, 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 horse.


Then 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.


My 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.


Not 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 sports.


Finally, 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.


Although 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.


As for the Triple Crown, the quest continues and while it does, I firmly believe their will be an eventual winner. 


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Older Comments about A Point That Should Be Debated...

whats with the bashing of Bob Costas? That is his job and that is why he gets paid for it. He is one of the best sports reporter ever and has the background he went to Syracuse Some of the best are from there. Mike Tirico is one from Espn. Sometimes you have to ask tough questions he got sandusky in that interview really off subject but he is good.
I'm not convinced that the triple crown is not broken, when you look at the usage of Lasix since our last winner. There is no doubt the playing field nor the conditions in which a horse is asked to run have changed. These horses are not able to run this close together while on this drug.
You need a NON-ROOKIE announcer to talk about great races. Hammond or Kenny Rice for example
There is NO point in what Coburn said. Nor is there any validity to what Costas said in saying that it is worth a debate. Costas is too hung up on the Triple Crown acting like nothing else matters when it does not happen.
Omaha was beaten by Rosemont in the Withers before he won the TC.
Got cut off. Ran in the Withers between the Derby and Preakness. Omaha would run in the Withers between the Preakness and Belmont.
Sword. Citation ran in the Jersey Stakes between the Preakness and Belmont. Native Dancer ran in the Withers between the Derby
Buckpasser...Didn't Citation run an allowance race between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes?
It's not supposed to be easy... The triple crown is for the greatest if the greats....
I was curious about the time between the Derby and Preakness. I started with 1932 and the usual time between the Derby and Preakness was 1 week. 1936 saw a two week interval as did the 1948 races. Hoop Jr.'sDerby in 1945 was run on June 9 and the Preakness that year was June 16 the which was probably because of the War. In 1949 you had a consistent time period between the two races of one week until you come to the 1953 races where there is a 21 day gap between the Derby and Preakness. This 21 day gap between the two races is true for the 1954 and 1955 renewals. From 1956 on you have the two week gap pretty consistently. ( just for the record I did not use either 1930 or 1931 races because the Preakness came before the Derby those years.)
While Coburn is the lightening rod because of his comments about fresh horses in the Belmont who have skipped the Preakness. Actually the person who really started this discussion is the head of Pimlico who said he was speaking to the other tracks to spread the TC out. Why? Because he said too few horses who run in the Derby and then come back and run in the Preakness. Instead they wait for the Belmont which dovetails with Coburn's argument.
If you want to keep the Triple Crown historic then you will have to have horses race every two to 4 weeks all year long. This months between races is for the new fangled horse than never runs very far or very often. If a horse cannot accomplish what has been the tradition then it is not tradition anymore is it?? So either we keep it like it used to be or you might as well change it. Which of these horses ran 13 times in a year?
ONE of the things I actually heard old D. Wayne say that was rational: SPREAD out the time between races in the Triple so that MORE colts could run in the entire series. THAT is a good idea so that there would be MORE competitive animals available for each leg. He also added that they should add the Travers to the mix for the late bloomers. That latter suggestion, although rational, would not go over with too many tradionalists. THe FORMER idea would allow for more of the better three year olds to be around all Summer
I'm with you on all counts!!!! Any change to the series invalidates it entirely! It is NOT supposed to be easy and I don't care how long it takes to get a winner. That just seems to be today's society - if something is hard, let's just make it easier....ridiculous! I would especially hate to see a change made based on Mr Coburns fit - you don't get to change the rules of the game because you lost! I really don't know why everyone is making such a big deal about the 36 years anyways - one person on another site mentioned a baseball tean that had not won a championship since 1908 (and others will long draughts too) but nobody is trying to change their rules....
If they change the format, it will tarnish the sport.
Exactly, Bp, Coburn 's position was that there was an advantage to a horse that did not run in all three TC races.
Actually Medal Count doesn't blow the argument out, but rather reinforces the issue. Medal Count ran in the Derby and the Belmont and skipped the Preakness.
Good call Drew.But be careful in what you are saying. After that kind of talk,Baby Huey might actually make a comeback with a follow up rant.
What about the works he had at Belmont sullivan....?
One question Gelderidgling? If you owned a racehorse and spent Millions and Millions of dollars in the game. You have a horse who is arguably in the top 3. Issues prevented him or her from competing in all of the qualifying races. Yet the horse came back to qualify from either 16th to 20th place in the rankings . Would you still feel that way . I laugh as to how people who have absolutely no vested interest in the game want to change the rules Please do not think this is a personal attack on you,if it seems that way i apologize. Just that Derby is the one race that i would confidently say,that 90 % of the owners would bend over backwards to run in . Yet lets reduce this lifelong dream for many,just so we can have a better shot to win the TC crown or whatever reason one can come up with.
  • darkhuntera · You don't have to spend millions and millions to be in the top three. Cali Chrome proved that and that's why his story appealed to so many people. And which top 3 are you talking about? Top three finishers in a race? Top three ranked by some handicapper? The situation you mention currently happens to the horses 20-23000, should we open the Kentucky Derby to all horses (based on your logic)? This is not an attack on you, just all those who want to keep things the same, without a good reason (tradition is not a reason). · 1259 days ago
  • geldedridgling · Absolutely I would feel the same way. Let’s be clear on one thing: The Kentucky Derby is more an ego trip than a great or competitive race. The best horse in the field rarely wins the race. Some horses get hurt in the race and never race again. Half the field is simply not talented enough to win but the owners/trainers push the horses in the race anyway. The Derby pays a lot of money, but it’s not the richest race in America and there are other prestigious 3 year old races to run in. And if my horse is good enough the Breeders’ Cup is later in the year and the World Cup is on dirt again starting next year. · 1259 days ago

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