California Chrome's frustrated owner could use a lesson in sportsmanship, said NBC sports analyst Bob Costas.
After he saw his Triple Crown hopes dashed Saturday by a horse who only raced in the final leg, the Belmont Stakes, owner Steve Coburn reacted with a bitter rant a day later on TODAY. He accused rivals of taking "the coward's way out" by skipping both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Racing is “all about money. Not about the horses or the sport. It’s all about the pocket book,” Coburn told Erica Hill.
On Monday, Coburn apologized "to the world and America" for his comments, saying he was "very ashamed of myself" for speaking out during an emotional moment.
"First of all, I need to apologize to the winners," he said on Good Morning America. "They run a beautiful race. Their horse won the race; they deserve that. I did not mean to take anything away from them."
Coburn also apologized to his wife, Carolyn, who tried to calm him down while he spoke up following the race.
On TODAY Monday, Costas said that Coburn's initial complaints were "bad timing, bad sportsmanship, sour grapes, sore loser, bad in every respect.”
“It is a fact that the last nine Belmonts have all been won by horses that skipped the Preakness. Fresher horses have an advantage,” he told Savannah Guthrie.
California Chrome’s owner, Steve Coburn, lashed out on TODAY Sunday, a day after his horse failed to become the first to clinch the Triple Crown in 36 years. The Belmont Stakes instead went to long shot, Tonalist. Coburn called it “unfair” that only three horses in the Belmont Stakes had completed in the previous two legs of the Triple Crown.
Costas said Coburn joins a growing list of exasperated race horse owners.
“Only three out of the 13 (Triple Crown hopefuls) that won the Belmont had run in all three of the races,” he said. “So Coburn and his connections, the rest of California Chrome’s connections are not alone in this frustration.”
Costas said that Coburn’s criticism “raises a point that should be debated” about whether only horses that run in the Kentucky Derby should be eligible to compete in the next two legs of the Triple Crown.
The issue has strong supporters and detractors on both sides.
“There are those who say you have to have a historical coherence, and that’s why it’s so difficult to do,” he said. “And if you change the format and make it a little bit easier, then you won’t be able to compare whoever becomes the 12th Triple Crowner to the 11 who have preceded that horse. “
While horse racing analysts may be split on whether rules need to be changed, TODAY viewers were more aligned in their beliefs. A TODAY survey found that about 80 percent felt it wasn't fair that California Chrome lost to a horse that didn't run in the Derby or Preakness.