~ Amy Lignor
There are many still angry. There are many still upset and saddened because, as with all major moments in sports, this past Saturday the people got a chance to cheer one of their own underdogs. Not underdogs when it came to racing, itself; but an underdog when it came to being an outsider in the usual ‘hoity-toity’ sport of horse racing.
Over the past five weeks, people gave their hearts to a horse with white socks named, California Chrome. This horse, winning both Derby and Preakness, increased excitement. But, with Belmont, it almost felt like the royals had come in and trounced the commoners, then turned up their noses to remind us and the ‘peoples’ horse of our place in the social stratosphere.
California Chrome is one of those hero’s that represent the ‘normal’ hardworking person; he makes people want to wave a flag in the air and scream “God Bless America” even if they know nothing or care nothing about horse racing to begin with. This is a horse that won the first two ‘biggies’ before Belmont escaped him. Unfortunately, this is NOT the first time this has happened.
In fact, not since 1978 has a horse won the Triple Crown. One of the reasons for that, many say, is the fact that a horse can be placed in the Belmont without ever competing in the Derby and in the Preakness. Which means, the horse is fresh and already has a huge edge over the other horses to win the long race.
But…is that fair? For some, California Chrome’s loss of the Triple Crown represents a huge flaw in the system of horse racing. Think about it. Take the NFL, for instance, if you are unsure about horse racing. The AFC and NFC Champions have been crowned. But before they can play each other in the Super Bowl, a ‘loser’ is picked from a hat in each Division and are given a shot to dethrone the champions before actually playing a Super Bowl. A) Second chances are American Idol’s rules and should not be used in football. B) Can you imagine how angry a Seahawks fan would have been if that was the rule and, say, the Saints came in, had a god day and headed to the Super Bowl all because they were given another chance? If so, then you might understand how angry Steve Coburn is right now. He believes that this ridiculous rule in horse racing, allowing a horse to be entered even if they have not run the first two of the big three, is wrong.
The atmosphere of Seabiscuit came out with California Chrome; he had all the makings of a legend: A horse created with absolutely no money
paid for Ma and Pa to have him; a horse with an owner who worked (although Coburn is definitely not worried about where his next meal is coming from now); and a jockey that was a true worker – one of the people. This was a recipe for an American success story!
The debate raging is that Coburn was being a real jerk after the race was won and Chrome did not earn the Triple Crown…but, his reasoning is actually agreed upon by millions across the country. Tonalist won Belmont. However, this is a horse that did not compete in the Derby OR the Preakness. The second place winner was ALSO a newbie, with Belmont being his debut.
When Coburn spoke after the race, it was his final statement that will be replayed over and over again forever: “This is the coward’s way out.” Poor sportsmanship is being attached to Coburn for ‘spoiling’ California Chrome’s sterling image and fantastic ride. Many say the horse deserved better; so does Coburn, however, he thinks Chrome deserved better by being up against other horses that had proved themselves worthy to be at Belmont in the first place.
In sports, bad rules and regulations represent part of the agony of defeat. And as far as the race being fair is concerned, simply put: Yes, it was. Tonalist was the clear winner. And even if he and Commissioner had not been on that track, Chrome was still in a dead-heat tie for fourth place, not third.
Best thing to remember is that California Chrome will go down in history as a bright light in the world of horse racing. Seabiscuit gave heart and soul for the sport, and Chrome is one that should be given accolades for doing the same. He got fans out of their chairs and routing for the guy who no one thought had a chance to win even one of the big three, let alone two.
Congrats to Chrome!