Coburn: ‘I would win the Kentucky Derby and go home’
California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, less than a day after his horse failed to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, is standing by his controversial postrace comments and says that, if the current rules setup is not changed, he will never again race a Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness Stakes.
“Absolutely, sure. I would win the Kentucky Derby and go home,” Coburn told FOXSports.com by phone Sunday when asked whether he would be hesitant in the future to race a Derby winner in the Preakness, given his now widely publicized stance that only horses that run in those races should be allowed in the Belmont.
Coburn’s rant, broadcast live by NBC to a national audience, was borne of the fact that Belmont winner Tonalist had not raced in either the Derby or the Preakness. “If it had been one of the owners of Ride on Curlin or General a Rod,” Coburn told FOXSports.com, “I’d have been the first to congratulate them, because they’re playing the game. They’re going all the way.”
As of now, Coburn does not have any plans to fight the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, horse racing’s official body, the Maryland Jockey Club, or the New York Racing Association to change the rule setup, which allows any horse that qualifies for one Triple Crown race to compete in any of them. For now, he’s planning on that fight, in whatever form it may take, coming from the supporters who have texted and called him since he made his comments.
“I’ve gotten hundreds of text messages in my favor,” he said. Coburn also conceding that not everyone supported his stance, saying: “A bunch of them called me an a**hole.”
However, Coburn said he does not ever expect to actually see the rules changed: “Probably not. Probably not.”
Coburn also apologized for comments he made Sunday to Good Morning America that any unfairness in the current setup was akin to “me, at 6-2 … playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair.”
I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings about children in wheelchairs because that’s not who I am.
California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn, apologizing to comments he made Sunday on "Good Morning America"
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings about children in wheelchairs,” he told FOXSports.com, “because that’s not who I am.”
Upon further reflection, Coburn said a more appropriate comparison would be like “Victor Espinoza, our jockey, playing basketball against Wilt Chamberlain. You know who’s going to get more dunks.”
Going into the Kentucky Derby, Coburn admitted that he and his team, which hail from Northern California, didn’t have much of a roadmap beyond the Kentucky Derby, even though his horse was the morning-line favorite.
“We had a plan mapped out for the Kentucky Derby, and that was as far as the plan went,” Coburn said. “So we had to sit down and say, ‘Well, we’re here in Kentucky, Maryland (home of The Preakness) is just right up the road. Let’s see what we have.’
“If California Chrome had not won the Kentucky Derby, we would have gone home.”