Before a crowd of tens of thousands hoping to see history, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner finished in a dead-heat for fourth with Wicked Strong. California Chrome's loss extended the longest drought without a Triple Crown champion to 36 years. Then, in an interview with Yahoo! Sports Saturday, Coburn called the horses that skipped the first two races of the Triple Crown and just raced in the Belmont Stakes "cheaters" who took the "coward's way out."
On Sunday, the 61-year-old Coburn said he had no regrets about his comments Saturday and continued to rail against the Triple Crown system, which allowed Tonalist to race Saturday even though the horse didn't compete in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes.
"It says Triple Crown. You nominate your horse for the Triple Crown. That means three," Coburn said in the track-side interview with ESPN on Sunday. "Even the Triple Crown trophy has three points on it. So when you earn enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby, those 20 horses that start in the Kentucky Derby should be the only 20 allowed to run in the Preakness and the Belmont for the Triple Crown."
He also made a questionable analogy of why Tonalist's participation Saturday was unfair.
"These people nominate their horses for the Triple Crown and then they hold out two [races] and then come back and run one," Coburn told ESPN. "That would be like me at 6-2 playing basketball with a kid in a wheelchair. They haven't done anything with their horses in the Triple Crown. There were three horses in this race that ran in the first two -- California Chrome, Ride on Curlin and General a Rod -- none of the other horses did. You figure out. You ask yourself, 'Would it be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheel chair?"
Coburn made the analogy in both interviews Sunday morning. He was asked in the "Good Morning America interview" if he considered the comparison offensive.
"No, I'm just trying to compare the two," he said. "Is it fair for me to play with this child in a wheelchair? Is it fair for them to hold their horses back?"
Coburn said he has no problems if people label him a "sore loser" and even proceeded to give out his phone number so people can call him with their complaints.
Art Sherman, the 77-year-old trainer of California Chrome, distanced himself from Coburn's comments.
"Horses aren't cowards and the people aren't cowards,'' he said. "He was at the heat of the moment. Don't forget he's a fairly new owner. Sometimes your emotions get in front of you. He hasn't been in the game long and hasn't had any bad luck.''
Frenchman Christophe Clement, who won his first Triple Crown race with Totalist, declined to comment on Coburn's remarks.
California Chrome had a chunk of flesh torn from his foot after bumping with Matterhorn coming out of the starting gate Saturday.
Sherman said California Chrome has a superficial wound that should heal in two to three weeks. The colt will then rest for six to seven weeks after a tough Triple Crown campaign that involved running in three races at different tracks and distances over five weeks.
His camp plans to point him toward the Breeders' Cup this fall at Santa Anita.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
California Chrome's Owner Rants About System
Steve Coburn, the co-owner of California Chrome, expresses his displeasure with the Triple Crown rules for allowing "cheaters" to race in only the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Nick Zito On Coburn's Triple Crown Rant
Hall of Fame horse trainer Nick Zito weighs in on California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn's criticism of the Triple Crown process.
No Triple Crown
Victor Espinoza, California Chrome's jockey, came up short at the Belmont Stakes, failing to win the Triple Crown.