The Triple Crown didn’t happen on Saturday.
Then Steve Coburn went from irritating to embarrassing on Sunday.
And for several hours after the Belmont Stakes, it was impossible to go home if you were snarled in the gridlock or trying to take the Long Island Railroad out of there.
For all of New York Racing Association president Chris Kay’s droning about “enhancing the guest experience,” NYRA fell short of handling a crowd of over 100,000.
Perhaps that’s because it’s difficult to scramble an adequate work force and exit plan for one big day when you’re accustomed to maybe 5,000 people rattling around your enormous facility just about every other day of the year.
All that said, I assure you that racing showed its good side in a variety of ways at the Belmont, not the least of which was the emergence of Tonalist as a player in the 3-year-old colt division.
Like Triple Crown spoilers of years past, his story gets shuffled to the background to a degree, but there’s a good chance Saratoga Race Course fans will get a chance to see him in the Travers, whereas they won’t see California Chrome.
“He did not surprise me,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “He was a nice horse going into the race, and he had to fight hard to do it. But he confirmed that he belongs with the best 3-year-olds in the country.”
Clement cheerfully said “No comment” when asked about the rant by Coburn, California Chrome’s co-owner, about restricting the Preakness and Belmont only to horses who have run in the Kentucky Derby.
Tonalist was trying to get to the Derby, but missed his prep, the Wood Memorial, because he was sick, so Clement and owner Robert Evans targeted the Belmont.
“When he broke his maiden, the way he did it, you knew he was a very nice horse,” Clement said. “Came back, finished second to Todd’s [Pletcher] horse [Constitution] who came back to win the Florida Derby.
“So we knew he could be a good 3-year-old. We couldn’t make the Kentucky Derby by not making the Wood, so the Plan B was to the Peter Pan and the Belmont. And we’re New York people, so it means a lot to us. And enjoy it because it works out.”
California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, said that he looked at the replay and saw that Matterhorn clipped the back of his colt’s right front hoof right out of the gate, causing the bloody gouge that probably had some impact on the outcome.
We just don’t know how much.
He also said he believed that Coburn, who was up at the clubhouse shooting a segment for “Good Morning America,” probably would apologize for his Saturday comments, which included calling anyone who ran in the Belmont “cowards” if they hadn’t also run in the Derby and Preakness.
“The horse [Tonalist] is not a coward, the people are not cowards,” Sherman said. “I think it was a little out of context, myself. But, hey, it was at the heat of the moment. And don’t forget, he’s a fairly new owner, and sometimes your emotions get in front of you. He hasn’t been in the game long, and hasn’t had any bad luck.”
I was almost willing to cut Coburn some slack because the post-Belmont cameras caught him at a rough moment, but . . . nope. Not after he went off again, worse, even, for “Good Morning America” and an ESPN radio interview.
“I don’t regret a damn thing I said,” he told ESPN, as about two dozen of us waited in the wings for them to finish. “The Triple Crown means three. You go to Baskin Robbins and ask for a triple scoop, and you get one, you’re going to be upset about that. They nominate these horses for the Triple Crown, not one out of three, or two out of three.”
It got worse. Like, kid-in-a-wheelchair worse.
“It wouldn’t be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair, because I’ve got that advantage,” he said. “So, if your horse is good enough to run in the Belmont, where was he in the Kentucky Derby? I don’t care about me, it’s not fair to these horses.
“If they want to call me a sore loser, have at it. Call me on the phone,” he said, then recited his phone number before finishing the radio interview and walking through us with a “No comment.”
This all served to distract from an exciting finish in the Belmont by an interesting horse and a tremendous card that included Palace Malice’s Met Mile win, Real Solution’s victory in the Manhattan and the Beholder/Princess of Sylmar/Close Hatches matchup in the Ogden Phipps, won by Close Hatches.
Bayern looked terrific.
Is it Saratoga yet?