California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn apologizes for remarks

Steve Coburn, California Chrome’s co-owner, apologized Monday morning for his controversial comments following his horse’s loss in the 146th Belmont Stakes.

Coburn, saying he “was very ashamed of myself,” appeared on “Good Morning America” with his wife, Carolyn. The couple from Topaz Lake, Nev., co-own the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner with Perry and Denise Martin of Yuba City.

“I want to apologize to a lot of people, including my wife, Carolyn,” Coburn told Robin Roberts. “I want to apologize to the owners (of Belmont winner Tonalist); their horse won the race. I did not mean to take anything away from them. I’d like to congratulate them and tell them they have a fantastic horse. He deserved to win the race fair and square.

“I apologize. I sincerely apologize. I wanted so much for this horse to win the Triple Crown for the people of America. I was very emotional. It was the emotion of everything coming together at one time. It’s a learning process. I’m going to do better.”

After Chrome lost in Saturday’s Belmont, Coburn accused Tonalist’s owners of taking “the coward’s way out” for skipping the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. By waiting for the Belmont, the New York-based Tonalist was a fresh horse on his home track. Coburn said it was an unfair advantage that likely cost Chrome the chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Coburn added more remarks Sunday during TV interviews, suggesting that horses in the series should be limited to those that qualify for the Derby under its points system. Tonalist and Belmont runner-up Commissioner did not qualify for the Derby.

The backlash to Coburn’s weekend rants was immediate and widespread. The New York Post ran a front-page photo of the cowboy-hatted Coburn with the headline “Triple Clown.”

While Coburn still would like the series’ rules tweaked, he apologized to fans, his partners and trainer Art Sherman and his staff. He specifically apologized to Tonalist owner Robert S. Evans, a Connecticut multimillionaire and third-generation horse breeder, and trainer Christophe Clement. Coburn will be back at work Tuesday at the small Carson Valley factory where he works as a press operator. California Chrome is his only racehorse.

“He made those comments in the heat of the battle,” said Alan Sherman, Art’s son and Chrome’s assistant trainer. “He’s actually a very nice man.”

Carolyn Coburn had tried to stop her husband from blasting off during his initial outburst on NBC on Saturday.

“I’m proud of him (for coming on the show),” she said Monday. “It’s something we needed to have done. Our story has given so much to so many people, and I hope this 30 seconds doesn’t destroy that. That wasn’t normally the way he is.”

California Chrome, who hurt his right front hoof in his Belmont loss, returned to California at 8 p.m. Sunday to a hero’s welcome at Los Alamitos Race Course, where he regularly trains.

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