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Kentucky Wildcats Sunday Quickies: Tonalist Edition

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Rob Carr

Well, California Chrome was the latest victim of the Belmont, and failed to achieve the Triple Crown yesterday in New York. The Race was a very good one, but California Chrome simply didn't run a particularly good race for whatever reason.

After the affair, Chrome's owner Steve Coburn went on a silly rant that has no basis in fact or history, and his contention that only horses who have run in the Kentucky Derby should be eligible for the other Triple Crown races flies not only in the face of history, but unfairly impugns his fine horse, who was definitely good enough to win. It just wasn't his day.

Regarding Coburns rant, Gregg Doyel gets it mostly right:

All three horses who won the most recent Triple Crowns -- all in the 1970s -- faced fields brimming with fresh horses like the field California Chrome faced Saturday at the Belmont. In the 1978 Belmont, Affirmed had to beat only one horse (Alydar) that had joined it in the first two Triple Crown races. In the 1977 Belmont, exactly half the field that Seattle Slew beat had also raced in the Derby and the Preakness; three of the eight horses in the field were one-and-done Triple Crown entries into the 1977 Belmont, as Tonalist was Saturday. And in 1973, only one other horse (Sham) joined Secretariat in racing all three Triple Crown events.

So this has been going on for 40 years. At least. And here's another fact, in another direction: The near-miss Triple Crown candidates since Affirmed in 1978? They were taken down, by and large, by fields that mirrored the field that took down California Chrome.

Just so. So if you were taken in by Coburn's epic rant (I, of course, having followed horse racing since the early 1970's was not), just walk away. This is the way of things, and a good reason why the Triple Crown is such a momentous feat.

In honor of the possibility, I watched not only the official re-running of Secretariat's historic and unassailable Belmont run in 1973, I also watched the outstanding movie Secretariat starring Diane Lane Friday night, which despite it's omissions and contrivances, is very faithful to the story of the great horse. It was a fitting nod to history before it was made again. Alas, it was not to be.

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That's right — the horses don't care. They don't know what the odds are, they don't care how many others are in the race, they don't know the Triple Crown from a nosebag, and they definitely don't care what, if any, the other runners raced in. Fairness is as alien a concept to a horse as speaking English. My apologies to Mr. Ed.

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  • Chrome's angry owner makes a good point? No, he really doesn't. Consider:

    And when racing people get over their purse-lipped disapproval of Coburn’s outburst, they’ll see he has a good point. Coburn’s point-blankness will be called classless or crude by some, but the fact is, he’s right. California Chrome wasn’t running on equal terms with so many lightly raced competitors. “It’s all or nothing,” Coburn said. “It’s not fair to these horses that are running their guts out.” In the last 12 years, only a single horse has won the Belmont after competing in both the Derby and the Preakness. The final race of the series tends to be won by mystery horses with fresher legs that can plow through the deep loam of the huge tree studded park, and that was Tonalist.

    Yes. So how is this a good point? It has been this way since the early 20th century. We should change it now because... Oh wait, that's right — there is no good reason.

    Add a week, between races, if you must try to increase the chances of a winner. Other than that, leave it alone. Here's a more reasoned view.

  • McCants has Roy Williams on the hot seat. My question is, will anybody that matters care, i.e. the North Carolina administration or the NCAA? Hat tip: Real Clear Sports

  • Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokavich for the French Open title, his ninth.

  • O'Bannon lawsuit finally set to begin.

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