06/09/2014 8:16AM

Coburn apologizes for remarks following Belmont

Justin N. Lane
Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, hands out autographed memorabilia before the races on Belmont Stakes Day.

Steve Coburn, a co-owner of California Chrome, offered a sincere, emotional apology Monday for unsportsmanlike and insensitive statements he had made in the aftermath of California Chrome’s defeat in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

Appearing on the ABC program “Good Morning America” in New York with co-host Robin Roberts, Coburn said, “I need to apologize to the world. I sincerely apologize.”

Coburn, accompanied by his wife, Carolyn, was in the “GMA” studio. He and his wife were on a set with Roberts interviewing them. Coburn, his voice quivering, said his outbursts were from “just the emotion of the whole journey.”

“It’s a learning process for us,” said Coburn, who has been thrust into sudden celebrity because of California Chrome. “I’m gonna do better.

“I needed to do this,” he said to Roberts. “I needed to do it because I was wrong.”

Coburn had come off publicly as a fortunate, grateful man through the first two legs of the Triple Crown but came off as petty and ungrateful immediately following the Belmont, calling the connections of the victorious Tonalist “cowards” and “cheaters” for bypassing the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Given a night to sleep it off, Coburn doubled down on the invective Sunday morning in a televised rant that tastelessly invoked children in wheelchairs. While being interviewed for more than five minutes at Belmont Park by “Good Morning America,” Coburn said he believed skipping the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then running in the final leg is not fair.

His analogy was, “It wouldn’t be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair.”

Coburn’s remarks were based on his belief that only horses who run in the Kentucky Derby should be able to compete in the subsequent Preakness and Belmont. California Chrome won the Derby and Preakness in May and would have become the 12th Triple Crown winner if he could have added the Belmont.

Coburn after the Derby had said he didn’t believe horses should be able to sit out the Derby and then jump in at later stages of the Triple Crown. But not until California Chrome lost Saturday, finishing in a dead heat for fourth, did he unload in full-throated rage.

On NBC’s telecast of the Belmont, Coburn immediately after the race said, “It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day 1.

“It’s all or nothing because this is not fair to these horses that have been running their guts out for these people and for the people who believe in them,” he said. “This is the coward’s way out, in my opinion.”

On Sunday, Coburn told “Good Morning America” that he “may have gone off half-cocked yesterday, but I don’t care.” He added that he didn’t care if people called him a sore loser, then gave out his personal cell phone number and said anyone could call him for a debate.

Perry Martin, the other owner of California Chrome, has never said anything of the sort regarding the Triple Crown race eligibility, nor has jockey Victor Espinoza, nor trainer Art Sherman.

In the belief that Coburn planned to apologize Sunday, Sherman early Sunday morning tried to temper the growing outcry against Coburn. The Sunday morning edition of the New York Post had Coburn pictured on the cover under the headline “Triple Clown.”

Sherman said that in the “heat of the moment,” Coburn “might have gotten a little vocal, might not think about what he’s saying.”

“He’ll make a good apology, I would think,” Sherman said.

Less than an hour later, Coburn went on “Good Morning America.”

Christophe Clement, the trainer of Tonalist, and Robert “Shel” Evans, Tonalist’s owner, both declined to comment on Coburn’s post-race outburst.