California Chrome needs some polishing

By From page B1 | June 13, 2014

This isn’t designed to beat a dead horse (California Chrome is alive and recovering from his grueling Triple Crown attempt), but sometimes you just can’t help but add your two cents to a discussion gone wrong.

When the California-bred 3-year-old came up short at the Belmont Stakes — becoming the 13th Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to bite the New York dust since 1979 — co-owner Steve Coburn blasted fellow horsemen for taking the “coward’s way out” in beating his thoroughbred.

Coburn said throwing fresh horses at Triple Crown wannabes in the Belmont was not right. Those new contenders needed to earn their way into the races — in fact, Coburn suggested that Triple Crown candidates should run each of the three jewels or get out of the way.

Fortunately, he later apologized for his remarks, but his rant began a dialogue that probably will change at least the interval at which the Derby, Preakness and Belmont are run. It is fair to spread the races out — three or four weeks between events should do it. But making the same horses go toe-to-toe from beginning to end doesn’t wash.

Coburn and Yuba City’s Perry Martin enlisted 77-year-old Northern California trainer Art Sherman to condition the son of mare Love the Chase and Lucky Pulpit (who stands at stud at Harris Farms, owned by UC Davis graduate John Harris). California Chrome was a $5,000 foal (a Costco-like price for a thoroughbred).

The combination of undistinguished breeding, first-time owners and a trainer long overdue for a Cinderella saga made for a terrific story — until Coburn’s vitriol helped ruin the ending.

As a first-time owner, Coburn — a native of Topaz Lake, Nevada — missed a couple of key elements:

* The history of the Triple Crown points to many a fresh horse intercepting potential Belmont winners. New York trainers — especially the late Hall of Fame conditioner Woody Stephens with five straight Belmont kidnappings — are a band of Bada-Bing Brothers who believe “not in my house.”

* The other thing is (turn your head if you still believe in fairy tales), as would-be champions go, California Chrome is not that good. The current 3-year-old crop is not up to standards, helping California Chrome stand out. To wit, Chromie’s 2:03.66 is the fifth-slowest Kentucky Derby winning time since 1950.

Was Chrome tired? Sure. Did he get stepped on? Yep. But overcoming obstacles is what separates the men, er, colts from the horses.

Fresh-horse excuse? Go tell it to Secretariat, Whirlaway, Citation …

And you think California Chrome is better than the credit that’s given here? Write me after the Arlington Million or Travers Stakes (two August races for which Chromie is eligible). Or let’s talk the Monday following the Breeders Cup on Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

Don’t get me wrong, California Chrome was a great story, It’s just too bad the horse can’t give interviews. He certainly would have been more compelling than Coburn.

While I Have You Here: Coke doesn’t pat Pepsi on the back and Ford never has nice things to say about Honda, but while my publisher isn’t looking, I’d like to tip my cap to a former Davis Enterprise sports writer, Joe Davidson, and The Sacramento Bee.

In The Bee’s annual All-Metro Baseball Team, Davidson and Company got it completely right.

UCLA-bound Matt Trask was named Player of the Year and veteran skipper Dan Ariola garnered the top honor among area coaches.

Davis went 22-13-1 en route to winning the school’s third Sac-Joaquin Section championship.

Other All-Metro first-team mates were Blue Devils Ryan Kreidler, the brilliant sophomore shortstop; outfielder John Ariola; and all-around contributor Brett Bloomfield. Ariola and Bloomfield are seniors. Ariola is off to American River College and Bloomfield is ticketed for Kansas.

Second-team status went to DHS third baseman/reliever Trey Golston, and junior hurler Kris Prince earned honorable-mention. What’s amazing is that Prince started only two games in 2014 — winning both the North Division title game against Elk Grove and a week later the title tilt versus St. Mary’s.

Davidson joined Sacramento’s Mike Finnerty and Bee freelancer Trevor C. Horn in selecting the postseason squad.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] at 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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