TIME Horse Racing

A Day At The Races: Best Hats From The Royal Ascot

The Royal Ascot is one of Europe's most famous races, dating back to 1711. The highlight of the British racing season, it is attended annually by the Queen who has owned 22 Royal Ascot winners. However, Ascot is as much about being seen as watching the horses, and nothing attracts more attention than an over-the-top hat. Below are some of the best headpieces from the Royal Ascot's opening day

TIME Horse Racing

California Chrome Co-Owner Apologizes for Being a Sore Loser

Steve Cobur 2014 Belmont Stakes
Rob Carr—Getty Images Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome reacts while watching the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

Steve Coburn said he is "ashamed of himself" for implying other horse owners were "cowards" after California Chrome failed to win the Triple Crown on Saturday

The co-owner of racehorse California Chrome, Steve Coburn, has apologized for his outspoken comments following the horse’s failed attempt to win the Triple Crown.

Coburn said he was “very ashamed” of himself during a Monday morning appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Associated Press reports. After California Chrome came in fourth place at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, Coburn complained about how some of his rivals had not previously competed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness races, as the Triple Crown contender had.

“This is a coward’s way out,” Coburn had said. “If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three.”

On Monday, Coburn said, “I need to apologize to a lot of people, including my wife, Carolyn,” who tried to get him to calm down when the post-race interview got heated.

He also apologized to the owners of the Belmont Stakes winner, Tonalist, saying that he “did not mean to take anything away from them.”


TIME Horse Racing

California Chrome Co-Owner Slams Rivals Again After Belmont

Steve Coburn criticized victorious competitors for resting their horses in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, saying it's "not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day 1"

The embittered co-owner of California Chrome lambasted owners Sunday who skipped the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, standing by his remarks one day after accusing his competitors of taking “the coward’s way out.”

Coburn on Sunday compared the Triple Crown to a triathlon. “You know you’ve got to swim and you’ve got to bicycle and you’ve got to run,” he said, USA Today reports. “You don’t make it to run if you’re not going to do the other two.”

Coburn also compared Chrome’s contest with the fresher horses to a man playing basketball with a “kid in a wheelchair.”

California Chrome was the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes after winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, raising hopes that the horse would be the first to win the Triple Crown since 1978. But the horse came in a disappointing fourth, with Tonalist taking first place.

Chrome’s co-owner, Steve Coburn, said Sunday it was unfair that other horses were well-rested, NBC reports. None of the top three finishers had raced in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the two prerequisites to the Triple Crown.

“I’ll never see, and I’m 61 years old, another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime because of the way they do this,” Coburn said Saturday. “It’s not fair to these horses that have been in the game since Day One. If you don’t make enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, you [shouldn’t] run in the other two races. … 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.”

“This is a coward’s way out, in my opinion,” Coburn said.

On Sunday, Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman tempered Coburn’s remarks. The 77-year-old said that Coburn’s remarks were out of context. “The horses aren’t cowards and the people aren’t cowards. … I think it was a little out (of context) myself. But, hey, he was at the heat of the moment. And don’t forget, he’s a fairly new owner. Sometimes the emotions get in front of you. … He hasn’t been in the game long and hasn’t had any bad luck.”

Sherman mentioned that Chrome was gashed in the right, front hoof and had a “good chunk” taken off when No. 3 gate Matterhorn stepped on him at the opening.

Coburn said the sport should be changed so that only horses that run in the Kentucky Derby should be eligible for the two other legs of the Triple Crown. But as TIME’s Sean Gregory noted in a report from the race itself, Tonalist missed out on the Kentucky Derby due to an earlier illness and not because its owners chose to avoid racing.


TIME Horse Racing

No Triple Crown: Anger and Sadness at the Belmont Stakes

2014 Belmont Stakes
Rob Carr—Getty Images Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, not happy while watching the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

California Chrome fell short in his Triple Crown bid. And co-owner Steve Coburn was not happy about it. Inside a day of horse racing sadness.

“Hey, Sophia Loren, baby, how are you?” Steve Coburn, co-owner of Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome, called out to a woman he thought resembled the actress, who was standing across from him at Barn 4 at Belmont Park.

It was about an hour before race time, and Coburn, wearing a purple shirt, green tie, beige cowboy hat, and a blazer that had a large button reading “Got Chrome” on it, was having a good ol’ time. He was loose and loveable, with his walrus mustache and large personality.

“They tell me I’m the next John Wayne,” Coburn said to the surrounding crowd, which included his co-owner Perry Martin, who barely makes a peep. “We can make a pretty good movie together.”

But after California Chrome finished tied for fourth in the Belmont Stakes, adding to a maddening Triple Crown drought that is now 36 years old, Coburn was far from ducal. In his post-race interview on NBC, he ranted about the Triple Crown setup, lamenting the fact that horses that don’t run both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness are still eligible for the Belmont Stakes, making them fresh for the tortuous 1.5-mile test.

“This is coward’s way out,” Coburn said. “If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three.” His wife looked like she was trying to get him to stop talking. “I don’t care,” he could be heard snarling afterwards, presumably after a chiding from Mrs. Coburn.

Not that he didn’t have a point. In most sports, the playing field is level: you play the same amount of games in the regular season before the playoffs. The problem is that Coburn got sour on a sick horse. Tonalist, the Belmont winner, got ill before the Wood Memorial, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Without running in the Wood, Tonalist could not earn enough points to qualify for the Derby. That’s not cowardly, Steve.

Also, an injury might have cost Calfornia Chrome anyway. His right front foot had a patch of blood on it after the race. At some point during the run, the shoe of his back right foot overextended and clipped the flesh of his front one.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, when a Triple Crown hopeful can’t catch the leader down the stretch at Belmont, the deflation that hangs over the crowd is oppressive indeed. Written on every face is the question, “Will we ever see another Triple Crown in our lifetimes?”

“He’s a push-button horse,” said a still hopeful Chrome fan, Amy Arvanitis, while her horse was in fourth at the three-quarter-mile mark. Arvanitis, who is friends with Chrome trainer Art Sherman, was watching near the rail at the finish line. At the mile, he was still in fourth. “Come on, Victor, come on baby!” said Arvanitis, imploring California Chrome’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, to open things up. But the horse just didn’t have it. “Aw f–k!” she exclaimed, just before the finish. Right after, she dropped her lip and made a tragic face. “I’m devastated.”

Kathleen Dunagan, an artist and equestrian hobbyist with a close attachment to California Chrome, had tears in her eyes as she left the track. “I thought he was going to be our Seabiscuit,” Dunagan said.

California Chrome’s backstory has the underdog elements: Coburn and Martin, who barely knew each other, dropped $8,000 on an unimpressive filly, Love the Chase. A groom said whoever bought Love the Chase was a dumbass, so they named their new ownership group Dumb Ass Partners. Coburn and Martin mated Love the Chase to another underwhelming horse, Lucky Pulpit, and somehow they produced a near Triple Crown winner. “He just came out of nowhere,” says Dunagan. “I thought it was going to just be so wonderful. I’m sorry, I usually don’t get so emotional about that stuff.” Dunagan kept on walking — and crying.

Before the race, the California Chrome team could not have been more confident. With more than three hours to go until post time, Chrome’s exercise rider, Willie Delgado, entered the horse’s barn with a case of Coors Light and a bag of ice. Alan Sherman, California Chrome’s assistant trainer — and son of Art — walked outside with a beer in his left hand, cigarette in his right. When asked to describe Chrome’s morning workout, Delgado said he “was like a monster.” He has just been in the horse’s stall, and said “what’s up boy, you going to do this?” California Chrome’s ears perked up, Delgado said. That, to him, was a clear answer. “Hell, yes.”

Afterwards, Delgado insisted he wasn’t devastated. “I’m not sad, not sad,” Delgado said back at the barn. “He gave he the ride of my life. He’s still my hero.”

If only all those people at Belmont could say the same.

TIME Horse Racing

Watch Secretariat’s Historic Win To Get Ready for Tonight’s Belmont Stakes

The favorite to win the Belmont Stakes Saturday night, California Chrome, has a lot going for him. He’s won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, he’s strong, and he’s descended from multiple stakes winners. California Chrome has emerged as the bettors’ darling in tonight’s Belmont Stakes, and he could very well be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978.

To get psyched up for the race, check out this clip of Secretariat, winning the Triple Crown in 1973. His crushing victory in the Belmont Stakes by over 20 horse lengths, shown above, is exhilarating, inspiring and absolute.

One, Two Three!

TIME Horse Racing

A Dummy’s Guide to the Triple Crown

Learn about the Triple Crown in less time than it takes to run the Belmont Stakes

Before people paid money to watch cars drive in a circle, they paid to watch horses run in a circle.

Horse racing has been a popular pastime from Roman chariot races to thoroughbred racing in Elizabethan England.

The “Sport of Kings” has fallen out of fashion of late, but there are three races that still command America’s attention – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. With the Derby and Preakness being claimed by California Chrome and the Belmont just around the corner, now’s the time to get back in the saddle and brush up on your Triple Crown knowledge.


Don’t Bet (But If You Do, Bet on California Chrome)

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome
Rob Carr—Getty Images Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, with exercise rider Willie Delgado up, goes over the track in preparation for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 6, 2014 in Elmont, New York.

While it's very, very hard to win the Triple Crown, you're better off betting California Chrome to win.

In the movies, the long shot frequently overcomes terrible odds (and often a troubled past) to win the big game or race. In reality, long shots almost never win — even less often than you think and less often than the odds suggest, for reasons we’ll get to. So if you want to minimize your losses during a day at the races, stick with the favorites.

Keep that in mind this Saturday as California Chrome (a 3-5 favorite) vies to win the Belmont Stakes and become the 12th Triple Crown champion — and first since Affirmed in 1978. Triple Crown winners include War Admiral and Secretariat. The latter, perhaps the greatest racing horse of all-time, won the Belmont by an incredible 31 lengths.

Like California Chrome, Secretariat was the overwhelming favorite to win the Belmont, but that distinction generally does not bode well for potential Triple Crown winners going into the final race. Consider this, from the Edmonton Journal:

One has to go all the way back to 1978 when Affirmed held off Alydar at 3-5 to find the last odds-on betting choice to grab hold of the final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. In fact, Affirmed was the fourth straight odds-on winner following the footsteps of Seattle Slew (2-5), Bold Forbes (4-5) and Secretariat (1-9).

The argument against Chrome winning for a third time in five weeks is that it is really hard for horses to run that well for that long. As ESPN’s Bill Finley points out, “by the time they get to the Belmont, the Triple Crown hopefuls are not the same horse.” It is an exhausting endeavor and the 1.5-mile Belmont is a particularly grueling race.

Still, you’re better off betting California Chrome than any of his rivals, according to economists Erik Snowberg and Justin Wolfers. In a recent paper, they showed that betting on the likely winner will give you the best shot to lose the least amount of money. “The rate of return to betting on horses with odds of 100/1 or greater is about -61%, betting randomly yields average returns of -23%, while betting the favorite in every race yields loses of only 5.5%,” Snowberg and Wolfers wrote.

Their paper dealt with the favorite-longshot bias – which says that people overestimate the chances of longshots winning and underestimate the favorite’s likelihood of victory – and found that, “longshots win even less often than you think they do because you (and almost all people, really) are really bad at perceiving small probabilities,” says Snowberg, who teaches at Caltech.

When asked, both economists said that people shouldn’t bet. But if you have a little bit of cash burning a hole in your pocket, ignore the fact there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner in 36 years and go with California Chrome.

“Longshots rarely win – even less often than indicated by the odds,” says University of Michigan professor Wolfers. “But favorites do, and you’ll not only be collecting more often, but in the long run, you’ll come a lot closer to breaking even on your bets.”

TIME Horse Racing

Horse Racing’s Nasal-Strip Nonsense

FILE: California Chrome Cleared To Wear Nasal Strip In Belmont Stakes
Rob Carr—Getty Images California Chrome during the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on May 17, 2014

The New York Racing Association has just lifted its ban on nasal strips for this year's Belmont Stakes — a victory for common sense that may allow history to take place

On Sunday night, Jeff Blea, president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and one of the most respected horse-racing vets in the country, was watching the local news at his home in the Los Angeles area. He spotted an alert going across the ticker at the bottom of the screen: California Chrome may not run Belmont, giving up his bid for the Triple Crown. “Oh jeez,” Blea thought. He expected the worst. Maybe the horse had suffered a career-ending injury.

But then Blea’s wife Googled the news. Instantly, worry and despair were replaced by bemusement and frustration. Art Sherman, the trainer for California Chrome, was protesting New York’s ban on equine nasal strips — yes, equine nasal strips — and hinted that if New York racing officials didn’t change their stance, California Chrome could sit out the June 7 Belmont Stakes. The colt is on a six-race winning streak while wearing the adhesives. “I just shook my head,” Blea said. This is such a nonissue, he thought. And it needs to be resolved.

Luckily, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) did just that on Monday, lifting the nasal-strip restriction for this year’s Belmont Stakes. Sure, California Chrome’s crew was probably bluffing: Were the co-owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, along with trainer Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza, going to give up a chance at history to defend something that keeps grandpa from snoring?

But by lifting the restriction, NYRA avoided a possible three-week standoff over a nonsensical rule. At a time when horse racing should be anticipating history — since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1978, California Chrome has become the 13th horse to win the both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes — it was the last fight the struggling sport needed.

Ugly doping scandals, which often result in fatal results for the thoroughbreds, have plagued racing over the past few years. California Chrome, a horse bred off an initial $10,000 investment by its co-owners — one of whom, Coburn, bears a striking resemblance to actor Wilford Brimley — offers a rare chance for the industry to shine. Though on Tuesday night, HBO will interrupt this feel-good tale with a special report on drugs in horse racing on its Real Sports program. Trainer Steve Asmussen and his team have allegedly drugged and mistreated horses on his barn, and he’ll respond to the abuse accusations from PETA.

So racing has much larger issues than nasal strips. New York was the only racing jurisdiction that banned them: Blea claims they don’t enhance performance. “They open up the nasal passages and help the horses breathe, just like they do for NFL linebackers who wear them,” says Blea. “I’ve had horses run with them, and horses run without them. I haven’t seen enhancements. Optimization is the way to look at it. They optimize a horse’s breathing.” California Chrome, it’s important to note, isn’t just 6-0 while wearing the strips. He’s also 6-0 since Espinoza took over as the horse’s jockey.

Blea notes that unlike steroids, nasal strips don’t harm the horses, so they shouldn’t require any regulation. Wearing them isn’t cheating, when every other horse can do the same. When it comes to adhesives, the turf is level. “There’s nothing covert about them,” Blea says. “They’re visible on the horse and visible to the public.”

Over the past 36 years, a generation of sports fans who’ve never witnessed a Triple Crown winner have instead seen all kinds of Belmont heartbreak. Just look at the last decade alone. Birdstone caught Smarty Jones at the last second in 2004. Big Brown seemed like such a sure thing. He finished last in 2008. Two years ago, I’ll Have Another had everyone’s hopes up. Then, the day before the Belmont, he suffered a career-ending leg injury.

California Chrome seems so unflappable. They all do, after winning the Derby and Preakness. So much can happen between now and June 7. At least nasal-strip heartbreak is off the track.

TIME Horse Racing

California Chrome Set to Race at Belmont for Triple Crown After All

139th Preakness Stakes
Molly Riley—Getty Images California Chrome #3, ridden by Victor Espinoza, head to the finish line enroute to winning the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 17, 2014 in Baltimore.

Successful colt California Chrome's bid to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 is reportedly back on track after New York state officials are said to have informed trainers that the thoroughbred could wear a nasal strip for the Belmont Stakes

Updated 11:30 am ET, May 19

Prize racehorse California Chrome’s bid to win the Triple Crown is apparently back on, after state officials reportedly agreed to let the the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner wear a nasal strip at the Belmont Stakes.

ESPN, citing unnamed sources within the California Chrome camp, reports the colt has been given the go-ahead to wear a nasal strip in the third and final race for the crown by New York Racing Association steward Steve Lewandowski.

California Chrome has worn a nasal strip, which help horses breathe, throughout his recent six-race winning streak. However, New York officials have a history of banning the strips: Back in 2012, horse I’ll Have Another wore nasal strips during its Kentucky and Preakness wins, but was going to be barred from doing so at Belmont. (The point became moot when Another was scratched after a leg injury.)

If California Chrome wins at Belmont, it would make him the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.


TIME Horse Racing

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Preakness Stakes

Preakness workouts
Baltimore Sun—MCT via Getty Images Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, with exercise rider Willie Delgado up, during a morning workout at Pimlico Race Course in preparation for the 139th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

The second of the three Triple Crown races begins at 6:18pm ET on Saturday, and the Kentucky Derby winner is bookmakers' favorite to cross the finish line first. If California Chrome succeeds in Maryland it would put the thoroughbred one step closer to becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978

The Preakness Stakes, one of horse racing’s premier events, gets underway Saturday. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Preakness Stakes?

It’s the second of the three Triple Crown Races—along with the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. If a horse wins all three races, it wins the Triple Crown. (Only 11 horses have ever swept all three races, and no horse has done it since 1978.)

The race is held on the third Saturday in May every year at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. This year is the 139th running of the Preakness. It will begin at 6:18 p.m. E.T. Everyone will sing a song called “Maryland, My Maryland” before the race begins. The winner gets $1.5 million.

Why isn’t it as famous as the Kentucky Derby?

The Preakness Stakes has a case of middle-child syndrome. It’s stuck between the Derby and the Belmont Stakes. If you’re a casual fan, you’ll only care about what horse is going to win the Triple Crown: Which horse is in contention to do so is determined at the Kentucky Derby, and the horse is only actually crowned at the Belmont Stakes. Thus, the Preakness is slightly less exciting.

Plus, the Derby gets to flaunt the whole southern Kentucky thing with its Mint Juleps and big hats. Baltimore doesn’t have that same pageantry. (Though if you get tickets to watch from the Infield it’s apparently “one big, sweaty frat party.” So there’s that.)

Do all of the horses that run in the Derby run in the Preakness?

No. Most years, the Preakness will attract the Kentucky Derby winner (for the chance to win the Triple Crown), as well as some of the other horses that ran in the Derby. But it often also brings in horses that didn’t run the derby.

The Preakness has a 14-horse limit. This year, the Preakness is fielding 10 horses. Only three of those ran in the Derby: California Chrome, Ride On Curlin and General A Rod.

138th Preakness Stakes
Patrick Smith—Getty Images

Can I drink Mint Juleps during the Preakness?

You can. But the traditional race drink is the Black-Eyed Susan (pictured above). It’s a mixture of vodka, light rum, Cointreau, pineapple juice and orange juice. Shake. Pour over crushed ice. Add a lime as a garnish (if you can get your hands on one).

How does the race work?

The horses line up at their pre-determined posts. The posts are decided by drawing small numbered balls in a blind draw the Wednesday before the race. When the gun goes off, the horses take off. The race is 1 and 3/16 miles, a furlong shorter than the Derby.

What’s with California Chrome?

California Chrome is the heavy favorite to win the Preakness Stakes, if he races. He won the Kentucky Derby and is on a five-race winning streak. He drew the No. 3 post position for the Preakness—an inside post, which his Preakness trainer says he likes. If he wins this race, he’s one step closer to winning the Triple Crown.

There were rumors that the horse was sick leading up to Saturday’s race. California Chrome has a blister in his throat that is causing him to cough and has been since before the Derby. It’s being treated with glycerin and water and, according to the Sherman Racing Stables Twitter feed, isn’t a big deal.

Here’s California Chrome winning the Kentucky Derby:

Who is the favorite?

The odds are constantly updated. As of Thursday, California Chrome was so favored so heavily that the line was 3-5.

Is there is a female jockey competing?

Yes! This year will be the first time in the history of the race that a female horse (Ria Antonia), a female jockey (Rosie Napravnik) and a female trainer (Linda Rice) will all compete at the same time. No female jockey or trainer has ever won the Preakness, but five female horses have.

Is Lorde performing at the Preakness?

2014 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 2
Tim Mosenfelder—WireImage

Why, yes she is. Leading up to the actual race, Lorde, Nas, Switchfoot, Frank Walker, Glenn Morrison, Eli Young Band, Sundy Best and Go Go Gadjet will all perform.

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