BALTIMORE, Md. After winning the 139th Preakness on Saturday, California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn went out of his way to praise the hospitality he received while in Baltimore this week.
But he also made some pointed remarks about the way his group was treated two weeks earlier at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. While he wouldnt go into great detail, he said the treatment there factored in his co-owner Perry Martins decision not to attend the Preakness.
The hospitality we received at Churchill Downs wasnt very good, and Perry Martin, he decided that he and his family were going to watch the race some (other) place within the world. I cant tell you where its at, because I dont even know where in the (heck) its at.
Coburn mentioned Martins family having some difficulties at the Kentucky Derby, including his 84-year-old mother not being able to get to the winners circle.
I honestly believe that it was a bad, bad day at Churchill, Coburn said. Even though we won, it was a bad day for my partner and his family.
Churchill Downs has been a bit under fire recently for its assistance to those in the industry. Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte issued a statement during the week of the Derby saying that the access in recent years has been inadequate for him to get around in a wheelchair.
Being confined to a wheelchair since my racing accident in 1978, it is no easy feat to maneuver through the crowds that attend the Derby festivities, Turcotte wrote in the statement. It becomes a nearly impossible task when there is virtually no assistance from the track.
Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher issued an apology that week, saying weve obviously fallen short.
On Saturday night, Asher released the following statement: Were disappointed the overall experience for the owners of California Chrome apparently did not measure up to the stellar performance of their horse in the Kentucky Derby. We have an excellent and veteran team of volunteers from throughout our community that serve as official Kentucky Derby hosts and they work tirelessly to communicate with owners and trainers and to help guide them through the Kentucky Derby Week experience. Our team worked to satisfy the California Chrome teams needs when they were communicated to us and regret that their experience at Churchill Downs appears to have fallen short of expectations. We would certainly look forward to discussing with them any issues stemming from their Derby experience, and wish California Chrome and his team to best in their pursuit of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
Coburn said after Saturdays Preakness that the Louisville track could take a lesson from the Maryland Jockey Club.
Im serious as a heart attack, he said. Because you know what? We got to Churchill and not only did I complain, but there were other trainers and owners, and even the jockeys were complaining about the way they were treated. Ive said this once, Ive said it 50 times, Churchill Downs needs to call Maryland to get a lesson in hospitality. Because these people right here, theyve treated us like were royalty, and I cant say thank you enough.
Throughout the process, Coburn has been the outspoken half of California Chromes ownership duo, with Martin preferring to remain in the background.
Wearing his trademark cowboy hat after Saturdays race, Coburn said hell be among many pushing Martin to be in New York for the Belmont Stakes on June 7, as California Chrome runs for horse racings first Triple Crown since 1978.
Well drag his butt to Belmont if he doesnt want to show up on his own, so Im hoping he will, Coburn said. Hes missing out on a lot of fun.