Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What we can learn from Steve Coburn, Art Sherman and V. Espinoza.

There is a saying that roughly goes like this:

"Do what you do well, and let others do what they do best."

 "Everybody is talking about California Chrome owner Steve Coburn. He called the winners of the Belmont Stakes, and anybody who ran in the Belmont without running in the Preakness or Kentucky Derby "cowards" and "cheaters."
You'll see his face all over ESPN. He was splashed across Sunday’s New York Post under the headline, "Triple Clown." Fewer people today are going to talk about Art Sherman. California Chrome's 77-year-old trainer showed up at his colt's barn Sunday morning, and did exactly what you would expect an old horseman to do.
He showed how someone is supposed to act when he loses. First, he talked about his horse's condition."

Victor Espinoza is a pretty good jockey. Not great. Not top shelf.  Not a hall of famer. He won't be on call to fly across the country to ride the best horses at any given track any day, like say a Joel Rosario, or Chris Macarron or Pat Day or Angel Cordero were back in their heyday.
What Espinoza does well enough is ride horses. He certainly gave California Chrome some great rides, and I include the Belmont in that statement. I think it was known ahead of time by the inner connections (meaning Art Sherman and Espinoza) that the horse wasn't as sharp as he was in the first two legs and the races leading up to it. So, the idea was to give him as easy a trip as possible, put him in the right spot to make his one big run at the top of the stretch and hope it was enough to get there. That is exactly what Espinoza did. The horse was simply tired and not good enough on that day to pass horses he likely would have two weeks before. That is horse racing...and life. 

At least this time, nobody can accuse him of trying to gas his horse and hope he got to the line first....and fail like Stewart Elliot did on Smarty Jones and possibly Jose Santos on Funny Cide by going to the front when the horse was a come from behind horse previously.

Personally, I think both Elliot and Santos rode great races and if their horses were good enough, they would have won. Others don't always agree on that. The world is full of people with opinions who think they know something about something they probably don't know that much about. Professional jockeys at that level generally know how to ride the best race and only one horse can win. That is racing.

Now, Espinoza's fame ride is over. Chrome is injured, and the only race really left for him will be in November in the Breeders Cup, if he heals well, trains well enough and they think they have a legit shot of winning that race. That is a major crapshoot longshot on many levels. Until then, and maybe even then, nobody cares what Victor Espinoza has to say anymore. His 15 minutes is up. Did that stop him from trying to overstay his welcome on the fame train? Nope. 

Since his California Chrome ride and attention is up, he feels the need to hook up with a pathetic outfit like TMZ and chime in on a great horse like Secretariat. In the article, he compares California Chrome to Secretariat, who is arguably the greatest thoroughbred of all time. Or one of..for sure.
How would he know anyway? He was barely born when Secretariat raced, and certainly never rode him. I think CC is pretty close to Secretariat, and they all lose eventually, but his words are frankly just a joke. He is neither qualified to make that determination nor thoughtful enough to figure it out, if it even can be figured out.

 "I believe he's as good as [Secretariat] ... but when something goes wrong, then it can't go 100%."

That is very Yogi Berra-ish. Except, Yogi is Yogi Berra and it sounds cute and interesting, and somewhat humorous when it comes from Yogi. For Victor Espinoza, it just sounds stupid and doubletalk-ish.
He should stick to doing what he does best, riding horses. He is out of his element, and it shows. I'm sure he has plenty of nice horses to ride this week. He should focus on that. He isn't the best in the world at it, but it is probably what he does best.

Steve Coburn is a self made man, by all accounts. He has gotten to where he is in life by making his own way. All credit is due to him for that. As well, he stands behind what he believes and says (at least until Monday morning when he did a complete 180 and backtracked on his own words). He put his money where his mouth was, bred that horse when everyone who thinks they know better told him and his partner that they were dumbasses for doing that, then put him in the capable hands of a trainer like Sherman, who got him to where he ended up. They made all the payments and danced all the dances. 
But then Coburn got caught up in the moment, and the hype, and believed himself to be the star and the show. When that slipped away in the Belmont, he began to spout off and do something he doesn't do well...speak intelligently. His charm was that he made it that far without being able to do that. When he tried to be something he wasn't--and will never be it--all fell apart for him.
Which leaves us with Art Sherman, the trainer of California Chrome..and a humble man at that. 
He did what he does best. All along.
Sherman trained Chrome and trained him easy, for a reason. He could see the horse was run down a bit, and he tried to save his energy, whatever was left, for the race. Many in social media and the opinion columns questioned his methods. 
But, who are they? 
Are they trainers? 
Do they know the actual condition of the horse? Nope. 
Many have probably never touched a racehorse or had to deal with the fallout that comes after a race when you get the horse home who just won and he can't walk, or get up, or is colicking. 
Art Sherman is one of the highest percentage trainers in the world, and he has been for a long time. If he thought the horse needed very light training going into the Belmont, that is good enough for me.
In spite of that, and all he did, the horse got beat. Anyone who races horses understands that you will lose a lot more than you will win, no matter what you do and how good you are at it. It is simply a numbers game.

After the defeat, what did Sherman have to say about it all?

"The Triple Crown is a rough trail. We'll fight another day."

-Art Sherman

"After spending most of his 61-year career out of the spotlight, Sherman, 77, became a media magnet. A day after refusing to answer questions about the crushing defeat, he reflected on the best spring of his life.
"You can't be a hero all the time. I did win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and the horse has made more than $3 million," he said. "I think I'll get a pretty good reception when I go back to Los Alamitos."

That's it. He gets back to work doing what he does best. Training racehorses, of which he still has a barn full of them that aren't named California Chrome.
Victor Espinoza has races to ride. Steve Coburn has a business to run. They are caught up in a media circus and game that throws them way out of their element and comfort zone. And it shows.

The one thing Sherman was qualified to comment on was the winning of the Triple Crown, from a trainers perspective. He didn't whine. He didn't gripe. He didn't sound like a sore loser. He just told it like it is.
His horse lost because he was tired, not because others were fresher and were waiting in the wings for him.

 "Chrome is going to have some needed rest. It's been a tough campaign for him."

-Art Sherman

The problem with the Triple Crown isn't that some don't race in all the legs.The problem is the time between races, and that is compounded by the new rules about making points to get in the Kentucky Derby. Because of those two factors, one that was always in place, and one that is new, you are very likely to end up with a very tired horse in the Belmont (California Chrome, Smarty Jones, Funny Cide) or a lame one that either doesn't make it there (Barbaro) or makes it there and then goes lame and can't compete (I'll Have Another). In any event, as currently structured, it would take a freak to win it. 

 "Sherman was asked if he thought there would ever be another Triple Crown sweep. "Not unless there are changes made and the races are spaced farther apart," he said. "I don't think so, unless you get a really freaky horse."

"I do what I do best. I take down scores. That is what I do. You do what you do best. Try to stop guys like me."

 -Robert Deniro.... in Heat. 

Sherman also chimed in on acting classy, or not acting classy in the case of Coburn.

"He did not share Coburn's criticism of other trainers and owners. Asked about Coburn's "cheaters" comments, Sherman said, "I don't do that. I can't make excuses. ... He'll probably make a pretty good apology for that, I would think."

and how he moved forward after the Belmont....

 Same old Art," he said. "Got up, put my boots on, and I'm here. To me, being around the horses is my life. Although I did win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, I never did that before."

And the perspective he has on it all after the fact.

  "It's been a great run. I appreciate what you guys have been. Everybody has a job to do, and like myself, you try to do the best job you can. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you get beat. That's just what it is. You can't be a hero all the time. I appreciate everybody. Thanks."

Art Sherman didn't try to be profound, or witty, or a commentator on the state of horse racing, or put his horse in the perspective of the greats, even though he is much more qualified to do any of that than Steve Coburn and Victor Espinoza.
No, Art Sherman knows what he does best. He trains race horses. That is what he does best.

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