It took him a while, but California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn went on ABC's "Good Morning America" again Monday and choked up at times as he apologized for the angry, point blank remarks he made after his horse came up short in his try for horse racing's first Triple Crown in 36 years.
"Very ashamed of myself, very ashamed," the 61-year-old Coburn, sitting beside his wife, Carolyn, said in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.
"I need to apologize to a lot of people, including my wife. … First of all, I need to apologize to the winner. They run a beautiful race. Their horse won the race. They deserve that. I did not mean to take anything away from them.
"So I want to apologize with everybody associated with Tonalist."
Wearing his signature cowboy hat and a somber expression, Coburn went on to apologize to Tonalist's trainer and owner, the fans who had jumped on board with California Chrome in his try for the first Triple Crown in 26 years and his 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman.
Immediately after California Chrome tied for fourth place in the Belmont Stakes Saturday in New York behind winning Tonalist, the cowboy hat wearing Coburn blasted the format of the Triple Crown, saying it wasn't fair that a fresh horse like Tonalist was allowed to run in the Belmont after not racing in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
He didn't back off Sunday morning at Belmont when he went on "Good Morning America" and remained irate, likening the format to winning a triathlon by doing just the running (not the swimming and biking) and him, at 6 feet 2, playing basketball against a "kid in a wheelchair."
Coburn argued that the three Triple Crown races should only be open to horses that qualify for and run in the Kentucky Derby. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, and Coburn argued that the traditional format has to change if there's ever to be a Triple Crown winner again.
Coburn is a press operator for a Nevada firm that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and hotel keys. He was thrust into the national spotlight by a horse that was the product of a $10,000 breeding investment by him and co-owner Perry Martin.
Martin has been the silent partner. He attended the Derby and Belmont but not the Preakness. Martin has been out front all the way at press conference. Before the Derby, he said it was a "done deal" his horse would win. He said the same for the Preakness and Belmont.
His wife was among the many to whom he apologized. "She has literally stood behind me since I started this journey,'' he said.
She said he tried to calm him in the heat of the moment after the race. "I'm going to be honest, I don't remember exactly what I said. … He was very emotional and I was trying to calm him down and remind him that he was speaking loudly," she said.
Roberts was asked Coburn what he would say to fans of Tonalist.
"Congratulations, you've got a fantastic horse. … He won the race fair and square. He deserved to win," said Coburn.
California Chrome, who had won six in a row, had some hide scraped off the back of his right, front foot at the start of the race. "But he'll be alright, he'll be able to race again," said Coburn.
Coburn then singled out the trainer, Sherman for an apology. and "everybody that's been on this trail with us."
He added, "And I need to apologize to the world and America, our fans that have written us, given us so much support. I apologize. I sincerely apologize," said Coburn, choking up. " … This is 'America's horse.' I wanted so much for this horse to win the Triple Crown for the people of America, and I was pretty emotional, very emotional."
Roberts asked him, "Did anything contribute to that emotion? Was there celebrating going on beforehand?"
In essence, she asked him if he was drinking too much on race day.
"It's just the emotions of the whole journey, all coming together at one time," said Coburn.
After the race, Coburn said horses who didn't run in the Derby and Preakness took the "coward's way out" by running in the Belmont.
Sherman addressed that Sunday morning: "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."
Coburn said Monday, "It's a learning process for us, and I'm going to do better," said Coburn. "I promise you I'll do better."
His wife said she was proud of him for apologizing.
"I hope people can see him the way he is because that wasn't the way he normally is. He's a very compassionate man," she said.
"If people could have seen behind the scenes, the children he talked to, the children he embraced, a little, young lady in a wheelchair at the Preakness. He handed her a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susans (flowers), a little boy in Kentucky that was a little mentally challenged that we're going to send a picture to and some of our hats. … If people can see that part of him, they can forgive the other part that happened.
California Chrome flew back to his home state of California Sunday. The plan is to give him some rest and race him in the fall in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in California.
Coburn's bottom line on joining the apology club: "I needed to do this. I needed to do it because I was wrong."