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“It wouldn’t be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair because I got an unfair advantage,” Coburn said. “If your horse is good enough to run in the Belmont, where was he in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness? It says Triple Crown, not one out of two, one out of three or two out of three.”

Sherman said, “I can’t make excuses. That’s not really what you should do in these type of races.”

Frenchman Christophe Clement, who won his first Triple Crown race with Totalist, declined to comment on Coburn’s remarks.

Coburn had predicted California Chrome would win the Triple Crown.

“If they want to call me a sore loser, I don’t care,” he said.

Horses are made eligible for the Triple Crown races in January. Owners and trainers of horses not nominated can pay a late fee of $6,000 in March to get in. The 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby is decided by a points system, with horses earning points for running in prep races. The Preakness and Belmont have maximum fields of 14, but no points system is used.

It’s common for horses to drop in and out of the Triple Crown series. In 1978, when Affirmed won the Triple Crown, the Belmont had a five-horse field. Two of the colt’s rivals did not run in the first two legs and one only ran in the Derby.

In 1977, Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown. The Belmont had eight horses, and five did not run in the first two legs. One ran only in the Preakness, and one other besides Slew raced in all three legs.

On Saturday, second-place finisher Commissioner was new to the Triple Crown series. Winner Tonalist wasn’t ready for the Derby, so trainer Clement prepared him for the Belmont.

“California Chrome was running with tough, fresh horses that were waiting in the wings, and that’s what happens,” Sherman said. “We all know when you’re on this trail you got to have an iron horse.”

The veteran trainer hopes California Chrome’s owners will keep him running next year as a 4-year-old. He credited the colt for having a lot of talent and taking his handlers on an exciting ride.

“This is one of them races that we couldn’t win,” Sherman said, “but he didn’t disgrace us any.”