After a dazzling win at the Kentucky Derby and capturing the Preakness in an exciting final stretch run, California Chrome may pull out of the Belmont Stakes and miss a chance at the historic Triple Crown. The colt wears nasal strips to open up his nose during races. These nasal strips are not allowed in thoroughbred racing in the state of New York. The rule is decided by race stewards and not by the New York Racing and Wagering Board.
The potential Triple Crown winner only wears the strips during races and not during training. The nasal strips perform in a similar way nasal strip worn by people to help stop snoring at night. The strips open up the horse’s airway and allow for more oxygen to enter the lungs. California Chrome has worn the nasal strips over his last 6 races, winning each race.
The non-medical strips are common at horses at tracks nationwide, including California Chromes’s home state of California. Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, feels there is nothing wrong with the nasal strips. The New York officials notified O’Neill that I’ll Have Another would not be allowed to wear the strips for the 2012 Belmont Stakes. O’Neill’s horse was in the same situation as California Chrome. The horse had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown wearing the nasal strips. However, I’ll Have Another was forced to scratch from the Belmont due to an injury and did not find out if not using the strips affected the outcome of the race.
The owners of California Chrome do not want to miss the Triple Crown by a nose. The rulebook for Belmont Park does not mention anything about the use of nasal strips. Professional athletes in other sports are known to use nasal strips to assist in breathing. The strips are used by NFL players and are seen adorning the noses of some NBA players also. The idea to put the strips on California Chrome was the idea of co-owner Perry Martin. Trainer Art Sherman, who is based in California, was unaware that there could be issues using the strips in New York, went ahead and started using them.
Sherman will contact the New York race officials soon to start a discussion with the Belmont stewards and the colt’s owners. The trainer is expected to point out that in New York the use of the nasal strips for harness horses is allowed and tracks outside of the state allow the strips for other races, including the first two legs of the Triple Crown. If the race officials do not allow the nasal strips, Sherman feels that there is a possibility that the owners would pull out of the final race for the Triple Crown. He is sure the owners would be upset if California Chrome is barred from using the breathing strips. However, if the horse is pulled out of the race or not will be a decision made by the owners.
The excitement over the win at the Preakness by co-owner Steve Coburn brings into doubt that the nasal strips would allow California Chrome to miss the Belmont Stakes in June. Both of the owners went against all advice and took a chance when they bred a $8,000 mare with a $2,500 stallion to produce a potential champion horse. Do not expect a nose issue to keep the colt out of the starting gate on June 7 as he tries to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.
Commentary by Carl Auer