Despite being outraced in the early moments of the Preakness Stakes, California Chrome was able to speed up and claim his second victory in the Triple Crown race circuit. If he wins the Belmont Stakes, the third and final race in horse racing’s main event, California Chrome will be the first horse to win all three races since 1978, when Affirmed did so. However, a New York horse racing rule that says no to nasal strips, which California Chrome wears, may mean that the winner of the Preakness Stakes could lose his chance at a triple crown.
California Chrome was a favorite in both the kentucky Derby and the Preakness, sporting odds of 5-2 and 2-5, respectively. He won the race by 1 1/2 lengths, and took just 1.84 seconds to finish than Secretariat id in his record-setting run in 1973.
The Belmont Stakes is the longest race in the Triple Crown series, running 1-1/2 miles, and has been the end of a dozen Triple Crown contenders since the last winner in 1978. Victor Espinoza, the jockey for California Chrome, knows how intense the race can be, as he also rode War Emblem in 2002. War Emblem was the winner of the Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but fell short in the Belmont, finishing in eighth place.
The Belmont also takes place in New York, a state that has different rules regarding horse racing, a fact that may affect California Chrome’s ability to run the race. The debate involves the use of nasal strips, which increase horses’ air flow and aid in breathing. Chrome wore these in his runs at the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby, but officials may not allow him to wear them for the Belmont. I’ll Have Another, who won the Preakness and Derby in 2012, wore nasal strips as well, but his trainers were told that he could not wear the devices in the running of the Belmont. Though he was scratched from the race due to injury, the occurrence indicates that officials may say no to California Chrome, which could result in the winner of the Preakness Stakes losing his chance at a Triple Crown victory.
Doug O’Neil, who trained I’ll Have Another, stated that he does not think that California Chrome will face the same restrictions on his nasal strips. He believes that new officials in the New York Racing Association will be more accommodating. Martin Panza, one of the new officials, was formerly the racing secretary at Betfair Hollywood Park in California, the same state that Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer, hails from.
If California Chrome is not allowed to wear nasal strips, a decision will need to be made by the horse’s owners on whether or not he will run the race. Sherman has stated that he will not be making the final decision.
If the officials at Belmont decide to say no to California Chrome’s use of nasal strips, the Preakness Stakes winner may still compete, but there is also a chance that his owners will choose to forego seeking the Triple Crown this year.
By Joseph Chisarick