Assistant trainer Alan Sherman rubs Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome's nose during a walk at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, today. ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — California Chrome can breathe easy — he’s allowed to wear a nasal strip when he goes for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Park stewards cleared the horse today to use the strip that opens his nasal passages, just as he did in winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
New York tracks have a rule prohibiting any equipment not specifically approved by stewards, and nasal strips were not on the list. A statement from the New York Racing Association and the state’s Gaming Commission said the track’s three stewards unanimously agreed to lift the ban.
The strip worn by California Chrome during his six-race winning streak assists airflow through the nostrils — something that should come in handy during the Belmont’s grueling 1½ miles on June 7.
“I think it opens up his air passage and gives him that little extra oomph that he needs, especially going a mile and a half,” trainer Art Sherman said. “Any time you can have a good air passage that means a lot for these thoroughbreds.”
Other states allow nasal strips while racing, and even some jockeys wear them, as do humans in other sports.
California Chrome is trying to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978. On Sunday, however, Sherman raised the possibility his horse wouldn’t run in the Belmont if barred from using a nasal strip.
“I’d have to leave it up to the owners,” he said at the time. “I know they’ll be upset.”
Two years ago, Doug O’Neill trained I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with the colt wearing a nasal strip. New York officials told O’Neill his horse couldn’t wear one in the Belmont. The issue became moot when I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the race because of a leg injury.
This Belmont Stakes is shaping up as a possible 11-horse race, including two newcomers to the Triple Crown trail: Commissioner, sixth in the Arkansas Derby; and Tonalist, the Peter Pan Stakes winner.
Other probables include the second- through fifth-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby: Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat. Intense Holiday, 12th in the Derby, is on the list.
Three Preakness runners could return: Ride On Curlin (second), Social Inclusion (third) and Kid Cruz (eighth).