BALTIMORE – California Chrome might abandon his Triple Crown bid if New York officials do not allow the colt to wear a nasal strip in the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Art Sherman made no threats about the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner passing on a chance to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, but he suggested it was a possibility.
“I’d have to leave it up to the owners,” he said Sunday. “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 that 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.
“It’s something nonmedical that can be beneficial to a workout or a race,” O’Neill said by phone. “If you think your horse could use some help with their nostrils, you do it.”
Neither the New York State Gaming Commission nor the New York Racing Association stewards has received a request to use nasal strips in the Belmont June 7.
California Chrome has worn a nasal strip during his current six-race winning streak after co-owner Perry Martin wanted to try it. Sherman is based in California and said he wasn’t aware that using one in New York might be a problem. He said he would talk to New York racing officials and the horse’s owners.
Some horses, like humans, wear nasal strips to assist breathing. The colt wears the strip only during races, not training.
At 11/2 miles, the Belmont is the longest and most grueling of the three Triple Crown races.
“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,” Sherman said. “Anytime you can have a good air passage, that means a lot for these thoroughbreds.”
Sherman said Martin likes to try different products and the co-owner thought a nasal strip might benefit California Chrome.
“This guy, Perry Martin, he might not run if they say you can’t run with a nasal strip. He’s very funny about things like that,” the trainer said. “I don’t know why they would ban you from wearing one. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there.”
Other states allow nasal strips while racing, and even some jockeys wear them.