California Chrome barely had time to cool down after his victory in the Preakness Saturday, when things became heated over his possible withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes on June 7th after it was learned that NY Stewards may not allow him to compete with a Flair nasal strip across his nose. While the strip, which is used to help horses breathe easier is legal in virtually all racetracks across the country, New York only allows it for harness horses, not thoroughbreds. While the rule (4033.8) is fairly vague on the matter, stating that “only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race,” may be used, Senior Vice President of operations for the NYRA stated that the Belmont Stewards will make a decision within the next two days regarding a request by Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman to allow him to wear it during the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
While California Chrome reportedly does not wear the strip during training, he has sported it in each of his last (consecutive) 6 victories since December 22, 2013. Before that he was 2 for 6.
It should be noted that the stewards had previously ruled against allowing Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another from using it for the 2012 Belmont Stakes after his trainer Doug O’Neill was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs for the third time, and were “not about to do him any favors.” However, the point became moot after I’ll Have Another was forced out of the race by a career-ending tendon injury the day before the Belmont.
If all goes well, California Chrome is poised to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown.