California Chrome can bring his nasal strips to Belmont, officials announced Monday.
The three stewards who govern Belmont Park unanimously agreed Monday to allow horses to wear equine nasal strips, according to a joint statement issued by the New York State Gaming Commission and The New York Racing Association.
Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, said Sunday that the owners were prepared to pull the horse from the June 7 Belmont Stakes – the third jewel of the Triple Crown – if New York racing officials had refused to grant permission for the horse to wear the adhesive strips.
“The horse has been on a six-race winning streak with nasal strips. I don’t know why they would ban you from wearing one, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, I guess,” Mr. Sherman told reporters Sunday morning, before the gaming commission and the racing association announced their decision.
Sherman started affixing the nasal strips to the horse's muzzle at the request of co-owner Perry Martin, ESPN reports.
The nasal strips are similar to those worn by humans to open nasal passages and improve air flow.
“I think it opens up his air passage and gives him that extra little oomph that he needs, especially going a mile and a half,” Sherman explained. “Anytime you can have a good air passage, that means a lot for these thoroughbreds.”
I’ll Have Another, the last horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, also wore nasal strips, but his handlers had been told he would have to forgo them in the Belmont Stakes, USA Today reports.
The commission’s thoroughbred rule does not specifically prohibit nasal strips but states, “Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.”
The New York State Gaming Commission issued a statement on Sunday saying it had not yet received a request for the breathing aids from California Chrome’s handlers.
”If a request to use nasal strips is made, the decision on whether to permit them or not will be fully evaluated and determined by the stewards,” the statement read.
Stephen Lewandowski of the gaming commission, one of three stewards in charge of this year’s Belmont Stakes, is new to the post since the ruling on I’ll Have Another’s request, according to USA Today.