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California Chrome has been given approval to wear a nasal strip during the 146th Belmont Stakes, keeping alive the horse's chance of becoming the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner.
The New York Racing Association stewards, after consultation with New York State Gaming Commission equine medical director Scott Palmer, on Monday unanimously approved the use of equine nasal strips at all NYRA racetracks, effective immediately.
California Chrome will be allowed to wear the strip during the 1½-mile race on June 7. It's the longest and most grueling of the three Triple Crown races.
Trainer Art Sherman, who contacted the stewards on Sunday to make the formal request, had suggested that California Chrome might not race in the Belmont without the strip, which he wore during victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
"I recommend that the stewards at state-based thoroughbred racetracks discontinue their ban on equine nasal strips," Palmer wrote. "Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health or safety and as such do not need to be regulated.
"While there is research to indicate that equine nasal strips decrease airway resistance in horses and may decrease the amount of bleeding associated with EIPH to some degree, I am unfamiliar with any research indicating that equine nasal strips enable a horse to run faster with nasal strips than without them. In other words, there is no evidence they have a performance enhancing effect."
Two years ago, I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness while wearing nasal strips. New York officials told his team the colt couldn't wear one in the Belmont, but the issue became moot when I'll Have Another was scratched the day before the race because of a leg injury.
Among the gaming commission's rules governing Belmont Park is one that states: Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race. The rulebook for Belmont Park that establishes race conditions had not previously specifically mentioned nasal strips.
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.
Some horses, like humans, wear nasal strips to assist breathing. The colt wears the strip only during races, not training.
"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. "Any time you can have a good air passage, that means a lot for these thoroughbreds."
A horse hasn't won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 12 horses have won the first two legs and failed to complete the sweep in the Belmont.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.