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California Chrome will be allowed to use nasal strip in Belmont Stakes

Posted at 12:27 PM, May 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-19 12:27:36-04

(CNN) — Racehorse California Chrome will be allowed to use a nasal strip while racing in the June 7 Belmont Stakes, New York racing officials decided Monday.

The decision by representatives of the New York State Gaming Commission, the New York Racing Association and the Jockeys Club ends a ban on the strips at Belmont. It keeps alive the the 3-year-old’s bid to win horse racing’s Triple Crown after winning this year’s Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby.

The horse’s trainer had said his owners might not allow the horse to raise without the strip, which the manufacturer says allows horses to breathe more freely and reduces the risk of bleeding in the lungs during heavy exertion.

California Chrome has worn the strips during its last six wins, including first-place finishes at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

New York State Gaming Commission Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer recommended that the group end the ban on nasal strips at Belmont after determining that they don’t appear to give horses a competitive advantage.

“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,” the organizations quoted Palmer as saying in the letter.

Hours earlier, the horse’s co-owner told CNN’s “New Day” that he had expected it to take another day or two for the issue to be resolved.

“We want to run; we really do,” Steve Coburn said. “I think the people of New York want us to bring this horse here. They want to see him run,” Coburn said.

Prior to the decision, trainer Art Sherman said he didn’t understand the hullabaloo.

“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,” he said.

In 2012, I’ll Have Another faced a similar dilemma after winning the first two races, but the issue was never resolved after the horse suffered a career-ending leg injury and was unable to run the race.

The strips in question are similar to ones sometimes worn by people with nasal congestion or breathing problems. They sell for about $10 a piece on online retailers.

According to the manufacturer, the strips keep a horse’s airway from becoming smaller during strenuous activity. That helps provide more air to the lungs and reduce the chance of bleeding, which Flair said is common in hard-working horses.

Horses who wear the strips “use five to eight percent less energy at high speed and during recovery,” the company, Flair, says on its website.

Saturday’s big win

If California Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes, he would be the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to achieve the ultimate feat in thoroughbred racing.

Of the 38 horses who have won the Derby and Preakness, only 11 have gone on to victory in the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the Triple Crown races.

The colt won the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on Saturday with a burst at the homestretch.

“It is an awesome feeling to be able to have a horse like California Chrome,” jockey Victor Espinoza told NBC Sports after the race. “It was just a crazy race. … I got more tired mentally than physically riding him. But it worked out well, and he’s just an amazing horse.”

Sherman described California Chrome in no uncertain terms: “Pure and simple, he’s a rock star.”

Mare bought for $8,000

California Chrome was born to a mare named Love the Chase, purchased by Coburn and Martin for $8,000 with a view to breeding.

She was bred to the stallion Lucky Pulpit for a reduced fee of $2,000, the first breeding the novice pair had ever undertaken.

Their offspring had earned Coburn and Perry more than $2.3 million in prize money before the Preakness, also chalking up wins at the Santa Anita Derby, San Felipe Stakes and California Cup Derby.

Coburn told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he saw the horse in a dream three weeks before he was born and knew he would do big things.

“He’s proven us right so far,” Coburn said Monday.

In an earlier interview, he even said it’s not a stretch to compare his horse to Seabiscuit, the undersized horse who never competed in a Triple Crown race but still outran Triple Crown winner War Admiral in a 1938 showdown, becoming a Depression-era symbol of hope and determination in the process.

“He became the people’s horse in the Depression because he was the little guy kicking the big guy,” Coburn said. “We’re doing that in the same kind of way. No one ever gave it any credence, and we shouldn’t be where we are now.”