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California Chrome cleared to wear nasal strip

May 20, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — California Chrome beat out an idiosyncratic horse racing rule — by a nose.

An only-in-New York equipment ban appeared ready to put a kink in the colt’s U.S. Triple Crown try at the Belmont Stakes.

But the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was cleared to wear the nasal strip he has worn all through a six-race winning streak that has set him up for a chance at U.S. horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown.

New York racetracks have a rule prohibiting any equipment not specifically approved by stewards, and nasal strips were not on their list. A statement from the New York Racing Association and the state’s Gaming Commission on Monday said the track’s three stewards unanimously agreed to lift the ban.

The strip worn by California Chrome is thought to assist airflow through the nostrils — something that should come in handy on June 7 for Belmont’s grueling run.

“It opens up his air passage and gives him that little extra oomph that he needs, especially going a mile and a half,” trainer Art Sherman said. “Any time you can have a good air passage that means a lot for these thoroughbreds.”

Sherman raised the possibility his horse wouldn’t run in the Belmont if barred from using a nasal strip. 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 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.

There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and the sport’s popularity has waned in the nearly four decades since. But it gets a boost every time a horse heads to the Big Apple with a Triple Crown on the line.

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