California Chrome has swept the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, putting him in position to win the first Triple Crown since 1978. However, it now seems that Cali Chrome could get booted from Belmont Stakes ... over a nasal strip.
The New York State Gaming Commission does not allow equine nasal strips to be worn during races. The strips (which serve the same purpose as human nasal strips) keep the nostrils open during strenuous activity. "By reducing airway resistance during exercise, Flair strips help prevent fatigue related injuries, help protect the lungs from injury and bleeding and promote optimal athletic performance," explains the strips' website.
California Chrome has worn nasal strips since December, including in the first two races of the Triple Crown. Both Maryland and Kentucky allow the strips to be worn during competition.
The same issue arose in 2012, when I'll Have Another also won the first two legs of the Crown while wearing a nasal strip. His trainer eventually agreed to lose the strip for Belmont, but the horse was later scratched because of an unrelated injury and never got to race.
The NYS Gaming Commission is not yet booting California Chrome from the "third jewel" of the crown, issuing this statement: "Neither the New York State Gaming Commission nor the stewards at the New York Racing Association have received a request to use nasal strips in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. 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."
Update, 10:31 AM: Scott Palmer, the equine medical director for the New York State Gaming Commission, has sent this letter to racing officials: “I recommend that the stewards at state-based thoroughbred racetracks discontinue their ban on equine nasal strips. 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 Racing Association and Jockey Club will vote on this later today.