California Chrome Nasal Strip

In horse racing, there’s a lot less to write about heading into a big race. California Chrome having the chance of being the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years has changed that, making even the decision over his nasal strip, approved for the race at Belmont a worthy headline.

There a few days of some concern. The unlikely champion without any distinct lineage and parents that weren’t bought for a lot of money used that nasal strip as the tore apart the competition in California before becoming a national sensation with impressive wins at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. However, Belmont does things a little bit differently.

To get any additional gear approved, one must make a special request to the NYRA in order to get it approved. Thinking that there’s a chance he wouldn’t be able to use it, Art Sherman, the horse’s trainer, hinted that California Chrome might eventually not race at Belmont.

A Winning kiss

But, as expected, the New York Racing Association stewards unanimously approved the use of equine nasal strips at all NYRA racetracks, effective immediately.

For some it seems like actually a dumb thing to be worried about. How cares if a horse can use some breathing aid that makes him race better? Everyone can use it, and it doesn’t seem to anyone like some sort of special advantage. However, with so much at stake – history, tradition and money, every little decision and step of the way gets treated a little bit differently.

The decision was helped by the recommendation of Scott Palmer, the New York State Gaming Commission equine medical director.

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. 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.

It was hard to believe that California Chrome would not have been allowed to use the nasal strip. It’s also hard to believe that he’d be pulled from the race. He isn’t injured, and his feelings aren’t hurt by wearing that thing on his nose or not. With so much money there to be made for everyone involved if he takes part of the race with a shot at horse racing history that goes beyond the specific interest in this sport, no one was going to deny him the opportunity.

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