California Chrome can use nasal strip in Belmont Stakes, race officials say
(CNN) — BREAKING:
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 keeps alive the the 3-year-old's bid to win horse racing's Triple Crown after winning the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby.
California Chrome's co-owner said Monday that he'd like to see the horse compete for a shot at horse racing's prestigious Triple Crown, despite questions over whether the horse will be allowed to wear a breathing strip on his nose.
"We want to run; we really do," Steve Coburn told CNN's "New Day" on Monday after reports emerged that the horse could be held out of the June 7 Belmont Stakes if he's not allowed to wear the strips.
Racing officials in New York, where the Belmont is held, don't allow the strips in thoroughbred racing.
"I think the people of New York want us to bring this horse here. They want to see him run," Coburn said.
Coburn deferred to trainer Art Sherman on whether California Chrome will run the race if regulators decide against allowing the strips, which the manufacturer says can improve performance and decrease the chance of bleeding in the lungs in race horses.
California Chrome wore the strips during wins at this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Sherman said the decision would be up to co-owner Perry Martin.
"He might not run if they say 'you can't run with a nasal strip.' He's very funny about things like that," Sherman said.
"The horse has been on a six-race winning streak with nasal strips. 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.
The New York State Gaming Commission, the state's horse racing regulator, said the decision would be up to officials at the state's racing association.
Neither group had received a request to use the strips, the commission said. It promised that any such request would be "fully evaluated."
In 2012, I'll Have Another also won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but his owners were told the nasal strips were prohibited in New York, several media outlets reported. The horse was unable to run because of a career-ending leg injury.
The manufacturer of the strips, Flair, said in a statement on its website Sunday that it would "continue to do everything in our power to work with The New York Racing Association to get the strips approved for New York Thoroughbred racing as quickly as possible."
The strips 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 Flair, they 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 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."
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