05/25/2012 3:28PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Stewards won't permit I'll Have Another to wear nasal strip in Belmont Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
The nasal strip that I'll Have Another wore while winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness will not be allowed in the June 9 Belmont Stakes.

I’ll Have Another will be forced to make a subtle, but perhaps significant, equipment change when he tries to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in the 144th Belmont Stakes on June 9, not because his connections want to, but because they are being required to do so by Belmont Park stewards.

In both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, I’ll Have Another has raced with a Flair Equine Nasal Strip across his nose, similar to the Breathe Right strips popular with some human athletes. He also wore a nasal strip when he won the Robert Lewis Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, and last summer at Del Mar, when he finished second in the Best Pal Stakes.

[BELMONT STAKES: Video updates, expected field, early odds]

However, stewards at New York Racing Association racetracks, which includes Belmont Park, have decided not to allow nasal strips. This is not a New York State Racing and Wagering Board rule, nor even a Belmont Park house rule. It is a decision made by the stewards.

Dr. Ted Hill, the Jockey Club steward at Belmont Park, said the nasal strip issue has been reviewed a number of times and said the problem is how to regulate its use.

[I’LL HAVE ANOTHER: Derby, Preakness winner runs for Triple Crown]

Changes for blinkers, bar shoes, and Lasix, for instance, are announced in New York. Changes regarding other equipment, such as shadow rolls, tongue ties, and bits, are not denoted. But all of those items are allowed.

Curiously, nasal strips are permitted in New York for harness racing. But the line has been drawn in Thoroughbred racing at NYRA tracks.

“If it’s really going to help the horse that much, to be fair and consistent, we have to regulate it,” Hill said. “That’s always been the issue.”

Part of the issue, Hill said, is what to do with a horse who was scheduled to wear a nasal strip if the strip comes off in the paddock or at the gate, perhaps because of wet weather. Further, Hill said there has not been a clamor among New York horsemen to use it.

“We’ve never had someone say, ‘What can we do here because we’d like to use this product?’ ” Hill said. “There’s really been no push for it.”

Doug O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another, on Friday said that although he believes the nasal strip is “a safe, natural piece of equipment for the horse, I completely respect the New York rules and will not use one.”

Flair, the company that makes the equine nasal strip, argues that its product is humane in that it promotes better lung function and helps alleviate the need for anti-bleeding medication, such as Lasix. The company says the strips “provide drug-free support and protection of the respiratory system of the hard-working equine athlete,” and said eight clinical studies show that the strips “reduce airway resistance, reduce lung stress and bleeding, reduce fatigue, and shorten post-exercise recovery time.”

Dr. James R. Chiapetta, a veterinarian who is the president of Flair LLC, contacted the Belmont Park stewards earlier this week in an attempt to change their position, but was unsuccessful.

“The strips make no more difference in the outcome of a race than do horseshoes, tongue ties, figure eight bridles, or other equipment horsemen are permitted to use,” Chiapetta said in a statement released by Flair on Friday. “The strips, however, are designed to protect horses’ lungs so they can stay healthier.”

According to Chiapetta, the strips “are scientifically proven to reduce lung bleeding and can reduce bleeding as much as the drug Lasix/Salix when horses are running to fatigue.”

This decision goes to a larger aspect of racing, the varying rules that are in each state regarding equipment and medication. For instance, the states that play host to the Triple Crown races have different rules on adjunct bleeder medication. It is legal to use such products in Kentucky and Maryland, but not in New York, where only Lasix, now known as Salix, is allowed.