05/19/2014 10:20AM

California Chrome can wear nasal strip in Belmont

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome will be allowed to wear a nasal strip - like the one shown above during the Preakness - in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome will be able to wear a nasal strip for the June 7 Belmont Stakes and all horses competing at New York Racing Association tracks will be able to wear them, effectively immediately, according to a press release issued Monday by the New York State Gaming Commission.

“The three Stewards at Belmont Park today unanimously agreed to allow the use of equine nasal strips for all horses running at racetracks of The New York Racing Association, effective immediately,” read a joint press release put out by the New York State Gaming Commission, Jockey Club, and NYRA, which employ the three stewards.

According to the release, New York’s stewards - Steve Lewandowski (Gaming Commission), Dr. Ted Hill (Jockey Club), and Braulio Baeza Jr. (NYRA) - sought input from Dr. Scott Palmer, New York’s equine medical director, before issuing a ruling.

Palmer said he saw no performance-enhancing benefit to nasal strips, which are used by some horsemen to assist a horse with his breathing.

“I recommended that the stewards at state-based Thoroughbred racetracks discontinue their ban on equine nasal strips,” Palmer is quoted saying in the release. “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,” Palmer added.

While there was never a state rule strictly prohibiting the use of nasal strips in New York, NYRA had instituted a house rule 15 years ago prohibiting their use. The Gaming Commission said that had horsemen made a request to stewards to use nasal strips, the stewards would have considered it. Horsemen interviewed on the Belmont backstretch Monday were not aware of that fact.

According to trainer Art Sherman, California Chrome has won all six of his races since using nasal strips. On Sunday, at Pimlico, when first told by Daily Racing Form that they were not permitted in New York, Sherman said that one of his owners, Perry Martin, might not want to run if the horse couldn’t use nasal strips.

Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Belmont Stakes contender Wicked Strong, said he might consider using nasal strips “if there’s something about them that has a settling effect. . . . I don’t want to keep closed-mind about it.”

Todd Pletcher, who is expected to run three horses in the Belmont - Commissioner, Danza, and Intense Holiday - didn’t plan on using them. He said he’s used them on horses in the past at other tracks and “didn’t see a huge performance change” from them.

It was also announced by the Gaming Commission that stewards at Finger Lakes also voted to permit use of nasal strips at the upstate track.