NEW YORK — California Chrome beat out an idiosyncratic racing rule — by a nose.
The colt is back on track for his Triple Crown try after an only-in-New York equipment ban appeared ready to put a kink in his Triple Crown try at the Belmont Stakes.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was cleared to wear the nasal strip he has worn all through a six-race winning streak that has set him up for a chance at horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown.
New York racetracks have a rule prohibiting any equipment not specifically approved by stewards, and nasal strips were not on their list. A statement from the New York Racing Association and the state’s Gaming Commission on Monday said the track’s three stewards unanimously agreed to lift the ban.
The strip worn by California Chrome during his six-race winning streak is thought to assist airflow through the nostrils — something that should come in handy June 7 for Belmont’s grueling run.
“I think it opens up his air passage and gives him that little extra oomph that he needs, especially going a mile and a half,” trainer Art Sherman said. “Any time you can have a good air passage that means a lot for these thoroughbreds.”
Other states allow equine nasal strips while racing, and even some jockeys wear them, as do humans in other sports. American marathon star Meb Keflezighi can be seen sporting one during his winning run in Boston last month.
California Chrome doesn’t need to go 26.2 miles to reach racing immortality, though. Just 1½ will do.
Racing hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and the sport’s popularity has waned in the nearly four decades since. But it gets a boost every time a horse heads to the Big Apple with a Triple Crown on the line.
Sherman raised the possibility his horse wouldn’t run in the Belmont if barred from using a nasal strip, but the problem was solved in about 24 hours, clearing the way for big crowds and plenty of betting at Belmont in less than three weeks.
Two years ago, Doug O’Neill trained I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with the colt wearing a nasal strip. New York officials told O’Neill his horse couldn’t wear one in the Belmont. The issue became moot when I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the race because of a leg injury.
This Belmont Stakes is shaping up as a possible 11-horse race, including two newcomers to the Triple Crown trail: Commissioner, sixth in the Arkansas Derby; and Tonalist, the Peter Pan Stakes winner.
Other probables include the second- through fifth-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby: Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat. Intense Holiday, 12th in the Derby, is on the list.
Three Preakness runners could return: Ride On Curlin (second), Social Inclusion (third) and Kid Cruz (eighth).