History shows that the Belmont Stakes draws a lot more interest and double the TV ratings if a horse is running for the coveted Triple Crown. Now that the threat of California Chrome pulling out of the race over an arcane rule has been lifted, racing fans and NBC alike can breathe a big sigh of relief...through their nasal passages.
On Saturday the chestnut colt California Chrome pushed his career earnings to $3.5 million and set the table for the Triple Crown after following his Kentucky Derby victory with a win at the Preakness, fending off Ride on Curlin’s game stretch challenge without much trouble. But until New York Racing Association stewards acted preemptively this morning to strike down a ban on the use of nasal strips (like the ones many men use to alleviate snoring), there was a real chance that Chrome's owners would pull him out of the Belmont Stakes.
New York was the state whose racing association disallowed the Flair nasal strips, which facilitate the free flow of air through a horse’s nasal passages. Chrome has used the strips throughout his current seven-race win streak. In an interview in today's Daily News, trainer Art Sherman said, "The strip does open up the air passages and give that extra oomph he needs, especially going a mile and a half [at the Belmont]."
Last we checked, air isn’t considered a performance enhancer in any state. Moreover, that strip has become a part of California Chrome’s charm. Removing it would be like asking LeBron to play without his headband, Iverson without his arm sleeve, Armstrong to race without his… Well, you get the point. Anyway, crisis averted. Now we can start handicapping the field for the Test of the Champion, June 7 on NBC.
Photos by Matt Slocum / AP