UPDATE 10:33 A.M.:
According to Jeannine Edwards of ESPN, California Chrome will be allowed to wear the nasal strips.
BREAKING: NYRA just informed Cal Chrome camp that they CAN use the nasal strip— Jeannine Edwards (@jeanninee12) May 19, 2014
California Chrome has won six straight races — including the first two legs of the Triple Crown — while wearing nasal strips, which help with air flow in the nasal passages. But the horse’s handlers will have to petition the New York Racing Association if they want to continue the practice at the Belmont Stakes on June 7, as nasal strips — which are similar to the ones worn by humans in an attempt to stop snoring — are banned at New York tracks.
“We put in an official request [Sunday to New York officials] to get the nasal strip, and it looks like we’re going to be able to use it,” assistant trainer Alan Sherman told USA Today. “It’s looking that way, but we’ll see when I get up there.”
The issue came up two years ago, when I’ll Have Another also won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes while wearing the nasal strips. The NYRA would not allow him to wear them during the Belmont Stakes, however, “citing issues with how to regulate” their use, the Associated Press reported at the time. (The issue became moot when I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont because of a leg injury.)
Why are nasal strips banned in New York but allowed everywhere else? According to a 2012 New York Post article, it’s because they give a horse an unfair edge.
According to Dr. Ted Hill, the Jockey Club steward at the NYRA tracks, studies have shown that equine nasal strips can be performance-enhancing by reducing fatigue and possibly preventing bleeding, claims the company makes on its website, flairstrips.com.
If that’s the case, Dr. Hill said, then how do you regulate them? For example, what if it’s raining and the nasal strip comes off in the post parade?
“Do you scratch him?” Hill asked. “Does he run for purse money only?”
NYRA Rule 4033.8 states: “Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.”
“If a request to use nasal strips is made, the decision on whether to permit them or not will be fully evaluated and determined by the stewards,” Lee Park, a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, said in a statement obtained by the New York Times.