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California Chrome might skip Belmont Stakes

By Joe Drape
New York Times

BALTIMORE -

Would the owners of California Chrome scrap a historic Triple Crown bid over an equipment issue? The trainer Art Sherman raised that possibility Sunday morning, saying the co-owner Perry Martin might decide to hold California Chrome out of the Belmont Stakes if the colt is not allowed to wear a nasal strip for the third leg of the Triple Crown.

California Chrome has won six straight since Martin suggested to Sherman that he try the strip on the colt. It looks like a giant Band-Aid and is intended to enhance breathing.

In 2012, I’ll Have Another sported the strip in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but New York stewards said the breathing aid would be prohibited for the third leg of the Triple Crown. His trainer agreed, but it did not matter after I’ll Have Another came up with a leg injury on the day before the race and was scratched from the Belmont.

“I don’t know why they would ban you from wearing one,” Sherman said. “But we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.”

Lee Park, a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, said neither his agency nor the stewards at the New York Racing Association had received a request to use nasal strips in the Belmont Stakes.

“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,” Park said in a statement. “This is in accordance with the Commission’s Thoroughbred Rule 4033.8, which states: ‘Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.’ ”

California Chrome is trying to become just the 12th Triple Crown champion and the first since Affirmed swept the series in 1978. He is likely to face a stout field of 10 challengers in the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes, known as the Test of the Champion. The Preakness’s second- and third-place finishers, Ride On Curlin and Social Inclusion, were expected to compete in the Belmont, as were the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby: Commanding Curve, Danza and Wicked Strong.

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