California Chrome Wins Preakness, Belmont Up Next
With crowds cheering him on enthusiastically, California Chrome passed the winning post in first place by a length-and-a-half in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. With a time of 1:54.84 he was just less than two seconds short of the track record of 1:53.00 set by Secretariat in 1973.
Having won the Kentucky Derby, the next obvious goal for California Chrome would be the Belmont Stakes on June 7, with a shot at the Triple Crown title, last claimed by Affirmed in 1978. But, it appears that there may be a hurdle to overcome before it can be confirmed that California Chrome will run in the mile-and-a-half event, dubbed as the 'Test of the Champion'.
In each of his six consecutive victories, California Chrome was wearing a nasal strip, which is legal in most jurisdictions, but has not been approved for use in in New York State horse racing events. Promoted as being able to reduce fatigue and improve respiratory health in horses, the nasal strip is designed to support soft tissue over the horse's nasal passages, preventing it from being sucked in during exertion, which reduces the airway diameter restricting oxygen flow.
In 2012, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, I'll Have Another, wore nasal strips for those events. At the time New York stewards refused to allow competitors to use the breathing aids in the Belmont Stakes, and I'll Have Another was set to run without the nasal strip. Whether it would have made a difference to the colt's performance was never discovered, as I'll Have Another was scratched from the race due to a leg injury.
Trainer Art Sherman revealed in an interview that there is a possibility the owners of California Chrome will not put him in the race if permission to use nasal strips is denied. Spokesman for the New York Gaming Commission, Lee Park, noted that should a request to use nasal strips be lodged, the decision on whether or not to permit them will be made by the stewards of the New York Racing Association, complying with Thoroughbred Rule 4033.8 which states that 'Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race'.
Among the contenders for the Belmont Stakes are Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, Danza, Social Inclusion and Ride On Curlin – and, hopefully, California Chrome.
*Secretariat's time in the Preakness Stakes was originally recorded at 1:55.00, but with the benefit of modern technology, and at the request of his owner Penny Chenery, the race was reviewed in 2012 and his time corrected to 1:53.00, acknowledging that he set the record in all three Triple Crown races.