New York Racing Association stewards ruled May 19 that the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) winner will be allowed to wear a nasal strip when he tries to secure the Triple Crown in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. Other Thoroughbreds racing in New York also will be allowed to wear the strips, which are designed to improve a horse's breathing by opening nasal passages.
On May 18 California Chrome's trainer Art Sherman contacted the stewards (one representing the New York State Gaming Commission, one representing NYRA, and another representing The Jockey Club) requesting permission to use nasal strips on the horse in the Belmont Stakes. The stewards immediately sought expert analysis from NYSGC equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer on their use.
"I recommend that the stewards at state-based Thoroughbred racetracks discontinue their ban on equine nasal strips," Palmer said. "Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health or safety and as such do not need to be regulated."
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin's California Chrome has worn a Flair Nasal Strip in each of his past six races, all victories. Palmer said nasal strips are not performance-enhancing.
"While there is research to indicate that equine nasal strips decrease airway resistance in horses and may decrease the amount of bleeding associated with (exercise-induced pulmonary hemmorhage) to some degree, I am unfamiliar with any research indicating that equine nasal strips enable a horse to run faster with nasal strips than without them," Palmer said. "In other words, there is no evidence they have a performance-enhancing effect. Equine nasal strips do not pose a welfare or safety risk to the horse. They are applied to the top of the nose and anyone can see their use prior to a race.
"If improperly applied, equine nasal strips cannot interfere with performance. In my opinion equine nasal strips fall into the same category as tongue-ties."
The stewards considered Palmer's advice and decided to allow the unregulated use of the nasal strips.