No Nasal Strip, No Problem, O'Neill Says
(Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of times I'll Have Another has raced with a nasal strip. The colt did not wear a nasal strip while winning his first wire-to-wire at Hollywood Park July 3, 2011, and he did not wear a nasal strip in the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Sept. 5. 2011, where he finished sixth out of eight on a sloppy track.)
An equipment change for I'll Have Another will be noted in the program for the 144th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 9. The son of Flower Alley will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner without the aid of a nasal strip, which he has worn in five of his previous seven races.
New York is the only state that bans nasal strip use. The prohibition does not come from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, which approved their use in October 1999 and allows nasal strips to be used in Standardbred racing.
The strips have been banned at New York Racing Association tracks at the discretion of stewards under a one-sentence, catch-all equipment state regulation known as 4033.8 that states: Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.
When the NYSRWB approved the strips in 1999 it was done so with the provision that they would be re-evaluated at the end of the year. The next month the NYRA’s then-president and chief executive officer, Terry Meyocks, announced the strips would be banned at NYRA tracks, according to Dr. Jim Chiapetta, a former practicing veterinarian and president of Flair LLC, which developed and produces the strips.
"There is no specific rule in New York regarding nasal strips other than the use is at the discretion of the stewards," NYSRWB spokesman Lee Park said.
Nasal strips, produced by Flair LLC, are self-adhesive strips about three inches wide that provide "spring-like force" to the soft tissue overlaying a horse’s nasal passages. According to the company, eight peer-reviewed studies have shown the nasal strips reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging, more commonly known as bleeding, by reducing the collapse of the soft nasal tissue during exercise.
Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, said he uses the strips regularly on all his horses.
"I think it has some therapeutic value," O’Neill said. "I’m not a part of some study but it does seem to lessen the chance of bleeding."
O’Neill said he doesn’t expect I’ll Have Another’s performance in the Belmont to be adversely affected by the lack of a nasal strip.
"We understand that this is the rule in New York and we’ll follow the rules," O’Neill said. "But it will be a zero issue. He’s a freak. You could put a blindfold on him, and he’ll run his race. This will be his first race (this year) without one, but he’ll be fine."
Chiapetta, who created the equine nasal strip with Dr. Ed Blach, said he also doesn’t expect I’ll Have Another to suffer a reversal in form without the strip, but Chiapetta is frustrated because he knows the strips help reduce EIPH, which studies show does affect performance. Also, he said he cannot find anyone at NYRA willing to at least openly discuss the concerns with the strips.
"Why is there only one state that bans them?" Chiapetta asked. "They are FDA-approved. The (U.S. Equestrian Federation) allows them in its Olympic sport,s and every human sport approves them."
New York State steward Carmine Donofrio was not available for comment May 25, and calls to the stewards at Belmont Park were not returned.
One concern Chiapetta said he knows has been raised about the nasal strips has been the potential for a strip, listed as equipment in a program, to fall off in the paddock or at the gate in wet weather. The horse would then have to be scratched.
"I am not aware of them falling off, but early on we did have comments about them coming loose," he said. "We have since modified the adhesive. It is tricky. You are trying to stick something to a hairy nose. But if they are put on properly—and we work with people on the procedure—once they put them on, they stay."
Chiapetta did note that if the horse is sweaty or wet, the strip will not adhere properly.
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