You might want to call this losing by a nose — or at least the nasal strip on it.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome might abandon his Triple Crown bid if New York officials do not allow the colt to wear a nasal strip in the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Art Sherman made no threats about the Derby and Preakness winner passing on a chance to become horse racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, but he suggested it was a possibility.
"I'd have to leave it up to the owners," he said Sunday. "I know they'll be upset."
While California Chrome couldn't be stopped by a huge field at Churchill Downs or a tickle in his throat at Pimlico, this potential obstacle reared its head Sunday about whether the big favorite would be allowed to wear the breathing device in the Belmont Stake on June 7.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is 6-for-6 for trainer Art Sherman since being equipped Dec. 22 with a Flair nasal strip, which helps horses breathe more easily. He was 2-for-6 before that. Sherman said the colt doesn't wear it while training, and that it was co-owner Perry Martin's idea to use it. Sherman said Martin might scratch California Chrome from a Triple Crown bid if he's not allowed to wear the strip, which is legal in virtually all of this country's racing jurisdictions.
"That's going to be interesting. Perry is funny about things like that," Sherman said. "It might be an issue. I'm not saying it will be. I'll let the owners make the decision.
"They allow it [in New York] in harness racing but not for thoroughbreds. That's bogus."
The Daily Racing Form reported that Martin Panza, the New York Racing Association's senior vice president of racing operations, said Sherman made a formal request to Belmont Park's stewards Sunday afternoon to allow California Chrome to wear the nasal strip, and that the decision was expected within 24 to 48 hours.
The New York State Racing Commission's thoroughbred 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."
"I don't know why they'd keep you from wearing it," said Sherman, who was surprised when informed of the rule Sunday morning. "But we'll cross that bridge when we get there."
Even if the strip were not allowed, it would be a stretch for the commission to scratch a horse just one victory from making history and in a sport which could really use the hype.
Sherman said he could run his star instead in the July 5 Los Alamitos Derby, joking, "Orange County would be pretty overcrowded that day."