Breathe easy, California Chrome fans.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winning horse will be allowed to wear a nasal strip when he takes aim at the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, after stewards from the New York State Racing Association voted to grant approval of the nasal strip on Monday.
A statement from the New York Racing Association and the state's Gaming Commission says three stewards unanimously gave approval to California Chrome to wear the nasal strip. New York tracks have a rule prohibiting any equipment not specifically approved by stewards, and nasal strips were not on the list.
Trainer Art Sherman had raised the possibility of California Chrome sitting the race out if he were not allowed to wear the strip, which helps keep the nasal cavities open and facilitate easier breathing during races. But, the controversy will no longer stand in the way of California Chrome's pursuit of one of sports' rarest accomplishments.
In an exclusive interview with CSN Baltimore before the ruling, Sherman sounded confident that the stewards would find in California Chrome's favor.
"I don't think it's going to be a problem," Sherman said. "It's just a house rule, which, a house rule means it's at the discretion of the stewards, but I think it's going to work out fine."
Sherman also called into question the general wisdom of New York's rule against nasal strips on thoroughbreds, citing that harness race horses in the state are allowed to wear them.
"I don't know [why thoroughbreds are disallowed to wear nasal strips], because the harness horses all wear them," Sherman said. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But, hey, listen, rules are rules, you know what I mean. We went through the formality and everything but I don't think we'll have much of a problem. I don't think so."
Co-owner Perry Martin initially suggested that California Chrome start wearing the nasal strip late last year, and the horse has since gone undefeated in all six races in which he's worn them -- including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes -- dating back to Dec. 22.
The Belmont Stakes will be shown live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on June 7. California Chrome will attempt to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.