NPR Story
4:16 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

California Chrome's Triple Crown Hopes Hang On By A Nasal Strip

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 8:54 pm

California Chrome has already won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but for one day, its hopes for a Triple Crown were in danger. In its first two races, the horse had worn a nasal strip, which wasn't permitted at Belmont Park — until Monday. Dave Grening, the New York Correspondent for the Daily Racing Form, explains the situation.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For about 24 hours, California Chrome's bid for the Triple Crown was hanging on by a nasal strip. The horse has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. And he's the heavy favorite for the third leg, the Belmont Stakes in New York.

In each of the first two races, California Chrome wore a nasal strip, a piece of adhesive worn across the nose to open up the nostrils and help breathing. Human athletes looking for an edge have been wearing nasal strips for years. So have you been snorers hoping for a night's sleep for themselves and for their bed partners.

Well, one problem was that New York State did not permit nasal strips for thoroughbreds. And California Chrome's trainer suggested if his horse wasn't allowed to use them, that he might not race at all.

But today the three stewards at Belmont Park OK'ed the use of nasal strips and racing fans everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.

Well, joining us on the line is Dave Grening, the New York correspondent for the Daily Racing Form. Welcome to the program.

DAVE GRENING: Thanks for having me. Yes, we can all breathe a whole lot easier now.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: With nasal strips, if we want. Rules are rules, but let's face it, a horse hasn't won the Triple Crown in 36 years. Were racing officials really going to derail California Chrome's bid over a nasal strip?

GRENING: I don't believe so, Robert. I think there was no specific rule that explicitly said nasal strips are banned for use in New York. What it was is that there was an experiment done many years ago and the horsemen here were like, you know what, these things aren't all that great. But the state actually permitted it but the NYRA, New York Racing Association, the management team at the time said you know what - and I don't know the reasoning for it, I don't remember the reasoning for it - they said we're not going to allow him. Part of the reason was they didn't know how to regulate them. Let's say they fell off during the course of a race or in the paddock, would the horse be scratched, we run for personally only, how would we tell - how would we notify the betters that they're being used? So they just decided you know what, we're not going to touch the stuff and we'll leave it alone.

SIEGEL: And it couldn't be a special bet without the nasal strip? You would bet on somebody win, place or show?

(LAUGHTER)

GRENING: Well, you know, there's all kinds of different equipment that horses and horsemen use. And some of them like a tongue-tie, the betters don't know a trainer is using a tongue-tie on a horse or not. So to me the nasal strip is like a tongue-tie.

SIEGEL: Do they actually work, by the way, the nasal strips? Is there any indication that they help horses?

GRENING: I've talked to some several trainers and in fact, this morning on the back stretch here at Belmont Park and most of them told me you know what, I've tried to use them in other jurisdictions and to me I see no discernible difference, which is why nobody really made a big push even when the previous management banned them, no one had made a big push to say oh now, that's guys out, let's go talk to Charlie now so that we can get nasal strips back. It just wasn't even that big a deal. In this particular case, - California Chrome's particular case - I should say, he is now six for six with nasal strips. One of his owners had suggested to the trainer back in December hey, let's try this. They tried it. It's worked. He's now six for six on them. Whether it's actually the nasal strips or the fact that he just got faster and stronger...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

GRENING: ...I'm not sure.

SIEGEL: So this could just be his lucky nasal strip that he's going to be racing with.

GRENING: I think he's wearing the same one, by the way. I don't think he's taken it off like now five months. It probably needs to be cleaned.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Look Dave, explain this. You cover racing, horseracing, how is it that something like this can be OK in Kentucky, OK in Maryland but until now not OK in New York? There such different rules all over the country?

GRENING: Oh, there's rules not only from state to state but from track to track and it's sort of one of the raisings many issues here that the rules are different in most jurisdictions. So whether it would be medication or equipment or entry fees or percentage of persons that are paid out, I was just talking to someone before, you know, there's a million and a half dollar pot here in the Preakness. There was a million and a half dollar pot here for the Belmont. He won the Preakness, he won $900,000. If he wins at Belmont, he wins $800,000, so nothings the same.

SIEGEL: Well, Dave Grening, I guess your work for the next couple of weeks is cut out for you.

GRENING: Yes. I will be nosing around looking for stories on the back stretch.

SIEGEL: That's Dave Grening, New York correspondent for the Daily Racing Form.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FUGUE FOR TINHORNS")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) I got the horse right here. The name is Paul Revere. And here's a guy that says if the weather's clear. Can do, can do, this guy says the horse can do. If he says the horse can do, can do, can do.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.