NEW YORK (AP) — California Chrome got permission from New York racing officials to wear nasal strips when he runs in the Belmont Stakes.
He wore them while winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness after one of the colt’s owners decided to try them.
Now others are getting into the act.
Breathe Right representatives will be at Belmont Park on Saturday passing out 50,000 of its nasal strips to adult fans attending the race. Humans use the strips to help them breathe easier while sleeping. Some horses use them to open up their nasal passages while running.
Breathe Right is encouraging Belmont fans to wear the strips during the race and pose for selfies to post on social media.
At Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., where California Chrome has run, the track will give fans free souvenir nasal strips on Saturday. The strips are purple with word “Chrome” on the front.
TRUE BELIEVER: Medal Count’s trainer Dale Romans came into the Kentucky Derby thinking he had the best horse. He left with an eighth-place finish and great respect for California Chrome.
“Yeah it changed. I said it two minutes after he hit the wire at the Derby. I was dead wrong. He’s a great horse,” Romans said on Friday. “He came in perfectly prepared. Lived up to his reputation. He was getting a lot more hype than he deserved and I was wrong. Then he backed it up in the Preakness. He’s the horse to beat. But go back in history there’s been a lot of them. They just didn’t get it done. It’s tough. If he was running against the field that Secretariat ran against in the Belmont he’d be a triple crown winner. Just give it to him today.”
Romans thinks his horse has a good chance on Saturday with the longer race being an equalizer since none of the horses have run that distance.
History is also against California Chrome. All 11 of the previous Triple Crown winners ran in New York when they were 2-year-olds. California Chrome didn’t.
STELLAR UNDERCARD: The New York Racing Association has always been at the mercy of the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
The owners and operators of Belmont Park, NYRA could always count on a large crowd every time a Triple Crown was on the line in the third and final leg, the Belmont Stakes. The track record of 120,139 was set in 2004 for Smarty Jones’ failed Triple try.
Attendance dwindled with no Triple Crown on the line.
In an effort to make Belmont Stakes Day a major stand-alone event, NYRA loaded many of it’s stakes’ eggs into one basket.
The result: Belmont Park will award $8 million in purses over Saturday’s 13-race card, including $1.5 million for the Belmont. It is the richest day of racing in North America aside from the Breeders’ Cup.
NYRA plucked several major stakes from their traditional calendar positions to assemble a loaded undercard.
The most prominent shift was moving the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap, the usual Memorial Day feature, into a supporting role.
The shift didn’t hurt the race. It drew a talented field of 13, including Palace Malice, last year’s Belmont Stakes winner who breaks from the rail. He faces the first four finishers from the Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard: Central Banker, Shakin’ It Up, Clearly Now and Broadway Empire.
The speed in the Met Mile figures to be Goldencents, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner.
The $1 million Manhattan on the turf immediately precedes the Belmont. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will be looking for his fourth Manhattan victory when he saddles Point of Entry.
Beholder headlines the $1 million Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares. Beholder, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as divisional champion, tackles Princess of Sylmar, last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, and Close Hatches, second to her last year in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
One of the busiest people Saturday will be trainer Todd Pletcher who has runners entered in all 13 races, including Palace Malice, Princess of Sylmar and a pair of long shots in the Belmont: Matterhorn and Commissioner.
FLASHY CHROME: California Chrome comes from modest breeding, but the colt definitely inherited some flashiness in the looks department.
His face has a large blaze on it, causing the white nasal strips he wears during races to blend in. He also has four white socks, which some owners and trainers view as a negative.
Steve Cauthen, who rode Affirmed to the last Triple Crown in 1978, compared a horse having white feet to a light-skinned person who may be prone to infections and skin diseases more than someone with darker skin.
“That’s as much why most trainers dislike having so much white,” he said. “But as far as how fast they can run, it doesn’t make them any faster or any slower.”
Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, had three white socks.
“There’s some beautiful horses with all that white pigment that can’t run faster than you and me,” Cauthen said, “and then there’s California Chrome, Secretariat and horses like that. I just think it makes him flashier.”