California Chrome has been granted permission to wear a nasal strip in next month's Belmont Stakes, clearing the way for his attempt to complete U.S. racing's elusive Triple Crown.
New York Racing Association (NYRA) stewards released a statement on Monday saying they had changed their policy banning the use of the adhesive strips, saying all horses would be allowed to wear them from now on.
"I recommend that the stewards at state-based thoroughbred racetracks discontinue their ban on equine nasal strips," New York State Gaming Commission equine medical director Scott Palmer said in a joint statement from the NYRA, the state's gaming commission and the Jockey Club.
"Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health or safety and as such do not need to be regulated."
The announcement averted the possibility that California Chrome could skip the race and forego his chance to become the first horse in 36 years to complete the Triple Crown.
The three-year-old has already won the first two legs - the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes - but California Chrome trainer Art Sherman raised the possibility he would not run in the Belmont if prevented from wearing a nasal strip.
When news of the rule change was announced on Monday, Sherman stables confirmed the horse would go for the Triple Crown. "California Chrome will run in Belmont Stakes, nasal strip was approved," the stable tweeted.
Only 11 horses, including the legendary Secretariat, have won the Triple Crown, with Affirmed, in 1978, the most recent.
California Chrome is the 13th horse since Affirmed to have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but none have gone on and won the Belmont, which is held over one and half miles (2,400 meters), the longest and most grueling of the three races.
U.S. race fans are already giddy with excitement at the prospect the long drought could soon be over although California Chrome still faces a tough challenge.
Although the final field for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes will not be decided until a few days before the race, the contenders are already lining up.
Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat - which finished second, third, fourth and fifth in the Kentucky Derby, are all expected to race after skipping the Preakness to save their energy.
And Ride On Curlin and Social Inclusion, which finished second and third in the Preakness, are also likely to join the field.
(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Larry Fine)
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