Breathe wrong? California Chrome Triple Crown bid could be derailed by nasal strip

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Two years ago, O’Neill trained I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with the colt wearing a nasal strip. New York officials told O’Neill that his horse couldn’t wear one in the Belmont. The issue became moot when I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the race because of a leg injury.

“I can’t imagine them being that ignorant that they would do that again,” O’Neill said. “New York has gotten a lot better with common sense. It seems like a more rational place now.”

NYRA has several new officials since 2012, including Martin Panza, the former racing secretary at now-closed Betfair Hollywood Park in California who now oversees racing operations at Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct.

Sherman said California Chrome came out of Saturday’s Preakness in good shape, emptying his feed tub after the race.

The colt playfully nibbled on his leather shank outside the barn as his two front legs were washed off Sunday. A worker removed a poultice from each lower front leg, which had been applied under bandages as a precaution to protect the colt’s tendons.

The nasal strip could prove insignificant, as did California Chrome’s cough that had no impact on his Preakness run. The colt has a small blister in his throat that caused him to cough last week, triggering rumors that he wouldn’t run at Pimlico.

Sherman thinks California Chrome will win the Triple Crown, something no horse has done since Affirmed in 1978.

“I have a good feeling about it. I’m really confident,” he said. “They better have their running shoes on. I don’t care how many fresh shooters they have. He’s the real McCoy.”

If California Chrome competes, the Belmont Stakes is shaping up as a possible 11-horse race, including two newcomers to the Triple Crown trail: Commissioner, sixth in the Arkansas Derby; and Tonalist, the Peter Pan Stakes winner.

Other probables include the second- through fifth-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby: Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat. Intense Holiday, 12th in the Derby, is on the list.

Three Preakness runners could return: Ride On Curlin (second), Social Inclusion (third) and Kid Cruz (eighth).

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