Thankfully, the three stewards in New York – one employed by The Jockey Club, one by the New York Racing Association, one by the New York State Gaming Commission – have saved horseracing from further national embarrassment over whether Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome can wear a Flair nasal strip in the Belmont Stakes June 7. They have issued a joint statement saying all horses running at NYRA tracks may use them.
This issue, dubbed “Nasalgate” by some, wasn't just about a little strip of paper with glue that a number of trainers put on a horse's nose because they think it helps oxygen intake or possibly alleviate internal hemorrhage. It's about fiefdoms, territorial rights, a belief that “we” know more about how to regulate a sport than “you” do.
It's not just nasal strips, and it's not just New York. In Florida it's allowing a corticosteroid to be administered on race-day or keeping drug testing labs from using the latest technology. In Louisiana it's permitting higher levels of certain therapeutic medications than other states allow. In Arkansas it's putting your heels in the dirt and not participating in national initiatives like the Equine Injury Database. In California it's having different rules pertaining to claiming a horse than elsewhere. This crazy patchwork of state regulations and house rules might have been fine in the day that horses traveled by railcar and there was no such thing as interstate betting. It's a different game today.
Horseplayers want uniformity, whether it's medication rules, equipment rules, wagering rules. So do owners and trainers.
This one was easy. Unlike two years ago, when New York stewards could bully Doug O'Neill (trainer of Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another) on the nasal strip issue because of the medication controversy swirling around him, the trainer and owners of California Chrome could have made this a line-in-the-sand issue, as silly as that sounds. On Sunday, the morning after winning the Preakness, trainer Art Sherman actually brought up the idea of not running California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes if nasal strips are banned.
Now that this 24 hours of nasal nonsense is over, let's move on to more important issues.
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