SPORTS WATCH | A Breath of Fresh Air Coming in Belmont Stakes

05/22/14 | By | 822 views More

In a show of support for America’s next horseracing hero, California Chrome, I had planned on organizing a nationwide wear-your-Breath-Right-to-work campaign for the next three weeks or until New York Racing Association ruled that the Triple Crown hopeful would be allowed to wear a nasal strip of his own in the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

No nationwide nasal strip show of support for California Chrome is needed, though. The New York Racing Association wasted no time earlier this week ruling that the thoroughbred would be allowed to wear his horse-sized nasal strip on June 7 when he tries to become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.

The decision to allow the nasal breathing strips came on Monday, according to The New York Times, after New York’s equine medical director recommended a ban on the strips be discontinued. After all, the Flair Nasal Strip is accepted in most horseracing jurisdictions.

For California Chrome, the nasal strips have been a breath of fresh air. Last year, after placing a disappointing sixth in a race, his co-owner Perry Martin suggested the use of a nasal strip. Since then, California Chrome has won six straight races, including the Kentucky Derby and, most recently, the Preakness Stakes.

So far, I’ve read a few sports columnists who are calling the decision to allow the nasal strip unfair. Others are saying the whole nasal strip storyline is taking away from the horseracing grandeur the Triple Crown is.

Whatever.

I am no horseracing insider and I am quick to admit that I really don’t know the ins and outs of the sport. Ask me to properly understand the fine print in the latest edition of a Daily Racing Form and I will give you a confused look. What I like is a storyline I can understand, especially in horseracing, and the possibility of winning a Triple Crown is probably the easiest to understand.

Like most of America, I assume, I am no horseracing aficionado but if there is a reason to get excited about the sport, I will get excited about the sport. If I have nothing good going on during the first Saturday in May, I’ll make the Kentucky Derby the centerpiece of my day. All the pageantry, the TV commentary and the excessive bourbon drinking is fun. Hell, I’ve even had enough mint juleps during past derbies where I stupidly opened an online betting account to make some last-minute contributions to someone else’s bank account. Make no mistake about it, the Kentucky Derby is fun, but it’s not because of the two minutes of exciting horseracing – it’s everything surrounding the race.

Then comes the Preakness. Does anyone schedule their weekend plans around the Preakness? Does anyone ever crave a refreshing Black-eyed Susan? Unless you are in Vegas, or somewhere near the Baltimore area, you probably aren’t clearing a beautiful Saturday afternoon to watch the race. Maybe the winner of the Kentucky Derby will win again? Maybe not. Either way, it’s just another day at the racetrack.

But maybe it wasn’t just another day at the racetrack and the horse that won the Kentucky Derby also won the Preakness? Now, almost instantly, we non-horseracing geeks are actually all geeked up about the next horse race. We all want to be there when history is made.

Make no mistake, a good portion of America will tune in June 7 to see if California Chrome can win the Belmont Stakes and become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years after Affirmed won it in 1978. We bandwagon horseracing fans now have less than three weeks to brush up on our horseracing lingo and opinions for our a date with the Belmont Stakes. I’ve cleared my weekend. Have you? Anyone throwing a Belmont Stakes party now?

Obviously, my first opinion on California Chrome concerned the nasal strip. If the New York Racing Association wouldn’t allow the colt to wear the strip, I hoped owners Steve Coburn and Perry would make good on their threat to keep California Chrome from competing in the race. Wouldn’t that be a headline everyone would talk about the next day? “Triple Crown Hopeful Out Over Nasal Dispute.”

The Racing Association put that two-day controversy to rest by allowing the strip, so we can now move on to other more important aspects of the race. Like California Chrome’s owners, Coburn and Perry, who make up the ownership entity called Dumb Ass Partners. They aren’t so dumb now, according to ESPN.com, which reported that California Chrome was bred for $10,500 but has already made $3.45 million on the track. Ninety-seven percent of that bucket of winnings came while the horse was wearing a nasal strip.

Another interesting storyline in California Chrome’s run toward a Triple Crown is the jockey riding him, Victor Espinoza. At the same time California Chrome’s ownership suggested the nasal patch, a jockey change from Alberto Delgado to Espinoza. According to SI.com, Espinoza has been able to use California Chrome’s quick and nimble athletic ability several times in one race to keep him in the clear, letting him run. Under Espinoza, California Chrome is 6-0. The colt is also 6-0 – with the nasal strip. Which is more important, jockey or nasal strip? Well, by the number of stories written about Chrome’s nasal strip so far, one would conclude that the improved breathing has everything to do with his success. It’s a notion that SI’s Tim Layden calls “insane.”

A true horseracing aficionado would get into California Chrome’s lineage right now – how he handles pressure; does he move his head too much out of the gate; what gate does the colt starts best from, etc.? I am not willing to do that. A horseracing simpleton like me believes that because Chrome will be able to breathe the New York air, with the help of a nasal strip, he’ll become the next Triple Crown winner – and the next American hero for snorers everywhere. Hell, I may even wear a Breath Right to the Belmont Stakes party I hope to get invited to.

For all you Chrome fans planning a Belmont Stakes party, here’s the recipe for the race’s official drink, the Belmont Breeze, according to Dale DeGroff.

Belmont Breeze

1 1/2 ounces of a good American blended whiskey

3/4 ounces Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry

1/2 ounce of fresh lemon juice

1 ounce of simple syrup

(1 ounce of sweet and sour mix may be substituted for the lemon juice and simple syrup)

1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice

1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice

1 ounce 7-Up

1 ounce Club Soda

Shake first six ingredients with ice, then top with 7-Up and club soda. Garnish with mint sprig and lemon wedge.

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

Twitter: @Gus_Jarvis

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Category: Sports, Sports Watch

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