California Chrome will be able to race after all.
There had been some doubt about whether the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and the Preakness would compete in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horseracing's Triple Crown.
The thoroughbred has run and won his last six races wearing equine nasal strips. It was uncertain whether the stewards who oversee the June 7 event in New York would allow the strips, out of concern they offer the horse an unfair boost.
But on Monday, the New York Racing Association informed California Chrome's owners that the horse could wear the adhesive patch, which resembles what some chronic snorers and even athletes wear to aid their breathing.
"Our long national nightmare is over," tweeted Washington Post sportswriter Cindy Boren.
In 2012, the horse I'll Have Another wore the breathing aid to victory in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but New York stewards said it would be prohibited in Belmont. The point became moot when the horse suffered a leg injury and was scratched.
California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, conceded that the strips give the horse "extra oomph," especially for a long race like the Belmont Stakes, which covers 1½ miles.
But speaking with CNN on Monday, Steve Coburn, the horse's co-owner, said the nasal strips "don't do any enhancement at all. What they actually do is help the horse cool down after the race by keeping the nasal passages open."
The decision means nasal strips can now be freely used by any horse. They had already been permitted in all other states.
Studies that have looked at the question of whether nasal strips help equine athletes perform better are inconclusive, says John Scheinman, who covers racing for the industry publications Blood-Horse and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
No horse has won the Triple Crown since 1978. Given the interest in this horse, it would have been a mistake not to allow California Chrome to run, strips and all, Scheinman suggests.
"This race card could generate more revenue than any in the history of the sport in the United States," he says. "To raise the specter of California Chrome not running for the Triple Crown would be a financial disaster for the New York Racing Association."
Chris Kay, the association's president and CEO, said in a statement, "We are extremely excited that California Chrome will be coming to Belmont Park in his quest to become thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner on Saturday, June 7."