Horse Racing's Ultimate Underdog Tale Faces Another Obstacle

PHOTO: California Chrome, ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza, wins the 139th Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 17, 2014, in Baltimore.
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Despite California Chrome’s victory in the Preakness this weekend, the horse’s owners aren’t breathing easy.

The 3-year-old colt is vying for horse racing’s most elusive – and exclusive – club, the Triple Crown, something that hasn’t been achieved since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.

California Chrome wore a nasal strip during the first two legs of the derby, an item that helps to maximize oxygen flow. But racing officials in New York do not allow use of the strips and it's not clear whether California Chrome's owners will let him compete in the June 7 race without them.

The Daily Racing Form reported today that the horse's trainer Art Sherman, has formally requested that the New York Racing Association which runs Belmont Park allow California Chrome to wear a nasal strip in the upcoming race. A response to the request could come as early as today, the Racing Form reported. ABC News could not immediately confirm the report.

(UPDATE: Belmont Park has announced that its three stewards have unanimously agreed to allow California Chrome to wear a nasal strip during this year's Belmont Stakes and has dropped its ban on the strips on all horses in all future races.)

The rules governing the New York track include the stipulation that only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.

Sherman made no threats about the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner passing on a chance to become horse racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, but he suggested it was a possibility.

"I'd have to leave it up to the owners," he said Sunday. "I know they'll be upset."

The nasal strip situation marks another potential obstacle in the ultimate underdog tale. The colt comes from a humble pedigree, and his co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin aren’t your average millionaire horse breeders.

They’re two middle-class guys who decided on a whim to buy California Chrome’s mother, Love the Chase, for just $8,000.

One groomer called the choice “pretty dumb,” but Coburn and Martin took it in stride, even naming their operation DAP Racing – Short for Dumb Ass Partners.

Nasal strip or not, the three longshots now find themselves at the edge of history.

Coburn grew emotional following the victory at the Preakness.

“Go for your dream. Never give up on your dream because they do come true,” he said. “I’m living proof of that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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