ELMONT, N.Y. -- From nasal strips to gas lines, all sorts of offbeat sponsors have latched onto Chrome-mania.
In honor of Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome, the makers of Breathe Right nasal strips will hand out more than 50,000 samples at todays Belmont Stakes. Nasal strip maker GlaxoSmithKline also has signed up as a co-sponsor of the $1.5 million race.
The product helps athletes open air passages and unclogs noses of chronic snorers. But Breathe Right hopes fans will wear their nasal strips during race day and share selfies via social media.
Nasal strip tributes to California Chrome already have gone viral. The horse wears a Flair brand equine nasal strip on race day. After some doubt if the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner could wear the strip in the Belmont, New York racing officials approved its use.
Throughout these Triple Crown races, jockey Victor Espinoza has had his own sponsor, Common Ground Alliance, a national organization dedicated to protecting underground gas and utility lines. Call 811, CGAs call before you dig hotline, is emblazoned on Espinozas white jockey pants, riding boots and turtleneck.
The connection was a natural, according to CGA. Perry and Denise Martin, California Chromes co-owners and breeders, are in the safety business. They own Martin Testing Laboratories at McClellan Park in Sacramento; their company tests safety products such as air bags.
CGA got lucky; it signed with Espinoza before California Chrome won the Derby.
Sunny skies and attitude On the eve of his most important race, California Chrome was feeling frisky. After nearly an inch of rain Thursday at Belmont, Friday morning was gorgeous perfect for a little jog.
Under exercise rider Willie Delgado, California Chrome made two laps of Belmonts 11/2-mile oval before returning to Barn 26 for his bath, breakfast and photos. Almost 300 professional photographers are covering the Belmont and Chrome seems to know it.
Hes amazing, Delgado said. Ive seen a lot of horses (that react to cameras), but not like him. He hears the click of the camera and he poses.
Photos taken during Chromes pursuit of the Triple Crown show how the 3-year-old chestnut has developed.
Since the Derby, hes gotten much bigger and stronger, Delgado said. You can compare photos now to before the Derby and see the difference. His neck is so much thicker. His muscles are so much more profiled. Its like a boy who became a man. And if he wins the Belmont, hell become a hero.
Espinoza improves his record Espinoza is based in California, so he rarely rides at Belmont, and wins here are even scarcer. Since 2000, hes 4 for 69 at Belmont, including one win each Thursday and Friday as he re-familiarized himself with the large oval and its sweeping turns. Today, Espinoza will ride three races before the Belmont Stakes.
Call The Bees Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.