Garry Jones / AP

Exercise rider Willie Delgado gallops California Chrome around the track during a workout at Belmont Park, Friday, June 6, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he races in the146th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday.

California Chrome Diary: Colt has a nose for sponsors

Published: Friday, Jun. 6, 2014 - 11:21 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Jun. 7, 2014 - 10:29 am

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 today’s 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,” CGA’s “call before you dig” hotline, is emblazoned on Espinoza’s white jockey pants, riding boots and turtleneck.

The connection was a natural, according to CGA. Perry and Denise Martin, California Chrome’s 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 Belmont’s 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.

“He’s amazing,” Delgado said. “I’ve 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 Chrome’s pursuit of the Triple Crown show how the 3-year-old chestnut has developed.

“Since the Derby, he’s 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. It’s like a boy who became a man. And if he wins the Belmont, he’ll 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, he’s 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 Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

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