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California Chrome and the nasal strips

Brett Moist/ESW/CSM/AP Images

California Chrome won the Preakness Stakes to keep its Triple Crown hopes alive.

With the news that California Chrome was approved to wear nasal strips for the Belmont Stakes on June 7, it's worth examining just how much of an impact wearing these strips has meant to this horse's success.

California Chrome has won his last six races, including the first two legs of the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes). Throughout this six-race winning streak, the horse has worn a nasal strip, which his handlers have said has assisted in his breathing during a race.

There is no questioning the difference in California Chrome's success over his last six races compared to his first six races.

California Chrome Racing Career

Not only has California Chrome won more races and winnings, it has improved its Beyer Speed Figure, which is a formula for rating horses designed by Washington Post columnist Andrew Beyer.

A horse with Beyer figures in the 100s is considered an outstanding horse. The Daily Racing Form has been incorporating these figures into their past performances since 1992.

There are some other factors, some of which may or may not be connected to "Nasal-Gate", that could equally define the reasons for California Chrome's ascension to the top of the three-year-old class of horses.

Jockey Change

Alberto Delgado was the jockey for five of California Chrome's first six races. Although he produced two wins in that time, in his last two rides on the horse Delgado produced just a pair of sixth-place finishes, never being in contention in either.

Enter veteran Victor Espinoza, who rode California Chrome for the first time in a December race at Hollywood Park. The results? Six straight wins by a combined 27½ lengths.

The betting public seemed to notice the change in jockey as well, making California Chrome the favorite in five of the six races under Espinoza. In his six races without Espinoza, California Chrome was the favorite just once.

Change in Racing Style

Whether because of the jockey change or not, it's pretty clear looking at California Chrome's past performances that under Espinoza this horse has undergone a transformation in racing style.

In his final two races under Alberto Delgado, California Chrome was never near the front of the pack at any point. But the move to Espinoza meant a change in the horse's approach to a race, putting him at or near the top of the lead early.

In his last six races, California Chrome was in first at the top of the stretch call in each race. In his first six races, the horse was first at the top of the stretch just twice.

Espinoza put California Chrome out in front early and kept him away from trouble, giving the horse more freedom to run his race and hold off challengers at the end.

While "Nasal-Gate" made for a nice story to follow over the last two days, it's more likely a jockey change and a change in racing style were bigger factors to California Chrome's success.