(CNN) – If California Chrome was holding his breath, he can exhale. Certainly, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner’s handlers and fans can breathe easier, now that New York racing officials have decided to allow the 3-year-old colt to wear a nasal strip when he tries to nail down thoroughbred racing’s prestigious Triple Crown in the June 7 Belmont Stakes.
Racetrack stewards representing the New York State Gaming Commission, the New York Racing Association and the Jockeys Club agreed Monday to end Belmont Park’s policy prohibiting use of the strips.
The colt’s trainer had said California Chrome’s owners might not allow him to race without a strip, which the manufacturer says allows horses to breathe more freely and reduces the risk of bleeding in the lungs during heavy exertion.
California Chrome has worn the strips during a six-race winning streak that has carried him to the threshold of the first Triple Crown since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1978.
While the manufacturer, Flair, says horses who wear the strips “use five to eight percent less energy at high speed and during recovery,” New York State Gaming Commission Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer told the racetrack stewards that there’s no evidence they confer a competitive advantage.
“Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health or safety and as such do not need to be regulated,” told the officials.
The strips in question are similar to ones sometimes worn by people with nasal congestion or breathing problems. They sell for about $10 a piece from online retailers.
According to the manufacturer, the strips keep a horse’s airway from becoming smaller during strenuous activity. That helps to provide more air to the lungs and reduce the chance of bleeding, which Flair said is common in hard-working horses.
In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for Flair wrote: “The strips are based on the same principles as the human Breathe Right strip. However, horses only breathe through their noses, making it even more important to support the tissue that collapses inward during deep breathing. By supporting the integrity of the nasal passages, horses breathe easier.”
Flair’s Nan Rawlins said that a survey of the top 55 trainers by the company found that its strips were worn in nearly 10,000 races in 2013, but a precise number worn in all races was not available.