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Why Is California Chrome Wearing A Nasal Strip And Does It Give The Horse An Advantage?

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VACAVILLE (CBS13) — California Chrome can breathe easier on the way to the Belmont Stakes after race officials cleared the horse to wear a nasal strip.

The horse with Yuba City roots has won the first two legs of the triple crown—the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes—and now his journey will continue with the nasal strip he’s worn the past six races.

It’s called a flare strip, and it works a lot like the Breathe Right strip made for humans by allowing more air through the nostrils.

“[Their nostrils are] just completely soft, so when they breathe in, they tend to want to collapse that nasal passage,” said Ellen Jackson. “It cuts off their air.”

She breeds and trains horses at Victory Rose Thoroughbreds in Vacaville. Her horses tested the strips in a 2004 UC Davis study, which found they cut down on lung bleeding—a problem among racehorses.

Now she won’t race her horses without the strips.

“If you could even have a horse just run a hundredth of a second faster, that’s the difference between a win and a loss,” she said.

But are they a performance enhancer? New York racing officials said no on Monday, giving the green light for California Chrome to use the strips on June 7 at the Belmont Stakes.

Veterinarian Scott Myer works with the horse’s trainer.

“When I think of performance-enhancing, I think of an animal or a human that would go, exceed above their potential,” he said. “This just allows them to reach their potential.”

California Chrome’s owners and trainers were actually thinking about pulling the horse from the third leg of the Triple Crown if the strips weren’t allowed.

“This horse has been running with these nasal strips and, if I’m not mistaken, they don’t do any enhancement at all,” said co-owner Steve Coburn. “What they do is actually help the horse cool down after the race.”

Jackson says if the horse can pull off the first Triple Crown win since Affirmed in 1978, you’ll start seeing a lot more of these nasal strips.

“I think we’re going to have a lot more horses using these, and not just in racing, in all sports,” she said.

After doing that study with UC Davis, Jackson became a distributor for the strips that cost about $12 apiece.

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