Updated on 11/08/2012 11:22AM

2012 Breeders' Cup: Lasix ban results in trio of 2-year-olds bleeding

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Barbara D. Livingston
Monument, being eased to the wire in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was one of two horses in the race trained by John Sadler to have bled without the medication Lasix.

ARCADIA, Calif. - At least three juveniles who participated in Breeders’ Cup races last weekend at Santa Anita bled, according to their connections, after seemingly contrary information was put out by the equine director of the California Horse Racing Board.

Trainer John Sadler said Sunday thta both Capo Bastone and Monument, third and last, respectively, in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, bled. Trainer Mark Casse said that Spring in the Air, who finished fifth in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies, also bled.

This year was the first that the Breeders’ Cup banned Lasix, a brand name for the diuretic furosemide, for all races restricted to 2-year-olds. Next year, the Breeders’ Cup wants to ban Lasix in all of its 15 races.

On Sunday morning, Sadler carried in his pocket a copy of an article in the Los Angeles Times that quoted Rick Arthur, the equine director of the California Horse Racing Board, as saying no 2-year-olds bled visibly on the track or at the receiving barns following their Breeders’ Cup races. Endoscopic examinations later showed that at least three horses bled from the lungs.

Sadler said an endoscopic examination revealed that Capo Bastone, who made a huge move from last to be third in the Juvenile, bled a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. He said Monument, who finished last in the Juvenile, bled a 1 on that same scale.

Sadler was frustrated.

"So we’re just eyeballing then now?" Sadler said. "What’s that all about? The problem is, some fan is going to read this and say, ‘What were all those people screaming about? No horse bled.’ Anybody that knows anything knows this is just not true.

"I guess we don’t have to X-ray ’em anymore or take a blood," Sadler added. " ‘Looked okay to me.’ It’s like we’re going back in time."

Sadler said that the Breeders’ Cup should have performed an endoscopic examination on every 2-year-old who raced on Friday and Saturday.

"They wouldn’t do that on a dare because it wouldn’t match up their pre-determined conclusions," Sadler said.

On Monday, Arthur said that California regulations require vets to check for visible bleeding from the lungs, but they do not have authority to conduct endoscopic examinations. Four vets were assigned to the racetrack and receiving barn to check for physical problems exhibited by runners on the two Breeders’ Cup days, including visible bleeding, Arthur said.

"I certainly didn’t mean to imply that no horses bled," Arthur said Monday. "You would expect, based on numerous studies, that 80 percent of the horses that ran without Lasix would have shown some evidence of blood in the trachea in an endoscopic examination. The vast majority of those would have been a grade 1, which is traces of blood. Even the horses that did receive Lasix, you’d expect 60 percent to show some evidence of blood in the trachea endoscopically, also based on the studies, most recently the South Africa study."

Arthur was referring to a study commissioned by the Jockey Club that showed Lasix was effective in mitigating the frequency and severity of bleeding. The only horse to bleed externally over the two Breeders’ Cup days at Santa Anita was Big Tiz, who won the second race on Friday, an allowance. Big Tiz had been treated with Lasix. The filly was placed on the vet’s list, per regulation.

Sadler said that Capo Bastone would be shipped to the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Santa Ynez for an evaluation before determining how to treat him.

"Once we get all the science done then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do, unless of course you don’t believe in science and you’ll just eyeball them," Sadler said.

Aron Wellman, who heads the partnership that owns Capo Bastone, said the decision to eliminate Lasix could be costly for both his horse and himself.

"From my perspective, it’s frustrating not only to have to consider what it could have cost us today in terms of money and the prestige of a championship Grade 1, but there’s so many unknown factors now moving forward," Wellman said. "From a physical standpoint we will do everything possible and take the most proactive approach to make sure his lungs heal in a proper fashion.

"When you have a young horse like this, there’s no telling what the long-term psychological effect on this horse will be next time."

Wellman said he supports Breeders’ Cup’s efforts on medication reform, but he doesn’t support a ban on Lasix.

Casse said Spring in the Air, who finished fifth, "bled significantly" in the Juvenile Fillies. Casse said she was coughing at the barn afterward and then bled her through her nostrils.

"My filly bled pretty significantly. She’s still coughing this morning," Casse said Saturday. "Some horses never come back from it. The shame of it is they don’t give you an indication then ‘boom.’ "

Casse said that Dynamic Sky, who ran sixth in the Juvenile, did not bleed.

Todd Pletcher, who won the Juvenile with Shanghai Bobby, had all of his horses scoped and said none of his 2-year-olds bled.

"It doesn’t change my position on being pro-Lasix," Pletcher said.

Bob Baffert said none of the 2-year-olds he ran in the Breeders’ Cup bled, but he remains against a ban of the medication. He believes by banning Lasix in all Breeders’ Cup races next year, "you’ll see field sizes shrink."

"There are a lot of owners that are going to get out of the business," Baffert said. "I have some clients that think it’s inhumane to allow a horse to bleed."

Fortify, who ran fourth in the Juvenile, did not bleed, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Fortify was the only horse in the Juvenile field to have never raced on Lasix.

– Additional reporting by Matt Hegarty

joanna More than 1 year ago
We've raced in Dubai several times and they are using an apparatus called a Hypoxic Stall with fresh air systems to correct bleeding. My husband has been over there a dozen times and says its an Advanced Altitude 365 stall that was shipped from here in the USA. Go figure! -masink/ t breds
Jeffrey Tretter More than 1 year ago
I've witnessed a couple of horses use this stall and some unbelievable results already. A hambletonian winner and breeders crown winner from some of the initial users. Backed by our Olympians.
Ben van den Brink More than 1 year ago
Why would you give a full second in any race, give to your challengers as an surpise, or gift, nobody is dooiing that in this big venue.
Ben van den Brink More than 1 year ago
Get them bleeders put of competition and the breed as a whole will become better in the long run, ever seen an human athlete on that stuff, NOPE.
Ashlie Howell More than 1 year ago
That's not true. Lots of athletes take lasix INCLUDING the jocks that ride the horses. get your facts straight.
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
There are other options to stop some bleeders from bleeding, but nothing will stop some bleeders from bleeding. Many horses who run on lasix, bleed thru the lasix. So it is not a total or absolute prevention. Thousands of excellent racehorses have never raced again because of bleeding. My thought is, that if we can use it here in the USA, and the euros can use it when they compete against us here, why not use it. It is called preventative medication.
russell More than 1 year ago
So the argument being made by owners and supporters of Lasix is; this is a business and whatever medication that is necessary to get the horses to race should be used. Well I say maybe if the medication is so necessary the horse SHOULD NOT be racing. I highly doubt that ANY human athelete in this era is taking as many meds and shots as our horses are. So why are we allowing this to continue?
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Its hard to tell if this is sarcasm or stupidity.
Jeffrey Tretter More than 1 year ago
From what I understand about bleeding in thoroughbreds, it is the inability of the individual to utilize the available oxygen in the blood. The body responds by sending more blood to the lungs to raise the oxygen levels to meet the needs. When blood levels rise to high there is a risk of hemorrage. This is a very simple analysis but I believe it is close to true. The toxic load(food, air, meds, supplements, heredity) all dictate how well a horse can handle the stress of competition and the added blood flow. This added blood flow robs the muscles from their supply of blood and the horse has a better chance of tying up due to lactic acid build up. That is why a horse is so stressed when it bleeds and it is a very bad experience mentally and physically. This is why I feel hypoxic therapy is a possible solution to help deal with bleeding. Hypoxia induces a physiological reaction that makes the body utilize oxygen more efficiently. Less blood needed so less chance of bleeding. It makes sense but is not a quick fix for the industry. The good thing is no meds needed. Just a thought.
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
So what is the cost of this treatment ? Is it viable to the low end of the horse racing game? This issue is far from black and white as some make it seem. All avenues should be explored but if this treatment is only economical for the high end then it doesnt solve the problem.
Jeffrey Tretter More than 1 year ago
I've seen mask systems and stall systems. I priced the stalls at advanced altitude 365 and they were around 70,000 but that serves several horses and is an investment like a trailer or barn. Long term and depreciation offsets a portion of the investment and appears to help a horse race better too so payback may be quick?
Ben van den Brink More than 1 year ago
I have had an bleeder myself, despite all investments, raising stud fee broodmare cost training etc I gave her away as an ped. Do not talk nonsense. It is just for protecting the investments like a buisiness so that,s the only way lasic is used.
Marc Ferrell More than 1 year ago
I am not sure how many writers in this column own horses and have the significant financial investment that those in this article do because its easy to sit and cast judgment when you have nothing to lose or this is not your way of life or income. The only way the owners of this sport are going to take control is to stop supporting the Breeders Cup and those states who do not allow lasix. If we boycott one crop of foals and do not pay our registration fees to the Breeders Cup, I would suspect they will get the message because the Breeders Cup does not exist without the same owners and trainers who are complaining about the lasix ban. Who knows how long it would take us to "breed out" bleeding from the breeding side if at all, but if you think the average stallion is around 15 years or more and the average broodmare about 12 so we are looking at 30 years at a minimum by the time the stallion is gone and its offspring are gone? Come on, that is not the solution.
PeterG More than 1 year ago
Yea, and maybe the fans should stop supporting horse racing too because we are sick and tired of betting on juiced up horses. You don't exist as an owner without the people who wager their hard earned dollars on this sport bigshot. Get that thru your big head.
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Hey doesnt horse racing survive without betting? Somewhere!
Bailey Gallison More than 1 year ago
Dubai, because the purses are supplemented by the rich and they cover 150% of the horse owner's expenses.
russell More than 1 year ago
The argument for medication is a bit silly. No one is denying a horse life saving medication or necessary medication. We are talking about the use of race day meds. Racing, like most sports is highly competetive and trainers like some professional athletes, try to go the medication route to improve performance which is wrong. We know with certainty that steroids, EPO, HGH, improved the performance of baseball players, cyclists, olympic athletes, etc. It also helped their body recover from injury quicker. Baffert's claim that owner's will leave the game is bogus. Maybe he should leave the game. The question is do we want a clean sport or a game where some trainers always try to cheat?
Tipper Tippett More than 1 year ago
If owners and trainers don't stand up now.....the Breeders Cup and Racing Commisisons will be running your horses! You can lead them over!-----maybe! Enforce the rules that were in effect!!! When you have trainers with horses racing while under suspension....what do you expect? Listen to the trainers who don't PURPOSELY violate the rules! Enforce the regulations on those who DO...and GET A WAY WITH IT! We all know who they are!
jttf More than 1 year ago
we compare today's horses with the great horses of the 70s and 80s and there is no comparison. we state that the drugs have ruined the breed. americans have been using drugs consistently since the early 1990s. but the europeans havent. so why dont the europeans dominate the american horses these days ?
MaryAnn Donahue More than 1 year ago
Maybe the more apt comparison is the American horses of today compared to the greats of the 70's and 80's. Those great horses raced in NY without Lasix or Bute on race days and NY back then was considered the best racing. So the question is, why do today's trainers want to give race day Lasix? Are there actually more bleeders today because of breeding practices or is the Lasix used for other reasons?