Updated on 11/08/2012 10:22AM

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

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