02/22/2013 4:22PM

Breeders' Cup board reconsidering its Lasix ban; may drop the Juvenile Sprint


The board of the Breeders’ Cup on Friday discussed making modifications to its current roster of races and to a policy that would ban the race-day use of furosemide, but it suspended any action on the items until it reconvenes later this year, according to sources.

The board discussed whether to drop as many as three races from the event’s current 15-race lineup, and it is likely that the board will vote at its next meeting on a proposal to drop the Juvenile Sprint, according to the officials who declined to be identified because of sensitivity over the issues discussed Friday. Added for the 2011 event, the Juvenile Sprint drew only five horses last year, and handle on the race was the lowest by far of any of the event’s 15 races.

[STEVEN CRIST: Lasix ban and Breeders' Cup cutback - cause and effect?]

The board discussed whether to retain a policy to ban the race-day use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide for the entire two-day event this year. Under a policy adopted in 2011, the Breeders’ Cup banned the race-day use of the drug in the five races restricted to juveniles for the 2012 event, and the policy is set to be expanded to all races this year, despite heavy opposition from horsemen.

At last year’s event, held at Santa Anita Park in Southern California, field size in the five races restricted to juveniles fell 21.6 percent compared to the same races in 2011, while handle on the same five races dropped 23 percent compared to the races in 2011. That has led to concerns from some Breeders’ Cup board members that similar drops could hit the entire card this year, cutting into the organization’s revenues.

Several board members also have expressed concern that horsemen in the states where the Breeders’ Cup is held could withdraw their approval of the organization’s simulcast signal if the policy remained in place.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California, which represents horsemen in the state, has already given its approval for the Breeders’ Cup to sell its simulcast signal this year, under rights reserved to horsemen in a federal act. However, the TOC’s approval is not assured if the Breeders’ Cup were to return to Santa Anita in 2014; nor is that approval assured from horsemen in Kentucky, New York, or elsewhere, given the strength of the opposition among horsemen to a ban on race-day use of furosemide.

The proposal to cancel one or more races is an acknowledgment that the current number of races is taxing the bankrolls and attention spans of horseplayers while also diluting the quality of the fields in the races. The Breeders’ Cup has never dropped a race from its roster, while adding seven races to the card since 2007.