03/01/2013 4:48PM

Breeders' Cup will not expand Lasix ban, drops Juvenile Sprint

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A ban on the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide will not be expanded to all of the races at this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., and the Juvenile Sprint will be dropped from the lineup, the organization announced on Friday.

The decision to enforce the ban only for the event’s juvenile races is a significant step backward for supporters of an effort to limit raceday use of the drug. Supporters had hoped that a policy banning raceday use in the Breeders’ Cup would lead to overhauls of racing rules across the country, but so far only one state, Kentucky, has passed a rule that would restrict the use of the drug, and that rule – which is being challenged by horsemen – would only apply to stakes races, beginning in 2014 with juvenile races.

Horsemen have led the opposition to the effort to rollback rules providing for raceday use, introducing concerns about whether some trainers would skip the Breeders’ Cup if the policy remained in place. In addition, many handicappers have expressed reservations about betting on races in which many of the U.S.-based horses would be running without the medication for the first time in their careers.

Last year, the first in which the policy was in place for Breeders’ Cup 2-year-old races, field sizes for the five Breeders’ Cup juvenile races dropped an aggregate of 21.6 percent. Handle on the races plummeted 23 percent.

In a release, Breeders’ Cup said that it has pledged to provide funding for a “industrywide independent study of the causes, effects, and potential alternative methods of reducing the occurrence of” bleeding in horses, the malady that furosemide is used to treat. It called on other organizations to also fund the study.

“We recognize that there has been great divisiveness in our industry over medication rules, but joining together in the common goal of independent scientific research of the effects of race-day medications, coupled with industry pursuit of uniform rules, will move us toward eliminating such divisions,” said Tom Ludt, the chairman of Breeders’ Cup.

A 2009 study funded in part by the Jockey Club found that furosemide is effective in mitigating both the frequency and severity of bleeding in the lungs. Opponents of the effort to rollback use of furosemide have used the study to justify the continuing raceday use of the drug, while supporters have used the same study to point out that because many untreated horses used in the research did not bleed, the drug is being overused in the U.S.

The cancellation of the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint is the first time that Breeders’ Cup has reduced its lineup of races. From 2007 to 2011, Breeders’ Cup added seven races to its roster. The Juvenile Sprint was held for only two years, and last year, it attracted only five horses.

In the release, Craig Fravel, the chief executive of Breeders’ Cup, said that the Juvenile Sprint “did not meet the standards” for the Breeders’ Cup, and he also said that the race “had a negative impact on field sizes for both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.”