10/10/2014 3:15PM

Casner sends out two runners to victory without Lasix

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – For those interested in how the controversy over the race-day use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide is playing out on the racetrack, last Wednesday’s card at Keeneland is an interesting case study.

Four races on the nine-race card were won by horses who ran without furosemide, the legal diuretic commonly known as Lasix. Only nine horses of the 73 horses on the card did not receive the drug, and four of them competed in the same 2-year-old maiden race.

In statistical terms, horses who weren’t administered furosemide represented 12.3 percent of the horses on the card, yet the non-furosemide horses won 45 percent of the races. Those are outsized results by many measures, especially when considering that none of the non-Lasix winners was favored and that only 5 percent of horses nationally in 2013 ran without the drug.

Many owners have said they oppose race-day Lasix use but fear they will put their horses at a disadvantage if they are not given the drug, citing evidence from a 1999 study showing that Lasix horses run several lengths faster than non-Lasix horses. It’s disputed whether the Lasix horses ran faster because they were not being slowed down by blood in the lungs. The performances by the horses Wednesday at Keeneland – and the performance of non-Lasix 2-year-old horses the last two years at Saratoga Race Course – is introducing doubt to the notion that Lasix horses are competing on a tilted playing field.

Two of the horses who won Wednesday are owned by Bill Casner, a longtime horseman from Texas who probably is the most consistent proponent of running horses without Lasix. Casner has been running his horses without race-day Lasix for several years, not necessarily because he is a staunch opponent of the drug’s race-day use, but rather because he sees benefits to running without the drug.

The first horse of Casner’s to win on the day was Soldier Inthe Rain, a 3-year-old colt who never has been administered Lasix in eight lifetime starts. The second was Only in America, a 4-year-old gelding who also never has been administered the drug on race day. With the win Wednesday, Only in America ran his record to 13-3-4-4. Both horses are trained by Eoin Harty.

Casner, along with dozens of other owners and breeders, have signed a pledge to run their 2-year-olds without Lasix, but Casner stands out among them. While most of those owners discard the pledge when their horses turn 3 or an endoscopic exam shows trace amounts of blood in the trachea, Casner has put his money where his mouth is.

Though Casner couldn’t be reached for comment for this story, in earlier interviews he has said that the effectiveness of furosemide is overblown, as a therapeutic tool and as an alleged performance enhancer. He also has extolled the benefits of running without the drug, saying the fitness of horses is easier to maintain and that horses recover far more quickly between races. A 2009 study showed that horses lose approximately 28 pounds if administered Lasix before running, compared with 12 pounds for non-Lasix horses, and most of that is water and mineral weight that needs to be replenished.

Another non-Lasix winner Wednesday was Courtier, a Juddmonte homebred trained by Bill Mott. But perhaps more telling was the case of Husky Clipper, who ran in the same race and is owned by Charles Cella. Earlier this year, Cella announced that horses running at his Oaklawn Park next winter will receive purse bonuses if they run without Lasix. Husky Clipper, a 2-year-old who has been administered Lasix before both of his lifetime starts, finished seventh.

Bill Casner More than 1 year ago
ses. We have had less than 6 % horses bleed. Of those, we have been able to identify an underlying pathology that caused the bleed--an inflammatory airway disease caused by bacteria, allergens etc. We stop on the horse, get them over it and EVERY horse that had bled ran back and did NOT bleed. Most people will scoff at this but I have no reason to lie or embellish the truth. It has gone far beyond what we thought achievable when we embarked on this program. We have concluded that 2 things cause horses to bleed--one is the filthy environment these horses live in. We disinfect the stalls on arrival and fog them twice a week with a novel antimicrobial. We also don't run our horses on Bute. Bleeding can be reduced dramatically by not using Bute. Bute is an NSAID that interferes with clotting and probably is an irritant to the endothelium of the pulmonary capillaries. It will blow a horses neck up if some gets out of the vein and a recent study shows there is a huge rebound of the "pro-inflamatory" cytokines after 24 hrs. What is ironic is that Bute has lost its anti-inflamatory effect after 24 hrs. and is not working when the horse runs. The bleeding effect of Bute has long been recognized by some racetrack vets who would recommend its non use if a horse "bled thru lasix." Horses in the pre-med days ran on a 2 week schedules with consistant form. If bleeding had been rampant, this could not have happened. Bute was the 1st allowed drug and the flexible endoscope didn't come along for another 10 years----when it did, lo and behold they found horses bleeding.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
awesome info. thank you
RunningDog More than 1 year ago
Casner is a true horseman and visionary. He know a good synthetic track is safer for horses. He knows most race day drugs are a farce. Good to see him have success. He would be a good comissioner for this messed up great sport.
Laura More than 1 year ago
isn't the 'recovery more quickly between races' offset by how much time they need off to heal if they do bleed? every time they run, you're taking that chance that they will bleed, since nearly every horse these days has the genes of a bleeder not to mention the mental problems that bleeding could cause, will they ever extend themselves fully again if they bleed in a race? probably not, it must be terrifying to a horse to not be able to breathe properly, to have blood in their lungs and coming up into their nostrils, most will probably hold back to avoid that again if Lasix can prevent bleeding and a horse being afraid to do what we're asking, it should be used, it's too late to try to stop it, there are almost no horses left standing at stud from the days where Lasix was still illegal anywhere (like NY), so most all breeding stock ran on it; the fluids and minerals they lose can be replaced, more time can be given between races, those are small prices to pay, otherwise, we have to figure out whatever the secret is that they do overseas with our same bloodstock to not run on Lasix and copy that, whether it's waiting later to run them, different training techniques, shorter racing seasons (which will drive small outfits out of the sport), whatever
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
do you realize that lasix use creates more horses with bleeding problems ? lasix hides the fact that a horse has a bleeding problem. that means breeders will use more horses with breeding problems to breed the future generations. do you want more horses to suffer ?
Laura More than 1 year ago
if no horse who bled or used Lasix was allowed to breed, we'd have about a dozen foals a year you think there's an 'unwanted horses' problem now, what happens when a large percentage of the TBs in this country are useless? what do you think happens to the ones who do bleed in HK, AUS, Europe? if they're top level, they're probably turned out and given another chance, the rest, bon appetit
Laura More than 1 year ago
like I said, it's too late and no catalog page lists that a mare did or did not bleed or race on Lasix, does any stallion advertise about that? how is a breeder or buyer to know?
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
it is a shame that the horsemen and breeders dont care enough to list which breeds bleed more often. it shows that they dont care. just like claiborne using demons begone as a sire. i never did understand why talented foreign horses who had bleeding problms didnt get transferred to america. the vets like dr brammy only talk aboutthe positives lasix has. they dont mention passing on bad genes, the vets give lasix to horses when there are hot temps. the vets give horses lasix with not enough recovery time. why do vets give horses bute, that increases the risk of bleeding? why are vets creating more health problems, rather than fixing them ?? didnt casner bring up a study that shows that lasix causes bone problems ? this is just a tip of the iceberg.
Lawrence MacSelwiney More than 1 year ago
They all bleed. If you scope every horse that ran today at Santa Anita, you would find trace amounts of blood in the trachea in most. Just like if you go to the doctor and give a urine sample, there is bound to be a trace amount of blood. They don't need Lasix. At least most don't. We haven't bred bleeders. I was in the harness industry for years and we never had a horse that actually needed lasix, but the owners demanded that they run on it. First and second time lasix was always hinted as the time to bet. These guys use it to try and stay competitive and to mask other drugs. We should only treat those who actually need it or ban it completely.
Bill Casner More than 1 year ago
ses. We have had less than 6 % horses bleed. Of those, we have been able to identify an underlying pathology that caused the bleed--an inflammatory airway disease caused by bacteria, allergens etc. We stop on the horse, get them over it and EVERY horse that had bled ran back and did NOT bleed. Most people will scoff at this but I have no reason to lie or embellish the truth. It has gone far beyond what we thought achievable when we embarked on this program. We have concluded that 2 things cause horses to bleed--one is the filthy environment these horses live in. We disinfect the stalls on arrival and fog them twice a week with a novel antimicrobial. We also don't run our horses on Bute. Bleeding can be reduced dramatically by not using Bute. Bute is an NSAID that interferes with clotting and probably is an irritant to the endothelium of the pulmonary capillaries. It will blow a horses neck up if some gets out of the vein and a recent study shows there is a huge rebound of the "pro-inflamatory" cytokines after 24 hrs. What is ironic is that Bute has lost its anti-inflamatory effect after 24 hrs. and is not working when the horse runs. The bleeding effect of Bute has long been recognized by some racetrack vets who would recommend its non use if a horse "bled thru lasix." Horses in the pre-med days ran on a 2 week schedules with consistant form. If bleeding had been rampant, this could not have happened. Bute was the 1st allowed drug and the flexible endoscope didn't come along for another 10 years----when it did, lo and behold they found horses bleeding.
Christia More than 1 year ago
28 pounds of weight loss after a race.....Lasix is the reason their have been no Triple Crown winners in last 35 years.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Matt, Can you post the PPs of the non-treated horses in your article?
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
My comment is neither pro or con Lasix usage. However, to quote percentages on such a small sample is ridiculous. I can say this Eoin Harty seems like a very nice guy, but, he gets as good of stock and blood as anyone in the game and his overall win percentage is absolutely horrible. So, for sure , I wouldn't try to duplicate what he does, that's for sure.
Lawrence MacSelwiney More than 1 year ago
You probably would not want to duplicate Eoin. He only runs his horses when they are sound.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
I get your point Lawrence. Except if you were right then he would win more. Maybe their sound, but then they are sound and slow. He gets the best bred horses in the country and he still doesn't win much.
Bill Casner More than 1 year ago
Eoin's win percentage is 15% which is the same as Bill Mott, John Sadler, Dale Romans, Shug McGaughey, Dale Romans, Wayne Lucas etc. etc. The life time win percentage for the greatest of them all Charlie Whittingham was around 15%. Most of todays trainers are keenly aware of their win percentage and make entry decisions that protect that percentage at the expense of what is in the best interest of the owner and his investment in the horse. Many trainers are reluctant to run a horse unless they feel the horse can win. Don't confuse a win percentage with horsemanship and talent.
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
Mr. Matt H., good article -- and viewpoint.
Charlene Shaw More than 1 year ago
Again, Bill Casner is ahead of the curve and leading the way to better care and health in the thoroughbred racehorse. Congratulations for standing tall when so many others just talk a good game before finding a reason to slip back into that Lasix habit.