08/07/2014 12:58PM

Crist: Lasix debate will end in another draw


It’s that most wonderful time of the year again in American racing. Fish are jumping, the days are longer, the mercury is high, Del Mar and Saratoga are in full swing. This can all mean only one thing: It’s time for everyone in racing to start yelling at one another about medication again.

This Sunday morning in Saratoga Springs, members of The Jockey Club, and other important and self-important leaders of the sport, will gather at the Gideon Putnam Hotel for the annual Round Table on Matters Pertaining to Racing, where they will reprise their shaky annual refrain: The permitted raceday use of the diuretic Lasix (Salix) is what most ails American racing, and banning the stuff would restore integrity to the game, make America the envy of the world’s racing once again, and usher in a golden era of such explosive gains in attendance and handle that the sport won’t know what to do with all the lucre.

The discussion will be as civil and respectful as ever: The anti-Lasix forces will call the pros a bunch of cheaters and animal-haters, while the pros will call the antis cruel and elitist hypocrites trying to deprive horses of a therapeutic medication they need.

There are a few new notes in the same old song this summer. Last week, a star-studded list of trainers, all of whom routinely treat their horses with Lasix and have supported it in the past, signed a letter endorsing a phase-out of Lasix over the next two years. That they mostly work for Jockey Club members leading the charge against Lasix, and that this allegedly spontaneous epiphany came just a week before the Round Table, surely are mere coincidences. Or maybe not:

“It is quite obvious that the proposal [for a Lasix phase-out] and its timing are part of a thinly disguised and carefully orchestrated effort,” said a letter released Wednesday signed by the presidents of seven state horsemen’s groups. “It is designed to revive a divisive issue that has already been debated at great length and settled. It will polarize the industry.”

However you feel about Lasix, and it seems there is no changing anyone’s mind at this stage, reasonable people can probably agree on the likely outcome of this year’s skirmish: The same as every other year. The reformers will fulminate righteously, their opponents will call them barbaric, The Jockey Club will threaten to endorse a Federal takeover of racing if a ban is not enacted and then … absolutely nothing will change.

It’s right there in the past performances. No matter how strongly or genuinely Lasix opponents may feel, they are outnumbered by the rank-and-file horsemen’s organizations that wrote the Wednesday letter. Every previous attempt to ban Lasix has been blocked by these groups, and there have been no reported changes of heart. Even much milder proposals, such as banning Lasix from only Breeders’ Cup or Grade 1 races, have not gotten off the ground, so there is no reason to think an industrywide ban stands a ghost of a chance.

Without the agreement of the owner-trainer organizations and regulators on a state by state basis, there will be no change. In the two-years-ago version of this lost crusade, proponents thought they were going to get regulators in Kentucky and New York to agree with them, and that this would create a domino effect. That didn’t happen, and there’s no evidence that will change this time around. But by all means let’s revive the issue and encourage the public to think that the sport is defined and dominated by a crisis involving animal abuse.

Asmussen belongs in Hall

Curlin’s scheduled induction into racing’s Hall of Fame on Friday should have been by unanimous vote. It was not, only because a few misguided voters thought the horse should be punished because they disapprove of his trainer, Steve Asmussen, and his history with medication. An inflammatory video released by animal rights activists in April also led to Asmussen himself being removed from the Hall of Fame ballot, despite the lack of any credible charges against him.

That error should be corrected next year. Asmussen, who trained not only Curlin but also Rachel Alexandra, is nearly as much of an automatic, no-brainer Hall of Fame selection as those two horses. He is one of the top five trainers in American history in nearly every important category. Assuming the various “investigations” prompted by the release of the video, which thus far have led to nothing, continue to do so, Asmussen thoroughly deserves the honor and it’s a shame it had to be delayed.


Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
As expected, my comments on this article were censored, which just confirms that the DRF is still and always will be beholden to the powers that be. Quel Dommage!
Scott Scheib More than 1 year ago
Lasix is an easy target. There are so many other drugs that need to be targeted and banned that the lasix discussion is so trival. Even if the animals don't need it, there is no clear advantage to that horse. Ban all the rest of the drugs and lasix will follow
B More than 1 year ago
Sigh. So wrong, but you are so right.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Sorry but Go watch Racing UK, and see how they promote racing in England. The BHA are absolutely spot on when it comes to promoting the sport in the British isle.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Unlike NA where everyone wants to fight against each other instead of growing the game, and have terrible network coverage.
William Eisele More than 1 year ago
actually im old enough to remember when BUTE was the so -called dammnation of racing ( see DANCER'S IMAGE i.e.)
RIP Grammar More than 1 year ago
I happen to know a number of horses who run on Lasix and don't need to. The fact that trainers can get their regular vets to sign the paperwork saying, yes, this horse bled and needs Lasix, when in fact, the horse didn't bleed... The uniformity of Lasix use at the very least needs to be put into practice. ONLY vets hired by the tracks should be allowed to sign off on Lasix use. There is no way that the numbers of horses who currently race on the drug actually need it. I am all for its use, but it needs to be much more regulated. FYI... the horses in my care don't run on it if they don't need it.
William Eisele More than 1 year ago
make no mistake EIPH is a highly dangerous condition ,horses can drown in there own blood , understand this that after the induction of Lasix in n.y. in 1994 , the reported cases of espistaxis, (significant bleeding from both nostrils) during or right after a race, immediately dropped dramatically. by 80%! ,yes that's correct 80%!!!!.so let me ask you , do we really wanna take so a big step backwards?????????????????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How does Europe, Asia, and Australia conduct superior turf racing to that in North America without Lasix ?
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Because each of those racing juresductions are A) headed by a committee, and B) they all work together to grow their sport. They know money can be made, and at the same time the public truly love the races.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
It is simple and people don't seem to wrap their heads around this. If the horse is a severe bleeder, they should not step foot on the track PERIOD. Now read Anon comments below me.
Cameron Marsala More than 1 year ago
How can someone not see the effects. Blind leaders of the blind. I have watched thousands of horseraces in my life, Some years not missing 1- night of racing. I saw very few bleeders, on the walk back after the race, and On the backside. I have spent a few nights in the tack room. When the horses were headed home they were driving and knew Exactly where they were going. Now it is pathetic , horses that are confused, Some would stop if the Jock allowed it. In my opinion Lasix has destroyed the sport I love.
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
This is a super article, thank you. I think (also) what gets the anti-lasix people going is the Kentucky Derby (they always try to stage an "outrage" before it, like the Asmussen accusations), and Royal Ascot. I think it ticks them off no end that they can't hob nob in England and be as important as the Jockey Club is to English racing there , (instead of just being a trademark clearance outfit here). I think we really have to start examining why the Jockey Club, TOBA, Breeder's Cup, etc., insist on BANNING the substance. If they want to use human nature and create an atmosphere of working together, simply institute incentives (like purse incentives or breeders' incentives) to encourage people to race and breed without lasix. It takes a very aggressive, high-handed and arrogant bunch of people to keep insisting on reaching their goal in a manner which will hurt the vast majority of American trainers and handicappers. You're going to catch more flies with honey than the vinegar you keep dishing out each year. Another thing--start promoting the industry, you Jockey Club people ! Stop cutting it down and criticizing it. Stop saying how horrible it is and start promoting the incredible advances made--the state uniform medication rules, the statistically significant decrease in horse breakdowns, etc.
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
jim lefferts and DJ, thank you for the voice of reason. Looks and sounds very good, especially when compared to the voice of cheating and greed. Such a shame that all we get from the racing "journalists" are excuses for the same old, same old. There was a day when there was no Lasix use. Hmmmm.... racing was in better shape, financially. But no bother: why accept facts and history?