08/09/2013 1:55PM

Furosemide, uniform rules hot topics at Jockey Club Round Table


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Jockey Club will continue to press the argument that the future of the U.S. racing industry depends on the sport’s willingness to toughen its medication policies, a position that will be defended on several fronts Sunday morning during the organization’s Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing.

While Jockey Club officials say medication policies have been a primary element of 18 of the last 19 Round Table conferences, calls to reform the sport’s medication rules have intensified over the past several years as animal-welfare movements have continued to gain strength and the racing industry has been increasingly targeted by critics of its culture and policies.

This year’s Round Table will maintain the drumbeat for reform, with the entire second half of the two-hour program devoted to medication and safety issues. In addition, the conference’s two keynote speakers, who will appear during the first half of the program, are expected to address the differences in medication policies between the United States and both the Far East and Western Europe, with a critical eye toward how North American racing permits the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide.

The two speakers are Masayuki Goto, executive director of the Japan Racing Association, and Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland and the European representative on the executive council of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. Japan and all of the countries of Western Europe ban the administration of any drug on raceday, and their breeders and regulators have been consistently critical of North America’s furosemide policies.

The raceday use of furosemide remains a divisive issue in U.S. racing. Support for a ban on the raceday use of the drug is strong among Central Kentucky breeders and well-heeled owners, especially those who race and breed internationally, but rank-and-file horsemen have steadfastly rejected any effort to ban the drug, citing its ability to mitigate the effects of bleeding in the lungs.

With a larger effort to press for the adoption of uniform rules in all U.S. racing jurisdictions stalled by the disagreement over furosemide, the Jockey Club last year dropped its demand that a raceday furosemide ban be included in a model-rules document being circulated among influential racing organizations. Since the amendment, horsemen’s organizations in a dozen states have pledged to work with their racing commissions to adopt the rules, leading to the first significant progress in standardizing medication rules across state lines in the sport’s history.

Jockey Club officials have said they have not abandoned their effort to ban the raceday use of the drug, but for now, the organization will push for that ban on a separate track from the effort to press states to adopt the uniform rules. Under those rules, 24 medications will be allowed to be administered therapeutically to racehorses, and furosemide will remain legal on raceday as long as it is administered by state veterinarians under strict regulations.

As the Jockey Club has pressed for the reforms, it has maintained that racing fans consider the use of medications to be a significant threat to the integrity of the sport. On Sunday, the organization plans to present the results of a new survey conducted within the last month on the issue, and it also will provide a forum for Ryan Goldberg, a freelance reporter who contributes to Daily Racing Form , to provide “a journalist’s perspective on medication issues.”

Also, Dr. Hiram C. Polk, an owner-breeder and renowned surgeon, will present a study he oversaw analyzing the performance of horses in Australia who have significant U.S. influence in their pedigrees. In addition, the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Safety Committee is expected to make several recommendations regarding animal welfare, and Stuart F. Janney III, one of the members of the committee, will give a separate presentation on out-of-competition testing.