02/24/2012 5:45PM

Graded Stakes Committee won't implement juvenile Lasix ban in 2012


LEXINGTON, Ky.  - The American Graded Stakes Committee said late on Friday that it will not require a ban on the raceday use of furosemide in juvenile stakes run this year for the races to be eligible for a grade, reversing a policy adopted last year.

The announcement is an acknowledgment that the committee faced an uphill battle convincing regulators and horsemen to modify rules governing the raceday administration of furosemide, a diuretic commonly known as Lasix, in time for the advent of 2012 juvenile racing in April. The effort has faced strong opposition from horsemen, and many racing commissions were reluctant to adopt any restrictions without horsemen's approval.

"The committee will continue to engage in productive discussions within the industry, to educate the public, and to explore all avenues to effect positive changes with regard to the responsible use of medication for the benefit of graded stakes races, and the preservation of the integrity of those races," said the committee's chairman, Dr. J. David Richardson, in a statement distributed by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which administers the committee.

The committee adopted the policy in August of last year following the approval of a measure by the Breeders' Cup to ban the raceday use of furosemide in its juvenile races beginning in 2012. The measure adopted by the Breeders' Cup calls for the ban to be extended to all 15 of the organization's year-end races beginning in 2013.

Furosemide, used to treat bleeding in the lungs, is legal to administer on raceday in all North American racing jurisdictions, but it is illegal to administer in most other major racing countries, though there are several exceptions, including Argentina. Supporters of a ban on the raceday use of the drug contend that North American policies are out of step with the rest of the racing world and that raceday administrations create perception problems with the larger public.

Horsemen have said that furosemide is the only effective medication to treat bleeding in the lungs. As calls to ban the drug intensified last year, many horsemen began to say that denying furosemide to horses on raceday amounted to inhumane treatment, because of the ill effects that horses can suffer when suffering severe bleeding episodes.

Officials with TOBA began lobbying for changes to medication rules at the state level late last year [read about it here], but those efforts immediately ran into resistance, especially in two states that hold a large number of juvenile stakes races, Kentucky and New York. Graded stakes for 2-year-olds are held in only six states, and none have yet indicated that they are ready to move forward with regulations restricting the use of the drug. In addition to Kentucky and New York, the states are California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Louisiana.