Updated on 08/13/2014 4:06PM

Gulfstream will hold Lasix-free juvenile races

Barbara D. Livingston
Beginning in 2015, Gulfstream Park will hold a number of juvenile races that prohibit the raceday use of Lasix.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Gulfstream Park, the South Florida racetrack owned by Frank Stronach, will begin to write races for 2-year-olds that will ban the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide beginning in the summer of 2015, officials for Stronach said Wednesday.

The condition books at Gulfstream next summer will include juvenile races in which furosemide, or Lasix, will be banned and some in which it will be allowed, according to Alon Ossip, the chief executive of the Stronach Group, the private company controlled by Stronach that also owns Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel Park, and Pimlico Racecourse. Lasix is currently allowed to be administered in Florida on raceday, as it is in every racing jurisdiction in the U.S. The fall condition books next year at Calder Race Course, which the Stronach Group is leasing from Churchill Downs, also will include the two-tier juvenile races, Ossip said.

Ossip, who spoke about the plan after Stronach gave an extemporaneous speech as the keynote speaker at the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law Conference in Saratoga Springs, said that the intention of writing the races banning the raceday use of Lasix would provide “education” to the industry about the use of the drug.

“You have to educate people, and the only way to educate people is to show them,” Ossip said.

The use of furosemide on raceday has been a controversial topic in racing ever since the drug was first allowed in U.S. racing jurisdictions in the 1970s. In the past several years, several high-profile groups, including the Jockey Club, have aggressively lobbied for the industry to ban the drug. The movement is supported by a segment of owners and breeders who have so far been outnumbered by rank-and-file horsemen.

Stronach, 82, is a billionaire owner-breeder who has won the Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder eight times. He took private control of the racetracks owned by the Stronach Group several years ago following the bankruptcy of a public company he controlled that had been set up to hold his racing assets.

Earlier this year, Stronach announced that the Stronach Group planned to put in place several initiatives designed to address concerns about the integrity of racing and the sport’s medication policies. He expounded on several of those initiatives during his 30-minute address to the law conference attendees, including a proposal to establish an on-track pharmacy at Gulfstream that would dispense all medications administered to horses on the grounds.

The proposal would be an entirely novel approach to the practice of veterinary medicine in both the U.S. and Europe, using as a model the highly regulated Hong Kong racing industry, which is tightly controlled by a non-profit company that oversees all aspects of training and racing.

While Stronach’s comments on the pharmacy were vague, Dr. Robert O’Neil, who was recently hired by the Stronach Group as the company’s equine health and safety director, said that the pharmacy may be in place at Gulfstream sometime in 2015.

“We’re working on it right now,” O’Neil said. “It’s a massive undertaking.”

Although Stronach indicated during his speech that Gulfstream would employ the veterinarians allowed to administer treatments to racetracks, O’Neil said after Stronach’s speech that “for now” private veterinarians would be allowed to practice on Gulfstream’s backstretch.

“At this point, they would be practicing [vets],” he said. “That’s until Frank says differently, that that’s what he would want to do.”

The dispensary, according to Stronach and O’Neil, would require veterinarians to submit prescriptions for therapeutic medications to the pharmacy. Any veterinarian who is caught on racetrack grounds with a medication that was not obtained by the pharmacy would be subject to warnings and then suspensions, Stronach said.

The concept of a racetrack pharmacy has been discussed in several jurisdictions in the past, including California, but the proposal has not been pursued at length because of the complexity of the project and other ancillary concerns. Those concerns run a wide gamut, ranging from racetrack liability to the fact that horses that ship in to the tracks will not have faced the same treatment restrictions as horses on the grounds.  

Stronach reiterated during his speech that Gulfstream will be the company’s “prototype” for the new initiatives, and said that if they are successful, they could be ready to be expanded to other tracks under the company’s banner in 2016.

Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Enjoy the euro- jogging bleeder fests in glacial time :) I won't be putting any of my money in those pools . It would be cruel to support the eccentric ideas proposed by a few senile old Jockey clubbers with my wagers . I won't support horses being forced to bleed unnecessarily !! It's not humane or ethical !!! Since I actually bet it means my opinion counts more than most of the people on this comment board . These fools will get it when they don't miss the money that you uninformed "dogooders" don't bet but they do miss the money that real players don't bet .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the proof will be at the entry box, Lasix race 10 starters, non -Lasix 5 or less
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
The reason why the idea of banning using race day Lasix is so painful is that many horsemen here in the States would have nothing in their barn to run without it. So this means whenever this change happens and it will - the transition will be super painful, especially for smaller barns. But why is Lasix use so necessary and so widespread? Two thoughts - many horses are given Lasix who are not proven to bleeders. It is believed to enhance performance. Second horses who needed Lasix to be able to run are bred and pass along their infirmities to their offspring. Bleeders breed more bleeders. Be clear - the Lasix does not cause the bleeding it masks it. Look at the state of the breed - Stronach who may deserve criticism for other things is not some senile freak - he clearly sees the future and integrity of the sport is tied to this issue. Kick and scream - it will happen, it has to.
Mark D More than 1 year ago
Female trainers will do well with the no Lasix rule.
Walter More than 1 year ago
God bless Frank Stronach! Racing will be in deep trouble without him. He's 82, won't live forever. I hope his heirs love racing as much as he does. Otherwise, you will see shopping malls that used to be Santa Anita & Gulfstream Park.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
ROFLMAO !!! That is absolutely THE DUMBEST comment ever left on any DRF board Walter . You're the champ. Stronach has only been to Santa Anita a few times ever :) The first time he was there he took a look at the signature Downhill course and decided it would be a good idea to RIP IT OUT and put in a rollercoaster park . ( I guess looking at The Dip made his lightning brain think about rollercoasters ? :) Luckily the City of Arcadia told him where to file the papers on that brilliant idea :) He wanted to do it on the other side of the track too. He also wanted to put in a big mall on the south side right next to the big mall that's already there . Stronach is a flim-flam man plain and simple.
Walter More than 1 year ago
I do remember there was talk of removing the downhill course. When Stronach realized it was a bad idea, it ended right there. Your rant really has nothing to do with my post. Good thing the drf has left it it so you can re-read it and comprehend it.
Mary Adkins-Matthews More than 1 year ago
With all of the other issues that need fixed in the industry, I can not understand for the life of me as to why people are still worried about this issue. Perhaps Stronach needs some pats on the back by the PETA loons after all of the mistakes that he has made in the last few years himself
Mike Hendricks More than 1 year ago
This appears to be one rich dude trying to impose his beliefs on the entire indusrty. Take a consenus, don't just make new rules because you happen to own the tracks. FOOLISH play. You just got a good thing for Fl Racing resolved , now you want to destroy that. It will cost you horses in the long run. In my opinion....
Paul Walker More than 1 year ago
For years I have set back and watched as gamblers have stood on there soap boxes and railed against this and that. I have watched owners and breeders talk about how to fix racing and I have yet to see any board or conference invite anyone from the so called rank and file of the industry to come talk about their 1 and 2 horse stables and what it takes to be competitive. I have trained for a long time and yes I use Lasix When It is needed to protect my horse. My responsibility is first to my horse, then the owner and lastly the betting public. As for Stronach and his group, every body has a senile old person that gets out in the open just look at thr NBA.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Love this comment. I totally agree with Paul here.
BigSkyEquine More than 1 year ago
Will they still allow the raceday prednisolone that all racehorses in Florida are allowed to be injected with before they race?
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
So now track owners write Rules of Racing? Once again the Florida Wagering Board (Racing Commission in other States) sits on their hands while accepting six-figure salaries. The end is now that much closer.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
Your comment about the regulators in Florida is totally correct. They don't rule on infractions for years and when they do it's a slap on the wrist. The system of each state controlling their small fiefdoms with incompetent political appointees needs to be changed before racing can fix itself. At least GP realizes this and is trying to put in some regulation.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Blame it on Baffert
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
OK by me if it's so...