08/01/2014 3:43PM

High-profile trainers support ban on Lasix


A group of leading trainers, including D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher, said in a statement released on Friday that they would support the gradual phase-out of the legal race day use of the drug furosemide, the diuretic that is used by nearly every horse in the United States to mitigate bleeding in the lungs.

The statement is likely to reinvigorate a debate that has been going on in the U.S. racing industry for the past five years without any resolution. Many high-profile owners and breeders, along with the Jockey Club and other national racing organizations, have called for a ban on the race day use of furosemide, which is also known as Lasix, but those calls have been steadfastly resisted by rank-and-file horsemen.

The statement said the trainers would support a ban on the race day use of furosemide for all 2-year-olds beginning in 2015, with a complete ban following in 2016.

“We believe it’s time to take a proactive position regarding the administration of race-day medication,” said Lukas, who was recently appointed to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. “American racing has always been a global leader, and it’s time to restore confidence in our game and in our international standing.”

In addition to Lukas and Pletcher, the statement was signed by 23 other trainers, most of them based in New York, including Bill Mott, Shug McGaughey, Christophe Clement, Richard Mandella, Neil Drysdale, Kieran McLaughlin, and Graham Motion. Many of the trainers are employed by owners who have supported calls to ban the race day use of furosemide. Many of those owners also pledged two years ago to cease using furosemide on their 2-year-olds, pledges that have largely held up at the higher levels of the sport.

The statement was released nine days prior to the Jockey Club’s Round Table on Matters Pertaining to Racing, an annual two-hour conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where, over the past five years, Jockey Club officials and other racing industry officials have called for bans on race-day furosemide use. The Jockey Club has also begun canvassing the industry for financial support for a study that would examine the efficacy of the drug when used 24 hours before a race.

Opponents of the race day use of furosemide have contended that the public perception of the sport is damaged by its widespread use. Breeders have also argued that buyers in international racing jurisdictions are put off by race-day furosemide use, depressing prices for American bloodstock. Race-day Lasix use is banned in nearly every major racing jurisdiction outside North America.

Supporters of the drug’s use point to scientific studies that have concluded that furosemide is effective in mitigating bleeding in the lungs, a common affliction for racehorses. A ban on the race day use of the drug would worsen the condition, the supporters argue.

Although some organizations have put in place policies intending to rollback race day use of the drug over the past four years, including the American Graded Stakes Committee and the Breeders’ Cup, those policies were rescinded when it became clear that racing states did not intend to pass rules restricting furosemide use.