08/02/2014 3:38PM

Horsemen's groups oppose Lasix ban

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said Saturday that a ban on Lasix, as proposed in a statement released on behalf of a number of prominent trainers Friday, would not “benefit the horse, the owners, or the horseplayers” while also “jeopardizing” the survival of all the small racing stables currently operating in this country.

D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher were among the 25 trainers who said they would support a gradual phase-out of the legal race-day use of furosemide, a diuretic used throughout the United States to mitigate bleeding in the lungs.  That proposal has continually met with staunch opposition from horsemen around the country, including the NYTHA.

“The position of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has not wavered,” Violette said in a statement Saturday. “The horses have not changed. Most horses suffer from exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, and Lasix is the only scientifically proven, truly effective treatment we have to protect them. Absent a researched and reasonable alternative to protect horses from EIPH, NYTHA is vehemently against any ban on Lasix.”

Violette added that the ban on Lasix could put many small trainers out of business.

“The majority of horsemen don’t have the multiples of horses to fill empty stalls, at will, if one or more of their horses need an extended time to recover from a bleeding episode,” Violette said. “A ban on Lasix would become a critical factor in the survival of small outfits.”

Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, who operates a modest stable himself based at Calder, spoke on behalf of his association in response to Friday’s statement to phase out the use of Lasix in the United States.

“Lasix is the only scientific means of controlling EIPH and thus allowing a horse to perform up to his or her highest potential,” said Combest. “Lasix doesn’t make any horse run faster. It is not a performance-enhancing drug. It is a performance-“allowing” drug.  The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has consistently and adamantly opposed a ban on Lasix and will continue to do so.

"To not have Lasix available for horses competing in the sweltering heat and humidity of non-winter Florida racing is a recipe for disaster. The FHBPA strongly supports a logical and rationally configured national uniform medication program. But it remains our firm position that race-day Lasix must be a part of such a program until something better comes along.”

Pletcher explained Saturday why he’s had a change of heart on the Lasix issue.

“I felt like we need to make a proactive move to try to improve,” said Pletcher. “I think that American racing is extremely clean, and it’s not perceived as being as clean as it is. I would like to see the perception improve because I think in reality, we’re all trying to do what’s best for racing and promote the sport for the long term.”

– additional reporting by David Grening