Updated on 12/30/2015 10:58AM

Kentucky attorney general's office says tracks cannot write Lasix-free races

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky attorney general’s office has issued an opinion stating that the state racing commission cannot delegate rule-making authority to private companies like racetracks, putting in jeopardy a plan by Keeneland to write races in which the race-day administration of the regulated medication Lasix would be prohibited.

The opinion by the attorney general’s office is the second time that Kentucky government officials have cast doubt on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s decision earlier this year to approve a rule allowing tracks to offer so-called “Lasix-free” races. In September, a state legislative agency called the rule deficient, but outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear allowed the regulation to go into effect despite the agency’s lack of approval.

The opinion by Matt James of the Kentucky attorney general’s office, issued Dec. 18, said that the KHRC rule is “an invalid delegation of administrative rule-making authority to private actors.” A Kentucky statute says that a horse “may” be administered Lasix on race day, and horsemen have argued that the language of the law prohibits racetracks from unilaterally enforcing any restriction on the use of the drug, a diuretic that is administered to nearly every horse at North American racetracks to mitigate bleeding in the lungs.

Dick Brown, a spokesman for the KHRC, said on Monday that the commission has not made any decisions about the future of the rule. The commission might soon face significant turnover following the election of a new governor, Matt Bevin, a Republican with Tea Party ties.

Only one Kentucky racetrack, Keeneland, has indicated that it planned to hold races in which Lasix would be prohibited from being administered on race day. Track officials were planning to write several such races for 2-year-olds during the April spring meet and then several more during the October fall meet.

Rogers Beasley, Keeneland’s vice president of racing, said track officials have not yet discussed their options in light of the ruling.

“It’s probably something we’ll discuss in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

The Kentucky attorney general, Jack Conway, is the son of a racing commissioner, Thomas Conway, who has supported race-day Lasix use. Jack Conway is leaving office in January, to be replaced by Andy Beshear, the son of Steve Beshear, who said in a recent speech that he supports restrictions on medication use.

Earlier this year, Gulfstream Park in south Florida wrote a Lasix-free race each for 2-year-old colts and fillies. Both races were split after they attracted overflow fields.

Though a number of North American owners and breeders have registered opposition to the race-day use of Lasix, many of those critics still allow their horses to be administered race-day doses of the drug because they believe their horses will be at a disadvantage if they do not run on the medication.