05/16/2012 3:21PM

Kentucky commission to hold ‘town hall’ on Lasix


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission plans to press ahead with a discussion over the possible phase-out of the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide in stakes races with a town-hall style meeting in early June.

John Ward, the executive director of the commission, said at a commission meeting on Wednesday that the hearing would take place on June 4, 5, or 6. The hearing will be designed to take input on a proposed rule the commission unveiled on Wednesday that would ban the use of furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, before juvenile stakes races held in 2013, with the ban extending to any stakes race in which 3-year-olds are eligible to compete in 2014, and then to a total raceday ban for stakes races in 2015.

“We are very willing to listen to anyone,” Ward said.

The introduction of the proposed rule banning raceday use of furosemide before stakes races followed by one month the rejection of a proposal that would have begun phasing out the raceday use of the drug in all races in 2013. That vote, which was hastily arranged, ended in a 7-7 tie.

Just before the Wednesday meeting, the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, an advisory committee to the commission, voted 5-4 to reject a recommendation that the commission approve the phase-out in stakes races, according to officials. The motion was offered by Kentucky State Sen. Damon Thayer, who does not sit on the full commission.

The drug council’s rejection of the motion and the earlier failure of the wider phase-out of furosemide use led several opponents to criticize the commission for continuing to pursue a ban on the drug, which is used to treat bleeding in the lungs and is legal to administer on race day in every racing jurisdiction in North America.

“I don’t understand how this thing keeps coming up,” said Burr Travis, a northern Kentucky lawyer and horse owner who voted against the wider ban last month.

As a result of that criticism, Jack Conway, a horse owner and breeder, offered a motion that would have prohibited the commission from discussing a furosemide ban for one year. It was seconded by Dr. Foster Northrup, a practicing veterinarian, but it failed by a vote of 7-4 after the commission’s chairman, Robert Beck, said that approval of the motion “would send the wrong message.”

Under the proposed rule, furosemide would be banned 24 hours before any stakes race. A positive test would lead to the disqualification of the horse and a loss of purse.

Regarding the raceday ban in 2014, the commission clarified that any race in which 3-year-olds can enter, even those races for 3-year-olds and up, would be subject to the ban, even if no 3-year-old enters the race. That would mean several high-profile stakes races, such as the Clark, Spinster, and Stephen Foster, would be run under the ban in 2014 unless the races’ conditions were changed.