03/23/2015 4:51PM

Kentucky committee approves rule allowing Lasix-free races

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday approved a rule that will allow Kentucky tracks to offer races in which horses will not be allowed to be administered the anti-bleeding medication furosemide on race day.

The rule passed by a voice vote, with four members of the commission opposed, after discussion of the issue was limited by the commission’s chairman, Robert Beck, who indicated that he supported the rule. Officials of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Kentucky HBPA, and the North American Association of Racetrack Practitioners briefly spoke against the rule prior to the vote.

The rule, which will need to go through several more formal steps before being implemented, was pushed by Keeneland Racecourse, the central Kentucky track that has many high-profile breeders on its board. So far, Keeneland has been the only racetrack in the state that has said it is interested in writing the races.

Rogers Beasley, the vice president of racing at Keeneland, told the commission that the track is likely to write two races for 2-year-olds during its 2016 spring meet that will prohibit race-day furosemide and another two to four races during the 2016 fall meet in which the prohibition will apply.

“We’re talking about a very few number of races,” Beasley said.

The issue of race-day furosemide use is highly controversial in U.S. racing. The drug is currently legal to administer up to four hours prior to a race in every U.S. racing jurisdiction, and many states tightly regulate its dosage and administration, including Kentucky. Most major foreign racing jurisdictions prohibit the race-day use of the drug, which is also known as Lasix.

Opponents of the rule contended that the approval would lead to racetracks writing more and more races that include the prohibition, against the wishes of the vast majority of trainers. In addition, Peter Ecabert, the legal counsel of the National HBPA, contended that the rule violated provisions of the constitution by “delegating” the authority of the commission on medication policy to private companies, an interpretation that could form the basis of legal challenges by horsemen’s groups down the road.

Frank Jones, a commission member who voted against the rule, said the exception would prove frustrating to horseplayers if the races lead to horses continually going on and off furosemide, which is used to mitigate bleeding in the lungs. “It’s consistently inconsistent when you do it like this,” Jones said.

Beck countered that the rule will likely “affect” only 20 horses under Keeneland’s stated plans, and that it would “give Keeneland a marketing advantage” by providing opportunities to trainers and owners who wanted to compete against a field of horses who do not run on the medication.
John Phillips, a commission member who voted for the rule, echoed that view when he said at a rules committee meeting earlier Monday that the rule “creates the opportunity for a level playing field; two level playing fields, in this case.”

Last August, the same rule was tabled by the Kentucky commission’s rules committee after many groups complained that they had little to no advance warning that the rule was going to appear on the agenda.

Although opponents of race-day Lasix use have made little headway in the past five years in achieving large-scale rollbacks in the permissibility of the drug, the effort to prohibit race-day use has not let up. Opponents contend that the U.S. is out of line with the rest of the racing world in permitting race-day use of the drug and that it damages racing’s public perception. Supporters contend that the drug is useful in mitigating the incidence and severity of bleeding in the lungs, pointing to scientific studies that have provided significant evidence of the drug’s efficacy.

In New York, the issue of Lasix use also cropped up on Monday, when, at the end of a New York State Gaming Commission meeting, commissioner John Crotty asked the commission to schedule a forum on the topic.

“I think it would be useful now that we have some uniform rulemaking in place to take a look at this either in a panel or open forum to discuss this and educate us a little more; this is still a controversial topic,” said Crotty, a former member of the board of directors of N.Y. Off-Track Betting. “Other jurisdictions have looked at this, I think it would be good for us to understand the science of it and what would make sense for us as a state moving forward.”

Although no date was set for a forum, Crotty asked the commission’s executive director, Robert Williams, to “invite some of the experts” on Lasix to participate in a discussion on the topic.

– additional reporting by Dave Grening

Vince Piscitelli More than 1 year ago
In a related story, Major League Baseball voted to have 17 games played this year with players abandoning their steroids, amphetamines and other drugs. Several Pro-Lasix idiots opposed this new MLB ruling. Vince P
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Documented 61% decline in handle on BC juvy non-Lasix races . The only public that matters is the betting public . They already voted on this issue . With their WALLETS .
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
Well it was 23% not 61%, but let's also note there was a 21% decrease in field size because the trainers revolted, so the numbers make sense. There are a lot more people in the US industry who want it, so it's going to stay for now.
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
Who is the North American Association of Racetrack Practitioners? I've searched all the major engines and nothing comes up. Sounds like the tracks themselves, but I've never heard of all the tracks being a part of any combined group. I'm surprised by the opposition to the idea of running 2 races drug free. What does that harm? Would be interesting to run one 4/12 furlong race drug free and a regular 4 1/2 furlong 2 yr old race 2 races later and compare times.
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
OK have come to find this is the vets. Why did the article list it as it does above and not by it's real name NAARV?
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
great idea, as if the fields aren't short enough,this experiment will last about a month,horses in this country NEED it,due to amount of races every day and the envoirment. lots of pollution,lots less in the irish countryside, it is a nice idea but not economically practical. to keep this game going,albeit not popular,drugs are needed,lots of bleeders,it doesn't make them run any faster and it doesn't remove symptoms of pain it just keeps the lungs clearer and they can breath easier,enabling them to carry their speed longer. it is not inhumane as bute and other drugs ,that mask pain and can cause damage. I will admit in the past that Lasix was a masking drug,used by many legally to cover up the other stuff but testing today is much more advanced and detectable.lets face it Lasix is here to stay and if racing is to survive it is a must
G More than 1 year ago
The use of lasix would deb allowed excluding race day.
G More than 1 year ago
To all of you saying no Lasix, you do understand they train with Lasix, dont you? In Europe the cutoff for administering Lasix is 48 hours, which is good because it allows to the horse time to rehydrate.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
There are dirt horses in south america who are racing 50 times a year without lasix. Do they have better meds and better knowledge ? Dont we want to see our favorite horses run more often ? With the use of lasix, Breeders are ignoring bleeding problems of the future. At a recent auction a bernardini/summer squall horse was bought by another breeder for $900,000. Bernardini colts have bleeding problems and summer squall had bleeding problems. Weekend surprise on both sides ?? Is this horse racing's theyskens'theory ?
Diane Hain More than 1 year ago
Diureticcs like Lasix rob the body of important electrolytes/minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This damages bone and muscle, which leads to breakdowns. Nobody wants to talk about it, but Lasix is the reason the USA has the highest breakdown rate in the world.
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
A very interesting and provocative comment. I wonder if there are any studies that deal with the the issue of Lasix and breakdowns? It would likely not be easy to isolate the effect of Lasix as a contributing factor.
G More than 1 year ago
The United States has the highest breakdown rate in the world also because there is so much more racing here than anywhere else in the world. Lasix is used around the world, just not on race day. It can work that way here as well, no race day lasix and only treat during training.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
US has the most breakdowns because 80% of the races are on the dirt and not turf/poly
harpharper . More than 1 year ago
Can't wait. Those races I will be using the ALL button in my pick 3's and pick 4's!!!
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Another decision made by geldings...why not just ban race day Lasix period. make it an even playing field...this whole Lasix argument is just so f silly everybody knows what race day Lasix is for. Its to shorten the withdrawal times of the real drugs and make them more effective. the idea that some how horses cant run without it is f ludicrous. I know for a fact that it can be done and is done in many countries. I raced a horse that made some 55 starts won about 12 times hit the board in most of his other starts and never once used Lasix..there are literally thousands of horses running everyday at tracks around the world like him.if horses could not run without Lasix there would be no racing in Europe or Asia or many parts of south America.
Joey W More than 1 year ago
I'm cool with because. well I don't have to bet every race. Maybe Keeneland is looking for an excuse for lower handle. Because that's what is going to happen on the days the races run. I am happy the dirt is back though. And the Lasix free races have not happened yet and doubt they will, unless they get other major tracks to run similar races. (Class, age and Purse)
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
Keeneland said they want to use 2 yr olds to start with. These would be first time starters or horses who did not run with it first time out. No need to work with other tracks.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
The return to dirt was the main cause of the lower handle. Keeneland is always subjected to lots of rain, and this washes turf races on to what is now a sloppy track which causes lots of 12 horse fields to scratch down to 5. Big punters stay away from those races.
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
Don't dismiss bettors waiting to see how the new surface played out. They configured the track different than the original one, so people couldn't even go off their past knowledge. Let's see how the handle on the Bluegrass is this year compared to last year. That will be the telling note.