03/19/2015 11:55AM

Kentucky committee considers rule allowing Lasix-free races

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is scheduled to consider a rule next week that would allow tracks to write races that prohibit the use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide within 24 hours of post time, according to material distributed by Kentucky horsemen’s groups.

The rule, which will be considered during a Rules Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, is nearly identical to an amendment brought before the committee last August. The committee voted 4-1 to table the proposal at that time, and it was not resurrected after that vote.

The rule “authorizes licensed racing associations to require adherence to the International Medication Protocol,” which the rule later defines as prohibiting the administration of furosemide within 24 hours of a race. It is currently legal in all U.S. racing jurisdictions to administer furosemide, also known as Lasix, four hours prior to a race.

On Thursday morning, the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which has adamantly opposed any prohibition on the race-day use of furosemide in the past, distributed petitions via e-mail to its members in opposition to the new rule. The e-mail states that “it is suspected that this is a precursor to running the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Lasix-free.”

The 2015 Breeders’ Cup event is scheduled for Oct. 30-31 at Keeneland in Lexington. Members of Keeneland’s board of directors have supported efforts to prohibit the race-day use of Lasix in the past.

Bill Thomasen, the chief executive of Keeneland, in a statement released Friday morning, said that Keeneland supports the rule as a way to give its racing office “the flexibility to card some races for horses that are free of race-day medication.” However, Thomasen also said in the statement that the track does not expect the rule to go into effect this year, but rather next year, after the Breeders’ Cup has been held.

Craig Fravel, the president of the Breeders’ Cup, said in an e-mailed statement that “the subject of medication at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup has not been discussed by the Breeders’ Cup board,” and added that “we are supportive of Keeneland’s position on the proposed regulation.”

Past efforts by the Breeders’ Cup to support a ban on race-day Lasix have been met with opposition by U.S. horsemen, but international horsemen have encouraged the organization to bring U.S. racing in line with the vast majority of foreign racing jurisdictions, where race-day use of the drug is banned. The Breeders’ Cup ran the 2012 and 2013 events with a ban on race-day Lasix in its races for 2-year-olds, but a plan to expand the rule to all of the organization’s races was scrapped between the 2012 and 2013 events, and the ban on Lasix use in the 2-year-old races was rolled back shortly thereafter.

The same rule amendment generated fierce debate when brought up last August at the committee meeting, which was attended by officials of the Breeders’ Cup and several national organizations supporting race-day Lasix bans.

The rule was introduced in Kentucky shortly after Frank Stronach, the owner of The Stronach Group, announced that Gulfstream Park would write races in 2015 that prohibited race-day Lasix use as a condition of entry. To date, Gulfstream has not written any Lasix-free races.