06/13/2012 4:24PM

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approves Lasix ban for juvenile stakes starting in 2014


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Wednesday approved a regulation that would prohibit the raceday administration of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide beginning with 2-year-old stakes races in 2014, but the rule is likely to face additional challenges as it wends its way through the state legislature.

The commission passed the rule 7-5, with one abstention. The rule is the first regulation passed by any state racing commission seeking to prohibit the raceday administration of furosemide in the modern era of Thoroughbred racing. Most major racing states began legalizing furosemide’s raceday use in the mid-1970s, and by 1995, every state in the United States allowed for raceday administrations.

Immediately after the vote, Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said that the horsemen’s group would attempt to convince the state legislature that the rule should be struck down prior to its implementation. Under Kentucky statutes, regulatory rules are subject to legislative review.

The raceday administration of furosemide has been the topic of outsized discussion in the racing industry for more than a year, a debate that has split the industry into two increasingly hostile camps. Support for a prohibition on the raceday use of furosemide has been led by breeders through the Jockey Club, the Breeders’ Cup, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Opposition to the phase-out has been led by horsemen’s organizations that represent sizeable numbers of both trainers and owners.

The Kentucky rule passed Wednesday was initially set to begin the phase-out in 2013, but the draft version of the rule was amended this week after the commission was told by the state legislature that the rule would be difficult to pass by next summer, according to the KHRC’s chairman, Robert Beck. As a result, debate over the rule is likely to extend well into 2013.

Under the rule, raceday administrations of furosemide - known by the trade names Lasix or Salix - will be prohibited for 2-year-old stakes races in 2014 and be extended to all stakes races in which 3-year-olds are eligible in 2015. The ban will then be expanded to stakes races for horses of all ages in 2016.

In April, the commission called a vote on a proposal to phase-out the raceday administration of furosemide in all races, not just stakes races, beginning in 2013, but that rule failed to pass when the commission split the vote, 7-7.

Two members who voted against the prohibition in April did not vote this time. Tom Ludt, chairman of Breeders’ Cup and the president of Vinery, abstained, while Michael Pitino, who rarely attends commission meetings, was not in attendance Wednesday.

After the meeting, Ludt said he abstained because he had been assured prior to the meeting that the commission would add an amendment to the rule that would make the regulation null if no other states passed similar rules. At the meeting, Beck made it clear that the commission would “revisit” the rule if no other states passed a similar regulation, but he said that the rule would not be amended.

“It’s dangerous for us to assume that other states are going to follow us,” Ludt said.

Since that April meeting, a 15th commissioner, John Phillips, owner of Darby Dan Farm, was added to the commission. Phillips voted for the rule Wednesday after explaining that he believed that the racing industry had failed to convince the public that the use of furosemide on raceday was being done for purposes of the horse’s health. Phillips said that 30 years ago he had supported the raceday use of the drug because he believed that the public would eventually support its use.

“I don’t think I was correct in that assessment,” Philips said.

MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
THE TRUTH IS THE BREEDERS GOT LAZY and just not breeding good horses....if these horses started running without lasix they couldn't run a furlong in 16 seconds....not because they bled but because the performance enhancing lasix is not in their system.....
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
I think this is a really exciting development - and I do realize it is very controversial. But I believe that in 5 - 10 years if Lasix was not being given race day we would be looking at the breeding and racing of sounder animals. Here's my line of thought - in no way do I think Lasix compromises the DNA of horses and weajens the breed. Here's what Lasix does do - it allwos horses who are unsound to race, when these horses breed they pass on their issues to their offspring and the process continues. By breeding and racing horses who are not bleeders the breed will become stronger. one of the correspondents below mentions Japan - no race day Lasix there and the horses do just fine. Ues this would be an adjustment and in the short run woudl be very difficult but long run this is where our sport needs to go - not for public perception but for the animals themselves. again, I realize this issue makes tempers rise high as there is big money on both sides. but trying to move toward a sounder breed, with less bleeding and more oriented toward distance than speed would make for better racibg ultimately. change can be hard and that does not mean it's bad.
Chas Glazer More than 1 year ago
Firts of all...This is all about the Breeders protecting their 'own interest' aka Money! The Breeders claim that Lasix is hurting the breeding of the horse when that is far from the truth...The Breeders are the one screwing up the breeding industry, just look at Sunday Silence..Not good enough for breeding here and sold to Japan and look what he did for that industry...Now Empire Maker is over in Japan..Why? The Breeders sold out for the mighty $ in both cases and would not generate the $ in the U.S. that they got in a sale... Second...Why are the non-Stakes races not applied to this proposed ban? Those horses are 'breeding $ quality' that's why... Third...Keep Peta out of this...If anyone thinks that 'animal killing' group will step forward to protest this ban, stop thinking as they don't give horse crap about this or the sport or even the horses well-being...
Peter Miller More than 1 year ago
I will not run in Kentucky and I will Recomend to my owners That they not run there either. PETA should be up in arms over This! This is cruel and Inhumane to horses! It's the same as not Giving heart/cholesterol meds to a person with high cholesterol Or heart problems! Amazingly stupid!
Victoria Janson More than 1 year ago
This is nothing like denying heart medicine to a person with high cholesterol. This problem is in regards to exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). It is a condition where the capillaries in the lungs "burst" and the horse bleeds. Also, if PETA gets "up in arms over this" then you won't be racing anywhere. Please check your facts before you post. I don't believe horses should be denied the drug but I also believe in improvement via genetics. So, if you would breed more sound horses and train your horses properly instead of running them prematurely or in races where they have no business running that distance or speed, then we might not having this debate.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
What we got here another person connected to commercial breeder!!
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
THERE IS NOTHING MORE INHUMANE than purposely breeding horses that bleeds and then shooting them with drugs!! Your post is so far off you think people are stupid!!
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
This is the wrong drug to ban. The commission would rather see a horse bleed on the track then drop like Giant Ryan. Jeez!
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Just read that Larry Jones won't buy horses from breeders in support of this ruling. Mebbe THIS will get that butcher out of the game.
Peter Miller More than 1 year ago
Once again they miss the mark! Lasix is not the Problem! Common sense is not so common!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Not to the lasix issue: I just got a quick look at Churchills' Derby eligibility system... I think they may have been listening...
Peter Miller More than 1 year ago
What Hippocrates !!! These are the same Breeders that use steroids on weanlings And yearlings at the sales to make a few More $$$$. What a joke!!!
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Agree with statement. It's hypocrites. Hippocrates is the Greek doctor, gives us the medical terminology. It does fit tho'.
Peter Miller More than 1 year ago
Once again the horse loses!!!