06/13/2012 3:24PM

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

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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.