05/14/2012 2:18PM

New York prepares to study massive volume of comments on Lasix issue

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A public-comment period on potential changes to rules in New York allowing for the raceday administration of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide was set to close on Monday after supporters and opponents had already submitted a “substantial” amount of commentary, according to an official with the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

The two-week public-comment period was the first step in the possible phase-out of raceday furosemide – commonly marketed under the brand name Lasix – use in New York. However, the board has not yet scheduled any further action on a possible amendment of the rules, according to Lee Park, a spokesman for the board.

“The racing and wagering board will thoroughly review all comments submitted and weigh whether further rule changes or actions are in the best interest of racing in New York and equine health and safety,” Park said on Monday.

The board’s next scheduled meeting is May 30.

Both supporters and opponents of changes to the existing rules targeted the board with aggressive lobbying campaigns over the past week. The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which both support a ban on raceday use of the drug, launched a website that allowed ban supporters to send a form letter to the board calling for a phase-out of the medication, while the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association attached a link to its website that also allowed users to sign a letter opposing a rollback.

Park said he would not have a count on the number of comments the board received until Tuesday.

“Everything we’ve gotten has been logged, and everything we get will be reviewed,” Park said. “So far, it is substantial.”

The New York effort coincides with other pushes by supporters of a phase-out of the drug in other states. On Wednesday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will discuss a rule providing for a phase-out of furosemide before stakes races beginning in 2013 with juvenile races. The chairman of the commission has said that the 15-member regulatory body will not call a vote on the proposal at the Wednesday meeting.

Last month, the commission abruptly took up a proposal to phase-out the use of furosemide in all races, not just stakes races, but the measure did not pass when the commission deadlocked at 7-7. Since then, John Phillips, the owner of Darby Dan Farm, has been appointed to fill an empty seat on the commission. Phillips, who will be sworn in on Wednesday, is a member of the Jockey Club and has served as a board member for Breeders’ Cup, an organization that has also supported efforts to phase-out the raceday use of the drug.

On Monday, Phillips declined to take a position on whether he would support or oppose a phase-out of the drug, though he acknowledged that he “had made his personal opinion known in the past.”

“I think it’s wise not to say anything until, one, I’m sworn in, and, two, I get a better understanding of the proposal and precisely how the Kentucky racing commission intends to deal with it,” Phillips said.

Several of the commission members who voted against the Kentucky proposal last month cited the fear that Kentucky would be avoided by horsemen seeking to race on the drug unless other states passed similar bans. With coincident efforts in both Kentucky and New York – where a majority of the stakes races for 2-year-olds are held in the U.S. – those fears might be allayed somewhat if both states act in concert on a ban starting with juvenile races in 2013.