09/18/2014 10:36AM

Oaklawn to give bonuses for winning without Lasix

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Horses who win races without competing on Lasix during the upcoming meet at Oaklawn Park will receive a purse bonus, Charles Cella, president of the Hot Springs, Ark., track, announced Thursday. The program awards horses a 10 percent supplement to the winner’s share of the purse, with bonuses to range in value from $1,080 to as high as $60,000 for the richest race of the meet, the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Oaklawn will pay out the bonuses, which will not come from purse accounts, according to Cella. He said the volunteer program is “experimental,” and he would like to see it spawn more Lasix-free competition. Debates on the diuretic Lasix have become more frequent recently in the racing industry.

“We know some horses do indeed need Lasix in order to run to potential, and I want to make this very clear: We are not advocating that horses who need Lasix race without it,” Cella said. “However, it is also our belief that many of the horses running on Lasix may not need it. We think it is in the best interest of the sport and the breed to find a way to have more horses run without Lasix. Our hope is this program will be a step in the right direction.”

Oaklawn was one of the last tracks in the country to begin allowing Lasix on race days when the use of the diuretic was first allowed in the United States in the early 1970s, according to the release from Oaklawn.

The Oaklawn program is similar to one Arapahoe Park in Colorado introduced in June. Trainers whose charges won races “void of any race-day medication” in their system earned a $1,000 bonus for each victory. There were 21 horses who ran medication-free from that point through the close of the meet in mid-August, with three of those horses winning a total of four races, according to track official Bill Powers.

Oaklawn opens Jan. 9 and will race through April 11.