06/05/2012 3:44PM

Opponents of Lasix phaseout dominate town hall meeting


FRANKFORT, Ky. – Opponents of a proposal to phase out the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide outnumbered supporters by a count of 17-1 during a town-hall style meeting held Tuesday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

During the 90-minute meeting, owners, trainers, veterinarians, and officials of horsemen’s organizations urged the commission to reject the proposal. The opponents were countered only by William Koester, the former chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, despite the presence at the meeting of several officials who are known to support the rule, including representatives of the Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup, and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

The opponents reiterated arguments that have accompanied debates over the raceday use of furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, over the past year, calling a ban, no matter how limited, inhumane because of the medication’s proven efficacy in reducing the severity and frequency of bleeding episodes. Supporters of a new rule have said that the use of raceday furosemide has isolated the United States from most other major racing jurisdictions and led to public perception problems for the sport, and that limitations on its use would wipe away those concerns.

At the close of the hearing, John Ward, the racing commission chairman and a former trainer, announced that the commission had received 776 e-mails about the proposed regulation, with 643 of those e-mails in support of the limited ban and 133 in opposition, a statistic that flipped the ratio of opponents and supporters at the hearing on its head. In an interview afterward, Ward said that the “vast majority” of the e-mails on both sides had come from Internet campaigns being run by opponents and supporters.

A month ago, the Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association launched a website, cleanhorseracing.com, that has been e-mailing form letters and inviting people to sign online petitions in support of the new rule. The Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association launched a similar online effort a week ago.

Marty Maline, the executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protectve Association, vociferously objected to Ward announcing the number of e-mails at the close of the meeting, when audience members were no longer able to comment

“You should let us answer that comment,” Maline shouted.

“I’m just stating the facts, Marty,” Ward answered.

“Where are those people now?” shouted Barry King, an owner and handicapper who earlier testified in opposition to the proposal.

Matt Iuliano, the executive director of the Jockey Club, sat in the audience during the meeting taking notes. Asked why the Jockey Club did not make any public statement, Iuliano said that the organization had already submitted testimony to the Kentucky Racing Commission on its position.

“All our testimony is on the record,” Iuliano said. “There’s nothing else to add to it. We’ve always supported a very deliberate, methodical phaseout of furosemide.”

The proposal under consideration would ban raceday furosemide before stakes races beginning with 2-year-old stakes in 2013. The ban would be expanded to any race in which 3-year-olds are eligible in 2014, and then to all stakes races in 2015.

The racing had earlier this year proposed that the phaseout be applied to all races starting in 2013, but that proposal was narrowly defeated when the commission tied 7-7. One of the commissioners who voted against the proposal, Breeders’ Cup chairman Tom Ludt, was the commissioner who proposed the more limited stakes-race phaseout.

Since that meeting, Gov. Steve Beshear has also appointed a 15th commissioner, John Phillips, who is a member of the Jockey Club and a former board member of Breeders’ Cup. The silence of supporters during the town-hall meeting, and the announcement of the number of e-mails that have been received, could point to the fact that supporters of the rule have already determined they have enough votes for the proposal to pass.

Asked if the Jockey Club had done a vote count, Iuliano shook his head. “No,” he said.

The racing commission may take up the rule at its June 13 meeting, Ward said.

Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
Hmm, in the days BEFORE lasix, horses were averaging nearly TWICE as many starts as nowdays. Let me see, twice as many starts is BAD for the QWNERS? Please explain, Peter Cheater
Peter Miller More than 1 year ago
Once again the horse and the owners Are the losers if you take away lasix!
Peter Miller More than 1 year ago
It is inhumane to race horses without lasix! End of story! The proponents of the ban obviously do not like horses! PETA should be in favor of the use of lasix!
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Bsb Jaws...sounds dodgy, and everything you say is unfounded and angry. Having worked in European racing for several top trainers, I know that Nicola (below) is right, when she says that it is very unusual for Lasix to be used in training. Sure, horses bleed in Europe...but, when they do, they're given rest and subsequently trained with that in mind. For example..Kauto Star (ever heard of him Jaw-man?) ' made a noise ' as they say...and Paul Nicholls worked on him to such good effect that last season, as an 11-y-old he won a record 4th. King George at Kempton. This is what's called good horsemanship and sadly its become an almost extinct skill in the USa because trainers know they can take short cuts...via a needle. BTW...for the third time I have nothing to do with PETA.
raymond More than 1 year ago
Lasix is so popular, mainly because not everyone can train without it. It's that simple. Is it good or bad for the thoroughbred? Any medication is bad in my opinion, unless used as theraputic and away from the track. I am for banning raceday medication in it's entirety. Let's get back to training on Oats, Water and Hay.
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Its a slippery slope. I have been in the biz all my life and ive seen trainers that use as little as possible and ive seen guys go as far up to the line as possible. Meds help when used wisely. Unfortunately when you give some guys something they will abuse it. Just wondering what kind of backlash there would be if human athletes could no longer consume gatoraid before or during performance or if their cort injections where banned.
Nicola More than 1 year ago
Racing is a joke here, get the drugs out we want horses winning on Merritt, not on chemicals, thats why the few that went to dubai this year bombed we are a joke around the world, all these meetings are a waste of time, they achieve nothing dont bother having them, breeders cup better stick to their guns
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
Get rid of the drugs
Paul Kelley More than 1 year ago
..the science tells us that horses suffer from EPH under the stress of high performance..that science was not available not too many years ago...it is well known that horses in Europe and other countries regularly train using Lasix.. anybody want to guess why?...
Nicola More than 1 year ago
no they do not very rarely do trainers train im from newmarket and u are wrong on that one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Racing in this country is an embarrassment. Drugs, too many race days, small fields, fractured rules, politically driven racing boards, etc. Copy Europe? How about WE are the only ones who use drugs... Europe, Asia, Australia, South America are all WRONG and WE are right? Remember, there were no drugs in NY until 1995 and none in the entire country until 1974. So, racing existed for 100 years without it, but now MUST have it?
Bsb Jaws More than 1 year ago
You read like a PETA plant Anonymous. There were plenty of "drugs" in NY before '95 and the WORLD before '74. Strictnyne , cobra venom , lasix, bute etc . So you want them to starve them for 2 days and make them go thirsty for 24 hours to keep them from bleeding in a race like they do in those countries you mentioned Peta Boy ? That don't sound very humane. Would you rather have them wrap rubber bands on their tails REAL TIGHT ? OUCH !! That makes Eclipses tail throb. Here is a secret . Your knowledge of the dates '95 & '74 combined with your lack of knowledge of the use of voodoo witch doctor concoctions around the world reveals you as a Peta plant that doesn't really know much about racing.
Terry Marshall More than 1 year ago
You must be taking voodoo drugs yourself to think that ALL horses didn't eat for two days or drink for 24 hrs to prevent bleeding. How is it that every horse in every race including 2yos are bleeders? Its more like the drug is used for the 10 to 15 lb weight loss from excessive urination and gives a drastic weight allowance. The bleeding prevention defense is nonsense because not every single horse running is a bleeder but they're ALL medicated as though they are. Horsemen also love it because it can produce a cloudy test which won't set them down for a positive. You must have delirium tremors from moonshine and PETA on your brain accusing the guy for accurate information.
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
"Its more like the drug is used for the 10 to 15 lb weight loss from excessive urination and gives a drastic weight allowance." Cant be preventive measures. "Horsemen also love it because it can produce a cloudy test which won't set them down for a positive" Testing has advanced beyond this. Gotta love that perception though. If a horseman's using lasix then they got to be cheating.
Joe More than 1 year ago
I don't understand the ban. Lasix is good for horses it helps stop bleeding. People are complaing about small field sizes now with a ban of lasix the fields will become tiny. A lot more tracks will go out of business and as the former person just pointed out why do we want to copy Europe and have the racing as bad as they have it. This makes no sense.
M_a_r_y_A_n_n_ More than 1 year ago
Only 6% of horses are bleeders so 94% are given Lasix. It's a performance-enhancing drug and that why's the horsemen want to keep using it. It's big money for the vets too. I read $7 million could be saved annually without Lasix. American horses can no longer compete internationally without Lasix. Look what happened at Dubai. If I remember correctly, the Europeans were beating our best horses at Dubai so I guess the European horses are not as bad as you think.