01/28/2013 11:51AM

Panel comes out in favor of raceday furosemide


A panel of veterinarians put together by the Thoroughbred Owners of California released a policy statement on Saturday supporting the continued raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide.

The statement was released following a day-long meeting on Jan. 18 to discuss equine health and safety issues. The TOC, which represents owners and trainers in California, has long supported the raceday use of furosemide, a diuretic that has been shown to be effective in mitigating the frequency and severity of bleeding in the lungs. Raceday use of the drug has been a lightning-rod issue in racing for several years.

The statement said that bleeding in the lungs has a “detrimental effect on performance” in horses, and that the only effective treatment is furosemide. The statement acknowledges that horses administered furosemide typically perform better than horses that are not administered the drug, but it says that effect “could be attributable to the reduction in [bleeding] or to other factors.”

Signers of the statement included a handful of prominent North American veterinary scientists and Dr. Kenneth Hinchcliff, a veterinary scientist at the University of Melbourne who has led several high-profile studies of the drug’s efficacy in treating bleeding and its effect on racing performance.

The distribution of the statement by the TOC is a shot over the bow to the Breeders’ Cup, which will be held later this year at Santa Anita Park in Southern California for the second year in a row. Last year, the Breeders’ Cup banned the raceday use of furosemide for its five races restricted to 2-year-olds, and this year the policy will be expanded to all 15 races.

Some horsemen have been urging the Breeders’ Cup to reconsider the policy, which was adopted in 2011 with the support of many high-profile breeders and the international racing community, where the raceday use of furosemide is largely banned.