Is American Racing Ready To Let Go Of Lasix???

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jeff Scott of The Saratogian…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

The Debate on Lasix Continues

Among the reasons why virtually all racing jurisdictions outside North America ban race-day use of Lasix is because they want to be able to identify heavy bleeders — especially horses that bleed profusely enough to have blood show up in the nostrils (epistaxis) — and, as much as is possible, keep them out of the breeding population. The reason they want to keep these horses out of the breeding population is the concern that epistaxis is an inheritable condition that can become more widespread over time.

This topic came up in comments by South Africa-based veterinarian John McVeigh at the two-day “International Summit on Race Day Medication, EIPH and the Racehorse” held last week at Belmont Park.

In his remarks, McVeigh referred to an extensive South African study — “A genetic analysis of epistaxis as associated with EIPH in the Southern African Thoroughbred” by H. Weideman, S. J. Schoeman and G. F. Jordaan — that involved over 60,000 horses who competed in that country over a 16-year span.

This 2004 study concluded that epistaxis “has a strong genetic basis,” one that is “strong enough to be considered in breeding strategies.” The study recommended the creation of “an international database for epistaxis” and that “furosemide [Lasix] be banned internationally from racing, or failing that, breeders should refrain from buying potential sires that have raced on this drug.”

Here in North America, Lasix is nearly as much standard equipment for a Thoroughbred racehorse as is a saddle and jockey. The extent of the drug’s use (and its growth in popularity) is illustrated in recent statistics from Saratoga Race Course.

Last year, 97 percent of all horses who started at Saratoga were treated with Lasix, compared to 92 percent in 2005. During the same period, the percentage of 2-year-old starters on Lasix at the Spa increased from 78 to 93. The latter figure included 91 percent of first-time starters.

It is impossible to know how many of these horses would have bled profusely enough to interfere with performance had they not been given Lasix; how many were given Lasix just in case they did bleed; and how many were given the drug because their connections didn’t want to miss out on any additional boost it might provide on the track.

Since everyone on both sides of the Lasix debate agrees that excessive bleeding is a bad thing, and since there is evidence that the condition is inheritable, knowing which horses were heavy bleeders during their racing careers — or would have been had they not been treated with Lasix — would seem to be information that would be of considerable interest to breeders. Or so one would think.

It would also be interesting to hear Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella expand upon a remark he reportedly made at last week’s conference at Belmont, and which appeared in a story by Eric Mitchell at bloodhorse.com.

“I believe I’ve had horses out of certain families and by certain sires, that I won’t name, that definitely tended to bleed more than others,” Mitchell quoted Mandella as saying.

In her Brooklyn Backstretch blog, Teresa Genaro — who reported extensively on the conference — wrote, “Mandella and [trainer Graham] Motion both said that bleeding seems to be a family trait and that the offspring of bleeders tend to bleed.”

What has been needed for a long time is a comprehensive study dealing with questions related to Lasix use and its long-term consequences for the breed. The problem is, given the degree to which Lasix has become woven into the fabric of American racing, it is unclear how many people would want to know the answers.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

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