This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Want to see a bloody corpse? Kentucky racing without race-day lasix
I don’t know a more polite way to say this but: IS THE LEADERSHIP OF THE KENTUCKY HORSE RACING COMMISSION THAT WANTS TO BAN RACE-DAY BLEEDER MEDICATION (in such a sneaky fashion that even some of its commissioners didn’t know it would be up for a vote at Monday’s meeting until late last week) BONKERS?
This is a game-changer for Kentucky racing, and not for the good. Rather, it would contribute in alarming fashion to the devastation of a circuit already on the ropes. You want to see a bloody corpse, that would be Kentucky racing if getting rid of the proven-effective anti-bleeder medication furosemide is banned on race day.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating.
Horses bleed, not just thoroughbreds. Lasix has been proven to prevent or reduce the incidence of bleeding. It is highly regulated. The bettors know who is on Lasix and who is not, because it is prominently noted in the program. It is a system that works when you’re talking about integrity and protecting the public.
Let me stress something else: Mere months ago, Mary Scollay, the commission’s equine medical director, repeatedly assured horsemen that no one was trying to ban Lasix in Kentucky – emphatically and categorically, and she couldn’t understand why trainers such as Hall of Famer Bill Mott and prominent veterinarian Ken Reed kept wanting to turn the dialogue back to potential efforts to ban race-day Lasix, when what she was only discussing was the so-called adjunct bleeder medications also permissible in Kentucky and some other states. Then this comes out of the blue about a flat-out ban on race-day Lasix, with absolutely no warning. And they wonder why horsemen don’t believe what they are told by commission administrators.
I’m guessing those wanting to ban the one medication* allowed on race day (certainly far fewer than, I would guess, any of the commissioners use in any 24-hour span, remembering that caffeine and a whole lot of other things we take daily are illegal in horse racing) are ones who attend Keeneland, with its huge crowds, and Derby and Oaks, where one certainly could believe everything is hunky-dory. (*Also the adjunct anti-bleeder medications in some states. But today virtually no jurisdiction allows anything else within 24 hours of race, and even some very innocuous therapeutic medications can’t be given with 48 hours or more. For those following the rules, it is incredibly drug free. If there are those not following the rules, guess what? – They don’t care! A ban would only be in their favor.)
I suspect those on the commission seeking to ramrod this through are not paying the bills on a 6-year-old horse running for $5,000 claiming on a Thursday at Turfway Park. The Thursdays that Turfway still runs, anyway. (I would say Wednesday, but those have been eliminated at every track in the state but for Keeneland’s six weeks of racing a year and Churchill’s short fall meet. I can’t even say for a Thursday at Ellis Park, since those have been gone for a couple of years.)
Or if they are paying those bills on a nickel claimer, they think they can’t win because everyone else is cheating – certainly not because they have a too-slow horse! – and if only Lasix is banned they would have a better chance.
These commissioners wanting to ban Lasix certainly haven’t been in Kentucky’s racing offices struggling to pull cards together, even with a significant reduction in days.
Surely, for goodness stakes, the motivation isn’t to get an atta-boy! from The New York Times.
The ultimate outcome of Kentucky becoming the first jurisdiction to repeal Lasix would not be universal trumpeting about how great and courageous the commonwealth’s racing regulators are. Instead, it would result in the further exodus of horses to other jurisdictions and heads shaking everywhere by those grounded in reality.
As trainer Dale Romans told me the day before he won the Blue Grass Stakes with Dullahan – and few people in the commonwealth in any position have as much at stake in the industry as he does, with his huge stable (including many he owns), training center and now a farm to house broodmares – trainers and owners don’t need anything more to give them the legitimate excuse to go race at Indiana, where the purses are fatter thanks to slots and the competition not as tough. Or Pennsylvania. West Virginia. And probably soon, Ohio. Think about it: Kentucky a loser to Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio racing.
What has kept Kentucky racing as good as it still is, despite its serious erosion and mega-problems, is loyalty of its owners and trainers who want to race here, whether it’s because they live here or admire the appreciation the public has for the sport. Get rid of Lasix, many will feel no one cares about them and their horses, so why should they care about Kentucky racing?
The racetracks also need to speak out if they find the potential for Kentucky to be standing alone with a Lasix ban to be alarming and risking their already shrinking horse population.
If getting rid of Lasix is such a noble cause, why hasn’t New York – home to many of the horses raced by the elite of the Jockey Club – shown any inclination to repeal its use? You think those horses are going to ship into Kentucky for stakes when they can find similar races elsewhere (and quite possibly for more money) and not risk subjecting their horse to a bleeding episode?
Just take Aruna, winner of last fall’s Grade I Spinster at Keeneland. She was a bleeder in France and sent to America so she could race on Lasix and prove herself on the track, which she did. I’ve used her as an example before, because her camp is open about what brought her to America. But does American racing (and Central Kentucky) really want to get rid of the Arunas of the racing world? She is from one of the greatest racing and breeding operations in the world.
For those owners and breeders (including apparently some on the KHRC) who say Kentucky should be the first in line to ban lasix, I say you don’t need a regulatory change to not run your horses on anti-bleeder medication. Set the example and don’t run your horses on such medication and prove you can be successful without it and that it is just the needless and dangerous crutch you contend it is. Take out ads that your stallion/broodmare never raced on Lasix, if that is the case.
The fact is that horses only have so many starts in them. In many instances, each race has financial impact for those involved with the horse. Why do something that hurts its chances to compete at its best? Especially in the current climate?
It makes no sense, and it has dangerous consequences.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?