Many Derby owners silent on drug use

Cross-posted from New York Times

We've got to quit giving these horses drugs they do not need, and show the public that we are serious about cleaning this sport up, owner Rick Porter tells the New York Times. Photograph by Mike Mergen / NYT.

Written by JOE DRAPE

Joe Drape
Joe Drape

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — (Apr. 29, 2009) The death of the filly Eight Belles at last year’s Kentucky Derby, along with the revelation that Big Brown had been treated with steroids before his dazzling victory, spurred pledges of reform and accountability for the welfare of the American thoroughbred. But as racing prepares for its biggest show on Saturday, many top owners and trainers still resist discussing what legal medications their horses are receiving.

Of the 20 owners or their trainers who as of Monday intended to run a horse in the Derby, only three shared their veterinary records with The New York Times.

Even with the prohibition of steroids in the past year, the United States continues to have the world’s loosest medication policies for thoroughbreds, and there is a growing concern within the veterinary community that overmedication — with drugs like corticosteroids, anti-inflammatories that can have dangerous consequences — and lax oversight have imperiled the safety and welfare of racehorses.

The aggressive use of legal drugs is a big reason this country has the worst mortality rate for thoroughbreds, veterinarians say. In effect, they say, short-term fixes with legal drugs have left horses vulnerable.

The 17 owners unwilling to show the records offered a variety of reasons for their refusal. Some talked about competitive pressures, and one trainer cited his horse’s privacy. Read full article >>

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