At Breeders’ Cup, a Volatile Mix of Speed and Drugs

Cross-posted from the New York Times

Written by JOE DRAPE

Two time Eclipse Award winning journalist Joe Drape, writing from Louisville, Kentucky, once again spotlights the use of drugs in horse racing, this time on the international stage of the Breeder’s Cup.

Goldikova Winning the Breeder's Cup Mile (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Goldikova winning the Breeders' Cup Mile race at Santa Anita Park in 2008. Goldikova will be among the many horses running on drugs at this year's Breeder's Cup points out Joe Drape of the New York Times. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

You cannot hold a Breeders’ Cup, a series of championship races for the world’s best horses, without the issue of medications and illegal drugs coming up. John Gosden is among many European trainers who are critical of how permissive and harmful American medication rules are for horses.

Yet one of his Breeders’ Cup Turf contenders, Debussy, will run on the diuretic Lasix, which is banned just about everywhere outside the United States on race days. Of the more than 20 European horses, all but 4 will use the drug, including Goldikova, who is favored to win the Mile for a third consecutive time. It is rare for American horses not to use the drug in a race.

If they do not use Lasix, European trainers say, they are giving their American competitors a clear advantage.

Drape points out later in the article, of critical concern to horse advocates, among others, on the deadly effects of drugs used on horses in Thoroughbred racing.

A Jockey Club study released last March determined that racehorses died at the rate of 2.04 per 1,000 starts in the United States and Canada, a rate twice as deadly as in any other country. The Jockey Club has pointed to multiple studies that show permissive drug rules are part of the cause of the high mortality rates.

Toward the end Drape mentions that the Jockey Club is keeping the inevitable database, this time of drug offenders. Databases are very popular in Thoroughbred racing. Trouble is, they never do anything with the information. Ahem, collecting data is just the beginning of addressing a problem, not the solution.

Thank you, Joe Drape, for continuing to cover this issue and exposing these deadly abuses, to horses and the game. Wouldn’t it be great when the Breeder’s Cup returns to Churchill Downs in 2011, if none of the horses were were allowed to run on drugs.

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3 thoughts on “At Breeders’ Cup, a Volatile Mix of Speed and Drugs”

  1. Sadly, the insidious use of drugs for horses in NA has seriously compromised the sport of racing. Together with the practice of incessant inbreeding what has this industry created but a Clockwork Orange; “organic entities, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odour, being turned into automatons”.

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  2. Drugs have no place in sport. Period. Drugs are great for curing illness and making athletes better when they are in pain, but drugs used simply as performance enhancers, even if there is not always proof that they do indeed enhance anything, should not be allowed in sport, human or equine. Lasix in particular can be detrimental to the horses health, and is not necessary, except for treating health problems. When are sports governing bodies going to wake up and do something about the growing use of drugs in athletes ?

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  3. Horse Racing needs alot of reform, It is said to be the Sport of Kings, but it is shaded by the use of drugs, Drugs are suppose to be used for horses only when they need them, since they cannot talk and tell us what is wrong we must use knowledge and common sense to help them, if a horse is on drugs when in a race , he has no business being in that race he creates danger for all in that race…………………. Horse and rider !!!! I feel it is ok to use what you must until the problem is found and addressed in the proper way…..There is no reason to have a horse in pain until the problem is found, some horseman abuse this ………. then the next thing you know it is common practice …………. Common sense is a great tool, but it must be used to be effective……

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