Written by VIVIAN GRANT
It has been a few weeks since bettor protection group Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) issued a press release requesting that Thoroughbred racing in America phase out race day medications, setting a generous five years to accomplish the task.
When I called RCI on a (sort of) unrelated topic, naturally the issue came up. I was told that the organization was receiving encouraging private support. I wondered what sort of public support the idea would get, and the result was fairly predictable.
The Jockey Club and Breeders’ Cup Ltd were quick out the gate in public support of RCI’s proposal to ban race day medications. They were followed not long thereafter by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) and the Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA).
TOBA’s President Dan Metzger sums up his organization’s stance, stating to the Thoroughbred Times:
“Our current medication policy impairs our ability to compete in the domestic gambling and entertainment market as well as the international bloodstock market due to the widespread perception that our horses are over-medicated. We can no longer ignore that sentiment.”
After some delay, the NTRA finally emerged and not surprisingly, are doing what they always seem to do in perceived times of threat: called a meeting.
The Blood Horse Staff reports:
As expected the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium board of directors said April 20 it will join the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners in organizing an international summit to address race-day medication.
Officials said the meeting would be held in summer, with the date and location announced in the future.
The drug of major concern appears to be Lasix (or Salix). Nearly every single Thoroughbred who races in America is administered Lasix before a race, however, the drug is banned in major horse racing countries.
Why American horse racing is so married to the drug Lasix is not apparent, until you read statements like the ones below.
TOBA, for instance, state on their website:
Fiction: Lasix will prevent a horse from bleeding.
Fact: The diuretic Lasix can be legally administered four hours before a race to horses that have been documented with a history of bleeding. Although Lasix does lower blood pressures slightly, there is no proof that it reduces the incidence or severity of bleeding. Several studies have found evidence indicating that Lasix measurably improves racing performance; however, it dehydrates the horse prior to the race, as well as dilutes any drug residues that might be in the urine. Recent evidence indicates that Lasix causes only a slight improvement in racing performance.
Ah, the veil begins to lift.