Time to ban all race day medications! At least that’s the hue and cry from some sectors of the industry and of the Federal government lately. The recently completed “International Summit on Race Day Medication, EIPH and the Racehorse” conducted at Belmont Park drew a wide variety of comments from all over the spectrum on the blogosphere. I would strongly recommend Teresa Genaro’s three part summary at her Brooklyn Backstretch blog for background. Rather than rehash what she and others (Steve Zorn and John Pricci with whom my views closely align and others) have brilliantly covered, I’d like to make my own recommendation since no matter the scientific conclusions that can be drawn from the usage of Bute and Lasix on race day the outcry is going to be too strong to resist and a ban will come.
Starting with next year’s breeding season, the get from all matings from that crop will run without medication when the time comes to race in mid-2015. All racing written for 2-year olds that season will ban medication. As this crop gets older, the ban moves with it. In 2016 all 3-year old racing and under will be conducted without medications. When they hit their 4-year old racing season in 2017, there should be no races written that include race day medication.
This timed approach will help phase out the bleeding families that are known to exist among breeding stock. If you choose to continue to breed bleeders then you won’t be in business very long. Buyers will need to do their homework as well. A $500,000 purchase that can’t race without Lasix is a losing proposition. This will give owners that are currently campaigning horses based upon the current rules a chance to move them through their conditions and racing years and prepare those that do not have a future in breeding for another career. Waking up tomorrow to a brave new world of no medications would be unfair to those in the game now and are campaigning racehorses that may have some bleeding issues that are satiated by Lasix use. Creating a huge pool of suddenly unraceable horses will put a giant strain on an already undercapitalized and overstressed racehorse retirement “system” and send some owners right out of the game – not for cheating, mind you, but for following the rules as they currently exist. A phased approach allows them to either adapt to the changing environment or move on with a minimal risk to capital already invested.
I can hear the screaming now, “The industry needs to do something TODAY! Not in 2015!!” Those cries either come from folks who have no financial interest in the fallout or with such deep pockets that it doesn’t matter. In reality, my proposal will do something TODAY, but would affect the industry in a more systematic way that reflects the realities of the business of racing. However, I do have an idea that may help placate those that want immediate action.
The breeding stock of tomorrow is running in the graded stakes of today. I would propose that starting on January 1, 2012 all graded stakes races ban the use of race day medication. I don’t think you can change the rules mid-season but the next season is pretty close to immediate. There would still be an outlet for these horses in the hundreds of non-graded stakes around the country should they need to run on Lasix. This way you are already clearing the way for horses closest to the breeding shed to have proven they are drug free before their progeny hits the sales ring.
“Immediate action” is a great rallying cry, but it is poor policy. By taking into account the realities of the industry along with the urgency of action, something positive can be done but by ignoring the economics and charging ahead without consideration is one of the surest ways to further stagger an already lumbering industry.