Lasix Hot-Button Issue in Breeders’ Cup Election

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The election process for five seats on the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors begins Friday, and in the wake of the controversial decision in March to change direction on medication policy it will be a hotly contested vote.

The only individuals eligible to run and to vote in the Board of Directors election are the 48 men and women who serve as Breeders’ Cup Members. Thirty-nine of the Members are elected in a proportional vote by breeders who nominate stallions or foals to the program (each foal nomination equals one vote, as does each $500 in a nominated stallion’s stud fee). The others on this larger panel are either Founding Members of the organization or past presidents.

Click here to see who currently serves as Members or Directors.


An online vote among Breeders’ Cup Members takes place July 9-15. Votes also may be cast in person at a Members meeting on July 16. One of the first duties of the newly elected Board will be the election of officers, including a chairman. Tom Ludt, the current chairman, stated his intention to step down from that role after taking a management position with the Stronach Group, owner of several racetracks including Santa Anita Park.

Three incumbents are expected to run: Jerry Crawford of Donegal Stables, Roy Jackson of Lael Stables, and Thoroughbred Daily News co-publisher Barry Weisbord, who also owns and breeds Thoroughbreds. Jackson and Crawford previously were elected Directors by Breeders’ Cup Members. Weisbord replaced Woodbine Entertainment’s David Willmot in a special vote of the Board of Directors. In that election, after a deadlocked vote between candidates Weisbord and Bill Oppenheim, rules called for a coin toss that Weisbord won.

The two other open positions in this year’s Board of Directors election were formerly held by Darley’s Oliver Tait, who resigned his position over the medication vote in March, and Padua Stable’s Satish Sanan, who resigned in May after saying he was being unfairly criticized by the board for speaking to the press about Breeders’ Cup issues.

The March vote prompting Tait’s resignation was a decision to permit the race-day use of the anti-bleeding diuretic furosemide in races for horses aged 3 and up at the 2013 Breeders’ Cup. In 2011 the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors voted to phase out Lasix over two years: banning it in 2-year-old races in 2012 and in all races beginning in 2013.

The decision to maintain the Lasix ban on 2-year-old races in 2013 but permit the drug in all other races is the first step toward reverting to previous policy that followed existing medication policy in the jurisdiction hosting the Breeders’ Cup. Lasix was not permitted for any races in 1985 at Aqueduct or 1990 at Belmont Park. New York was the last Lasix holdout, authorizing the drug’s use in 1995.

Horsemen in several states, including California where the Thoroughbred Owners of California voted against holding a Lasix-free Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in 2014, have pressured the organization to give up the medication fight.

It is expected that issue will be foremost among those discussed by candidates and voters in this upcoming election.

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  • FIVE2_THREE

    Horsemen in several states, including California where the Thoroughbred Owners of California voted against holding a Lasix-free Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in 2014, have pressured the organization to give up the medication fight.

    So If the Thoroughbred Owners of California hold such an influence over the Breeders Cup
    why is there a need to hold elections ? it’s clear that they are just emperors with no clothes, the Owners in California really run the show.

  • Hoops and Horses

    If it were me, I would have stuck to my plans and gone with no Lasix on the BC and made it clear to horsemen who’d be thinking of boycotting that this would hopefully be a first step to getting Lasix out of the sport. My plan, originally posted in 2011 and noted many times previously here, calls for a five year-phaseout of Lasix as noted below:

    Year 1: No lasix allowed for ALL two year old races along with the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup events AND selected Grade 1 events that would include all such races for three year olds preceding the Kentucky Derby along with the Kentucky Oaks, Arlington Million, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Travers, Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Beldame among others.

    Year 2: The ban on lasix expands to ALL races restricted to two and three year olds, as well as ALL Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes events. Three year olds would ONLY be permitted to use lasix when facing older horses in races where lasix would still be allowed.

    Year 3: The ban on lasix expands to include ALL Graded Stakes and non-Graded stakes carrying a purse of AT LEAST $100,000. In addition, non-graded stakes where lasix is allowed would be barred from consideration for Graded status at this point.

    Year 4: The ban on lasix expands to include all non-claiming races, including Allowance Optional Claiming and starter events.

    Year 5: Total ban on lasix.

    That to me would over time separate the men from the boys and get trainers who can’t train horses without lasix out of the sport.

  • First Watcher

    Which directors voted in favor of removing the race-day ban?

    • zchairman

      That would depend on which vote you were talking about. The BC took several votes on the Lasix issue on the same day and sometimes the same directors voted yes and then 15 minutes later they voted no. The BC is one of the most dysfunctional organizations I have ever seen and the “Chief of Dysfunction” is their mealy-mouth CEO Craig “two day” Fravel who is well known for saying one thing and doing another. He counts votes and then votes with the winning side to keep his job—pretty sad state of affairs no matter which side of the Lasix issue you are on. Racing and the people who support the game deserve better representation but will never get it because the BC BoD system is ‘rigged’—as in totally and completely rigged. Seven entities control enough votes to elect whoever they want, and that is not much of a democracy!!! The ‘good old boy system is alive and well at the BC and if they were a publically held company, the CEO would be fired and a complete new BoD would be installed.

  • Lexington 3

    “It is expected that issue will be foremost among those discussed by candidates and voters in this upcoming election.”

    That is sad. Lasix as the foremost issue?

    People are clueless. But it gives bloggers like Ray something to climb up on a high horse about, I guess.

  • John Saunders

    I have read and heard experts and vets on both sides. I remember the days when they ran with no lasix and horses would come back to be unsaddled and they would be bleeding. That is a site rarely seen with lasix being allowed. It seems as thought when used properly it helps the horse and is a benefit to the horse. From a betters point I want things that help the horse and let them run more consistently. I don’t care if the rest of the world runs without it because I know they are using other chemicals to achieve the results. Running horses without the help of lasix does not level the playing field and it adds more inconstancy for the bettor. If the game gets more inconsistent, then many of us will have to take up card or other games to spend our wagering money. That is not good for the game.

    • Tinky

      Please explain why horses bleeding from the nostrils is almost never seen in Europe, Hong Kong, etc.

      • Hossracergp

        It’s hardly ever seen anywhere, but it doesn’t have to be visible in their nostrils post race to have a negative impact on their performance. It’s more often seen after the horse has cooled out and is put back in their stall. Bleeding is sort of like being a little bit pregnant. Just because it’s not obvious doesn’t make it not so. I’ve seen horses bleed from the nostrils after galloping and swimming. I’ve seen one bleed after running a bad race and I’ve seen one bleed after winning in the test barn when the state vet came to draw blood. I can think of five horses that I’ve seen bleed from the nostrils and they were different in that some were young horses, some off of a lay up and some that had been running regularly. It happens. Horses being horses, I’m sure it happens in Europe too but I doubt they go around shouting it on the hilltops.

        • anne

          Horses in Hong Kong bleed – they are scoped very frequently, the records are made public and forced to retire when they have a history of bleeding. Go to Hong Kong Jockey Club and see medical records for yourself.

        • Tinky

          Please read the full thread next time.

          I responded to this comment by John Saunders:

          “I remember the days when they ran with no lasix and horses would come back to be unsaddled and they would be bleeding. That is a site rarely seen with lasix being allowed”

          The point that I was making is that they are almost never “seen” bleeding when they race in countries that don’t allow Lasix, undercutting his point.

    • Hopefieldstables

      “According to an analysis of Equibase charts from 1995 through
      2010, the rate of epistaxis in the U.S., where furosemide is allowed, is 1.29
      per 1,000 runners”
      - Dr J David Richardson in his remarks to the medication committee of the KHRC in November 2011.

      The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) reported that a study by University of Nottingham of racing over the last 10 year revealed a rate of epistaxis of 1.3 per 1,000 runners.

      Birks, Soma et al (2005) in a study of 258 thoroughbreds racing in Pennsylvania, examined between 1 and 5 starts revealed blood in the trachea in 75% of post race examinations despite 90% of the horses racing on lasix.

      Lasix efficacy is a delusion and that alone explains why the world gets by just fine without.

      PS What are those “other chemicals”?, clearly the world’s greatest secret, known only to thousands of trainers worldwide (and a Mr Saunders) but apparently not a single US pharma company can find out.

      • Hopefieldstables

        Note, Hinchcliff et al (2005) in examining 744 horses in lasix free Australia post race discovered EIPH in just 55% of the examinations. Contrast that with 75% in lasix using Pennsylvania.

    • G. Rarick

      You “KNOW” that the rest of the world is using other chemicals. You KNOW this. Fascinating. Do you know the definition of the word “know?” I think not.

      • Hossracergp

        Yes. In the same way that you “KNOW” all the horses here are jacked up on undetectable drugs.

        • G. Rarick

          I don’t “KNOW” any such thing, nor have I ever claimed to. It’s the legal drugs I have a problem with. There’s not even a hope of catching whatever illegal might be going on unless you get rid of the proliferation of legal drugs first. I maintain, and always have, that the LEGAL drugs allowed in American racing are what’s killing the sport – horse by horse.

    • SteveG

      Some horses have an adverse reaction to lasix & do not run to current form. The idea that lasix “levels the playing field” for bettors is a myth. Factor in the pre-race medications horses routinely undergo & there’s no telling the impact of meds on results.
      The concept that medicated horses run consistently is not only a myth, but its perverse.

    • Larry Ensor

      I was around before Lasix as a groom. I was at the races every single day. I was around before it was allowed as a matter course. Yes, I saw some horses bleed but they were the exception not the norm. I spent a considerable amount of time racing in NY before Lasix was allowed I believe 1995. Again I don’t remember seeing any horses bleed from the nose. The few I raced there always scoped clean or with traces. Nothing more then the norm and or what would be expected.
      I’ve given up caring one way or another I just wish the debate would be put to bed already. I believe it to be a performance enhancer and completely unnecessary for the majority of horses. Certainly not 98% of them.
      It should never have been allowed to be debated in the public forum. It should have been put to bed along time ago one way or another. Typical of the industry to try and close the barn doors long after the horses have run away.

  • jttf

    in my opinion, there isnt going to be any lasix ban. this is why santa anita was rewarded next year’s breeders cup. do you really think they would reward them the cup races if this wasnt already agreed upon ? this is so silly. pegram, west, and baffert threaten the breeders cup committee. yet they run their horses without lasix in last year’s breeders cup and many races in dubai. yes, they did win some races in dubai without lasix. repoli says he wont run his horses without lasix. but, his trainer, todd pletcher ran shanghai bobby, dreaming of julia and kauai katie in last year’s cup juvenile races without lasix. if running without lasix is so dangerous, their star horses would not have run.

  • Anton Chigurh

    Better start breeding to stallions who could win without lasix. Those who do will be ahead of the game.

    • Mimi Hunter

      That is one of the better ideas I’ve seen here.

      • Red Rider

        What’s the point? Top stallions that ran on lasix breed internationally and their offspring run successfully without lasix.

        • Mimi Hunter

          The point is simple genetics – keep using horses who needed Lasix and sooner or later all horses will need it. Whatever flaw that caused the bleeding in at least the parents [either or both] will be passed on. That’s ‘survival of the fittest’ in reverse.

          • Red Rider

            There is no evidence that the top stallions who ran on lasix actually needed lasix. there is even less evidence, as in zilch, of any genetic “flaw” being passed on by North American stallions that raced on lasix. Your “scientific theory” lacks any data to back it up. In fact, existing evidence contradicts your and Anton’s theory.

          • Mimi Hunter

            Somebody had to say they needed the Lasix – it’s given for bleeding – So either the lie was told that they needed it – or the lie was told or implied that they didn’t need it. It took quite a while for the HYPP problem to surface in QH’s. If you got into breeding and paid attention to what you were doing – you would be surprised at just how much influence genetics has – I know I was. So, the existing evidence contradicts what I’m saying? Only because the existing evidence is based on a lie.

          • Red Rider

            datum that contradicts your position = lie. Got it.

          • Mimi Hunter

            Either there was a lie told that the horse needed Lasix because of bleeding, or there was a lie told that the horse didn’t need it. You can’t have it both ways. Got it?

          • Red Rider

            The “lie” you referenced was regarding genetics, not whether the horse needed lasix. Horses race on lasix who do not need it for bleeding because it enhances performance by acting as a blood buffering agent. Your genetic argument is unsubstantiated so you call evidence to the contrary a lie. Then you attempt to redirect your argument.

            Your comment regarding our breeding experience is condescending and has nothing to do with the statements made; which are correct. BTW we have bred and raced more than one or two multiple, graded stakes winners. Our breeding/bloodstock mgr has a masters in bio-genetics, taught mammalian physiology at the college level, did post-grad genetic research at Duke, and has been “paying attention” for over 20 years.

            Get off of your 14.3 hand high horse. No you don’t get it.

          • Mimi Hunter

            Not using the horses for breeding who rely on Lasix, in fact or otherwise, is still one of the better ideas I’ve seen here. It’s still simple genetics to try to eliminate flaws from the gene pool. Ignore that, for whatever reason, and things tend to get a little out of control. Sure, short term benefits might be there, but long-term is in the waste bucket.

  • Allison Roulston

    No BC Director is qualified to vote on the Lasix issue unless he or she can reference authoritative scientific answers to these questions:

    1.What debilitating physical side effects result from the use of Lasix?

    2. What other performance enhancing drugs does the use of Lasix mask?

    3. What accounts for the wholesale use of Lasix in US racing?

    • Hopefieldstables

      What if the BC director adheres to the philosophy that horse racing is a sport and competition should be conducted free of the influence of exogenous drugs.

      What if the BC director is of the view that if the sport is unable to be conducted free of this influence, it should not be conducted at all.

      • Hopefieldstables

        Can he/she then vote their conscience?

        • Allison Roulston

          Casting a philosophically informed vote is not necessarily the same as voting one’s conscience. Voting to allow Lasix “for the good of the horses” or “for the good of the industry” can also be construed as voting one’s conscience.

          • Hopefieldstables

            Since the addition of lasix, can you identify the “good” that has resulted?

            To vote that way, “for the good of the industry”, one would need some evidence of the “good” that has been delivered.

            Do the horses race more often? do they have longer careers? do they race over longer distances? do they have less catastrophic injuries ? have they achieved greater milestones? do they compete markedly better against their non lasix peers from overseas?

            Or can the “good” only be defined in terms of ” what would be” otherwise ?

            In this case, can we point to these issues turning up in non lasix countries ? if not, why not.

            Voting for the “good of the industry” needs evidence of “good” measured at the industry level.

  • Simon

    Oliver Tait should resign from Darley for the same reason as the Breeders Cup if he has any credibility. He may not like Lasix but must be a huge believer in other steroids. It shows how big of a joke Darley really is.

    • Red Rider

      Oliver Tait resigned from the BC because Darley told him to. Should he resign from Darley for the same reason?

  • Ben van den Brink

    It,s easy, the BC took the decision to stay at Santa Anita, so they choose to keep the lasix administration as well. Giving all the negatives by using lasix, they choose for hampering the buisiness in the long run.

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