The word “hypocrite” has been thrown around a great deal lately on the divisive issue of race-day medication in American horseracing.
How, ask supporters of the status quo, can members of The Jockey Club and directors of the Breeders' Cup or Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association push to eliminate the race-day use of furosemide to treat exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage while still having their own horses race on the drug.
Not in my mind it isn't.
It's been commonly accepted for many years that furosemide, better known as Lasix, improves performance. Why else do ninety-some percent of horses in North America get Lasix on race-day when only seventy-some percent of those same horses exhibit EIPH after exercise and detected via endoscopic examination?
Those owners who want North American racing to be conducted under medication rules similar to the rest of the world should not feel compelled to run their horses without Lasix – for as long as it is permitted. It would create an uneven playing field and put them at a competitive disadvantage. It's the same reason the vast majority of owners and trainers from overseas who ship to North America for major races like the Arlington Million or Breeders' Cup elect to run their horses on Lasix. They want to win, and it's counterproductive for them to travel all this way and not take advantage of a legal drug with which virtually every other horse will be treated.
That's why the pledge made last week by 40 racehorse owners to not run their 2-year-olds of 2012 on Lasix is such a significant development. I am convinced most of them are doing so despite believing their horses will have a more difficult time winning. It demonstrates their interest in quieting the chorus of cynics who have been crying “hypocrite” and further confirms their resolve to move this issue forward.
They are making a personal sacrifice on behalf of a cause in which they believe.
It hasn't quieted the critics, of course, who now say the pledge list is comprised of independently wealthy owners who could care less whether or not their Thoroughbreds provide any return on investment.
That's just plain poppycock.
It's more of the same character assassination. First they were hypocrites. Next, they were cruel to animals for not wanting to give medication to racehorses that may relieve them of internal bleeding. Now they are spoiled rich people who don't care if their horses are worthless.
This is not an issue that's colored in black and white. There are legitimate reasons that favor continuing the use of Lasix on race-day, and there are equally legitimate concerns that its use is damaging both to the Thoroughbred breed and the sport of horse racing.
I think everyone, no matter what side they fall on this most divisive issue, wants what is best for the horses and the sport. Let's end the name calling and start a dialogue that can lead to consensus.
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