Gosden: Race-Day Meds Have ‘Contaminated’ and ‘Degraded’ American Thoroughbred

by | 01.28.2015 | 6:40pm
John Gosden

In a recent Q&A with Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, trainer John Gosden gave a candid account of his opinions on the contrast between American racing and British racing. The biggest problem according to the multiple G1-winning trainer who has trained both in Britain and the States, is that Lasix degrades his ability to trust the American thoroughbred.

“How many generations of American horses have now raced on known medications, let alone other stuff where some vet was being extremely clever and ahead of the testing program? Given those circumstances, how can you trust the breed?” said Gosden. “Have you contaminated the breed? Yes. Have you degraded it? Yes. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to trust performances of horses in Black Type races in America because they don't truly know what the horses raced on.”

When asked about other differences between racing stateside and across the pond, Gosden pointed out that times are less of an issue for trainers in Europe who are working over softer, more varying ground like the grass gallops at Newmarket.

There are different attitudes between the two countries when it comes to surface, too. Admittedly, Gosden says he prefers turf courses but believes that synthetic surfaces “have their place … I have found that training on dirt is tougher to keep horses sound, longer-term, than on turf or synthetics … I also regard the ripping up of synthetics in the U.S. as a retrograde step.”

Finally, Gosden said, he is concerned with the image problem in Thoroughbred racing in the U.S., though Britain deals with a similar issue in a world where racing is no longer fashionable nor well-understood by the public.

Read more at Thoroughbred Racing Commentary

  • Jttf

    It is always good to hear the truth. Thank you, mr gosden.
    Its too bad that most vets and horsemen could care less about health and quality of horses.

    • Marty P

      always head in the sand, it’s always someone else fault. Lack of accountability

  • Albany

    Part of me would like to totally agree with the comments, but something tells me that all is not as pure over there as it is claimed to be.

    • Guest

      There may be no race-day medications, but horses train on medications, including Lasix.

      Also, it’s common to draw the water (remove it) on race day, to dehydrate the horse, which of course is one of the effects of Lasix.

      Definitely not as pure as it is claimed to be, though it is true they don’t allow race-day Lasix (the ONLY medication allowed on race day in the U.S., contrary to popular belief).

      • And you would know this because….?

        • Guest

          Been following Larry Bramlage’s thoughts re: EIPH.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            To the pure all things are pure – but it is definitely nothing like America. Here are my thoughts on EIPH: most racehorses do not bleed to the extent that it will ever bother them.

          • Tinky

            That is exactly correct, and there are mountains of real-world experience to back it up. Gosden himself has noted that less than 5% of his runners are either difficult or impossible to manage due to EIPH.

          • Ian Howard

            Try training in a world with claiming races and owners that see only winning percentages. Forget trying to compete with cheaters, no trainer that needs to make a living will give up a legal edge and lasix quite clearly makes horses perform better.

          • betterthannothing

            You are describing the most damaging part of racing which needs major reforms and shrinkage to properly protect horses and reputation.

          • Hopefieldstables

            Bill did you ever use lasix in training?

            Be careful how you answer because “using it” in this part of the world means every horse on it every work. When a UK trainer (or vet) says they use something they mean when indicated.

            For the record we have raced horses in the UK since the 70s and never had one given lasix ever.

            Of course certain posters here prefer to believe the propaganda they hear. It makes them feel better. “Guest” needs to believe the horses “are trained on medications”. Its what the propagandists like the NHBPA tell him and he needs to believe it. He cant cope otherwise.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Not on horses ever. I used it quite a bit on me reducing from 152 lbs to ride at 122 – that gave me some insight into ringing in the ears etc., I certainly didn’t feel more dynamic! I don’t think bleeding is much of a problem. We hardly ever had a horse bleed visibly. If they looked a bit glassy eyed or coughed after work we sometimes scoped them – then if they had bled to any degree we took it a little easy on them for a short time. They likely had some infection at the time, and I don’t think I ever had a horse that we had to give up on [for bleeding!].

      • Needles

        Since when does dehydrating a horse make it run faster. A horseman (or horsewoman) you are not. Just because uneducated trainers in 1950 took water away doesn’t mean people still do it today.

        • Jocke Muth

          Actually, almost all trainers take away the water at the time Lasix is given, otherwise the lasix is pointless, give lasix and leave the water and the horse will drink about the same amount of fluid it urinates.
          No dehydration NO lasix effect.

      • Ben van den Brink

        As an former owner, owner trainer, breeder. Some people might take off the water, but giving lasix and still taking their water off is also very negative for the horses. As stated more than a dozen times.

        Less than 1,5 % from the trainers are at some point training on lasix, but as on raceday the stuff is forbidden. Less and less people are dooiing that, because in the long run, the breed will be hurt very much.

        The stuff is just an legal enhacer, because less weight gives higher speed even in motorcar races is that an fixing point.

        • Guest

          Thoroughbred Daily News, 10/24/14, interview with Larry Bramlage, who actually understands the issue, and equine physiology. So many misconceptions by trainers and owners.

          • Ben van den Brink

            There are more than enough studies, that lasix might help some horses alleviate EIPH syndromes, but specific training regimes are just contributing to eiph. And lets not forget lasix is for an great part, heridited.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Stupid me, bad bleeding is heridited for a part, training and enviroment, transport etc will only make it worse.
            Lasix off course is not heridited.

            Actual less than 5% from all the racers suffers from a kind of bad bleeding. 55% does not ever suffers bleeding. Some horses in between will have a kind of lessening bleeding

          • Tinky

            Boy, are you naïve. Has it not occurred to you that there are countless vets around the world who have very different views than Bramlage?

          • venetian

            Lowers blood pressure

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Do athletes take Lasix? I never made me feel that great.


    • Psychiatrists have a name for that “something.”

  • Peyton

    Spot on. IMHO

  • Amen.

  • Michael Castellano

    Racing may or may not be “pure” in Britain, but it is certainly not on the level here in the States. What’s worse, there isn’t even a discussion about the problems going on by those in the best position to remedy the problems. They could care less what the fans and betters have to say.

    • togahombre

      i couldn’t agree more, the current situation is not in response to a minority of industry participants, more likely it’s the opposite

  • Oscar

    Q:If dirt racing in America is so bad on the breed, why isn’t Raven’s Pass a better sire?

    • Ruffian31

      Here’s another thought, why are we breeding to horses who can’t even make 10 starts in their career?

  • Bill O’Gorman

    John, as always, makes a lot of sense. The almost complete freedom from medication issues in England does do the authorities great credit. However those authorities have closed their eyes to another problem which some may feel to be equally serious, that of non-triers and a preponderance of handicaps written for poor – or apparently poor – animals. The increase of handicaps from 40% to almost 65% of all races suits the bookmakers and the racecourses, not to mention a heavily betting orientated trade media. The system discourages aspiration and achievement among the mid level participants, and encourages complacency among the higher ranks. We do not see good horses come through in the numbers that they once did; those with the highest potential are now concentrated in very few hands, and they are presented with far too many easy options. That is no way to run a sport – or a business. There has been some discussion over the years of a two tier system – which would be perfectly sensible were the two tiers to operate independently, and if promotions or demotions between the tiers took place only on an annual basis. That, of course, is not what its advocates envisage, rather they would prefer that the bigger stables continue to plunder the smaller races at will, but that those races become even less valuable as a much greater percentage of the overall prize fund is diverted to the premier tier! The massive influx of Middle Eastern money has presented a shining façade to the outside world, but unless the programme book is restored to something resembling the one that we had twenty or thirty years ago [both in quality and quantity of races] the true state of this whited sepulchre will soon emerge.

    • Adequate prize money would help you guys a lot. Horses are not tried with when one needs to try to cash a bet in order to pay bills. It is self defeating. Horses cost a fortune and run for peanuts? Bad idea.

      • Bill O’Gorman

        Barry, You know that there’s a lot more to it than that. Actually I don’t think that money is really the issue. Godolphin won 5 races on one night at Kempton – I suppose the prize money was about £12,00 in total. Yet when the All Weather commenced the “Big Boys” were going to leave it to the peasantry. You could not possibly devise a programme more calculated to encourage dishonesty and incompetence if you tried. The median rating almost exactly replicates that in 1980 however we now produce a fraction of the median+50 horses that we did then – because [a] the big stables keep their own spirits up by winning Maidens on jungle tracks [which means that there are no other triers and also gets those horses handicapped as if they were truly jungle bunglers] and [b] there are now about 2,000 races written at a lower level than ANY were in 1980. There are many more opportunities for horses rated below the median than for those rated above it. Unfortunately – as with medication in US – most trainers love this; it’s much easier to let a horse run himself down to a winning rating than it is to train him to see how good he is, but they would like more money.

        • Joe

          Bill, I loved watching your sprinters back in the day and love reading your thoughts on our great sport. But while I applaud your innovative suggestions, I can’t help thinking there is no more or less evident skullduggery going on in racing now than at any time in the past. The variable, I believe, lies more in the intent to catch cheats and in dishing out truly deterrent punishments. And anybody laboring under the belief that cheating is confined to the lower, hard-up stables is living in cloud cuckoo land.

          I agree it’s not mainly about money. As a keen Irish racegoer, I have seen a sharp increase in prize money here over the past 10-15 years, but has it made a difference to the overall integrity of the sport here? Not a jot in my humble opinion.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            I didn’t even address the problem of non triers by external forces – I was merely referring to horses “having a run round” in order to get handicapped. But there is another big problem since we very very foolishly embraced the betting exchanges. If a race is worth £2,000 or less to the winner and the rider gets 7%, IF he wins what do you think are the prospects of his settling for rather more with no if? Before the exchanges only licensed bookmakers were in a position to have horses stopped for profit: nowadays anyone can do so. And quite possibly trainers who might feel that this has happened to them are reluctant to confront a rider over a “class A” offence when they themselves may well have involved him in previous “class B” performances. The official position that the exchanges promote integrity by providing a paper trail is utterly ridiculous – they have been a poisonous influence upon every sport that has betting. I liked your observation about hard up stables – you’re spot on!

          • Tinky

            Ah, one issue about which we disagree. Stopping horses has always been profitable for trainers and riders who are disposed in that direction.

            Betting exchanges are largely convenient scapegoats. To begin with, it was possible to lay horses through bookmakers long before the existence of exchanges. Furthermore, it is impossible to consistently lay on exchanges for big money – and win – without attracting a lot of unwanted attention. The risks are therefore far greater than betting anonymously or quietly through a bookmaker. The rise in popularity of exotic wagers also creates ripe opportunities to capitalize without the need for an exchange.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            I agree that it was always possible – but motor travel was possible long before everyone had a car, it was just the opportunity which was not available! No-one needs to lay them for big money, small profits are fine as long as there’s no doubt about them.

  • jazzmania

    “We’ve been talking about it for 25 years. I remember when New York didn’t have Lasix, but it’s the old story: once you get on that stuff, it’s tough to get off it. In the end, I think it can only come down through federal law imposed on state legislatures. The [American] Jockey Club doesn’t have the power to bring jurisdictions together. They can only lead by example. Breeders’ Cup Ltd. tried to do that and there was a dreadful falling out. But you know, it’s a little hard to call the Breeders’ Cup a world championship when the horses, who had no say in the matter, have a needle put into their jugular vein the day before, and again on the morning of the race. That is not sport. Quite frankly, it is immoral.”

    and he believes racing has an image problem…

  • candy

    I guess if you like turf racing and poly then Britain is the place to be. We are in America where there are good horses, some of the best in the world, that run on dirt, and turf. Yes medication rules need to change here, for all trainers, big and small.

  • venetian

    Kicking this can down the road again? This guy is here every September for a week to 10 days buying the very horses he tries to tarnish. And the shame of it Ray is that you see him there doing it and fail to call him out
    You alluded (Ray) some months ago when someone pointed out that a lot of these horses were going out of the country at high prices to the fact that numbers were really down, while seemingly to leave out the fact that Darley hasn’t bought any significant numbers in years.
    Its just the SOS and I guess when one needs a S#@! Storm started again they bring up Lasix

    • Bill O’Gorman

      They do run well at Wolverhampton though!

      • venetian

        And that means what?

        • Bill O’Gorman

          Wolverhampton was always considered as the lowest of the low – what Tom Ivers referred to as Podunk Downs. When we started All Weather racing it was supposed to be a winter effort so that the OTB could keep recycling Social Security money even if the jump racing was frozen off. All the “big” stables were gracious – and patronising – enough to say that of course such things were beneath them and would be left to the poor folks. Now obviously things do move on, but the fact that Maiden races on the AW and on the smallest provincial tracks are mopped up by supposedly elite stables is ridiculous from a sporting point of view. If Man. United and Chelsea were allowed to play their youth teams against Bury St. Edmunds and Moreton In The Marsh then there would very soon be no footballers coming through in Bury St Edmunds or M in the M, as no-one would waste time and effort to get trampled on a regular basis. Of course this could very easily be remedied by making provincial Maiden races into Auction/Optional Claiming, for horses bought below £X OR entered to be claimed for £x; if £x were the median auction price of the crop then no sane sportsman could object. That won’t happen. Last year a perfectly sensible proposal to revert some 2yo Maiden races to Allowance races [partially reversing the recent trend] was strangled at a late stage by the bigger stables who have no interest in “ordinary” horses [or trainers] winning more races. Their blue blooded maidens would have in every case have been eligible for the new races and would have been favoured by the conditions – although they might have had to make more effort in order to win.

          • venetian

            and I’ll ask again…that means what to John Gosden’s purchasing horses in America while downgrading them in publie venue’s. They have plenty of sales over there, whynot just buy there?

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Mea culpa.I misunderstood you, you obviously do know what the Wolverhampton situation is, so perhaps should have phrased your reply along the lines of “stick to the point, that has nothing to do with his buying in America?”

  • kysallt

    I agree!

  • Absolutely brilliant!

  • Marty P

    Great read, US mentality is and will always be ostrich head in a sand.

  • Needles

    Medications are the death knell of American racing. Only horseman who are blind as a bat can’t see this to be the case. Look how bad our best studs are these days compared to only 25 years ago.

  • Danny Gonzalez

    American Racings problems arent the drugs its the commisioners that are to stupid to know what there doing.

  • Mimi H

    Gee, a guy who believes the same things that I do. You can’t race on medication and know how you’re doing. You can’t train on medications and know how you’re doing. You can’t retire a crippled horse to the breeding shed and expect to get anything but more cripples. Throw anabolic steroids into the mix and the best you can do is pray that you’ve sold him before he breaks down. It’s pretty much that simple. You can not selectively breed for a weakness for 50 years at least and not expect to get it. Makes no difference that the ‘weakness’ is tied to the gene that results in exceptional speed. Double up on the exceptional speed and you are also doubling the weakness. You can’t give anabolic steroids to get that ‘extra special’ finish on young sales horses and then expect to hold them together to race and then breed. Thank you Ray for printing this one.

  • mdelmatt

    I believe horse racing would be a much better game if horses
    ran on no medication. Races would be more formful. A horse’s ability and form
    cycle would be more apparent in its past performance lines. A horseplayer could
    wager with more confidence, wager on more races and wager more heavily. A big
    question a horseplayer asks about every horse in every race is, how will these
    horses perform today? Without knowing what kind of medication or dosage a horse
    is on today or was on in any of its other recent races, the horseplayer cannot
    guess with any degree of confidence what kind of race a horse will run. Yes, perhaps
    many horses would drop out of racing if they could not run with the help of
    medications. But the ones that can run without medication would be more
    reliable betting propositions. Perhaps, too, the ones that can run without
    medication would run a bit slower as a group than today’s times. But so what?
    All horses would be on level ground pharmaceutically; none of them on or off
    performance enhancing drugs, and the game would be far more predictable for
    horseplayers and far less dangerous for horses.

  • Concerned Observer

    The silly argument that “people will cheat anyway”…is the same as arguing that all laws are pointless because a few people will always break the law. Laws or rules set the behavior of the vast majority…then enforcement penalizes the small minority of law/rule breakers. That is how society and sports operate.

    • 4Bellwether666

      “Small minority of law/rule breakers” just isn’t the case in this nation anymore…All one has to do is look @ Washington D.C. and Wall Street…Rotten has become the norm…

      • Concerned Observer

        Sad what happens when the people in charge of enforcement look the other way (like in 2004-2008) and let the thieves takeover.

        • 4Bellwether666

          Thank You…

  • Truth

    I find it interesting that the American Trainers who make millions of Dollars each year from horses who run on Race Day Medications offer no rebuttal at all when discussions like these come up. Baffert is silent. Todd is silent. consensus says that they should have something to say on the issue. but yet those who prosper the most from those drugs have very little to say.

    • Concerned Observer

      The HBPA says it for them. They let someone else carry the water, while staying above the fray.

      Someone once said, “you don’t have to be a weatherman, to tell which way the wind blows”…many think this will blow over….it has been blowing over for many years.

      • ptrckj7777

        bob dylan

      • 4Bellwether666

        Blowing right up our @$$!!!…ty…

  • smitty

    Its amazing to read how terrible all this medication is and what its doing to the business.Surely the Eclipse award that Main Sequence got was for his brilliant performances here in the USA,not for the ones he put up in the UK.guess it must have been all those good American Oats he was fedhere.If Lasix was permitted in the UK. do you really think that John Gosden would stand by and not use it.No it would be back to the good old American ways,that got Sheik Mohamed to notice him and bring him back to the UK,


  • 4Bellwether666

    Hope the clowns @ The Jockey Club/NTRA to name a few read this article because Mr. Gosden is right on time and then some!!!…But then again I don’t think they really care???…ty Mr.Gosden…

  • Walks like a Duck

    Wow what absolute twaddle as Mr Gosden has used race day meds in American many times over past present and i suspect future.. Now go on be brave and ask him about what else he used in his days at Santa Anita when there was no testing at all. He is a hypocrite of the highest order concerning this issue but he is far from alone. It is a big island after all…

  • David

    “It’s a little hard to call the Breeders’ Cup a world championship when the horses, who had no say in the matter, have a needle put into their jugular vein the day before, and again on the morning of the race. That is not sport. Quite frankly, it is immoral.” John Gosden from the full article on TRC.

    Ouch, but true.

  • J Cooke

    When applying root cause analysis, the degradation of this breed is a combination of elements,
    not race day medications in-of-themselves.
    Hundreds of years of ‘Selective breeding’, known as ‘inbreeding’, leads to speedier destruction
    of the genetic code and evolution.
    Biological mutations then result in errors in the genetic code which then result in the degradation
    of the breed.
    More ‘no closely duplicated ancestors’, or outcrossing, has to take place.

    • Bill O’Gorman

      Cunningham, Hill et al estimated that the genetic compatibility between ALL tbs is about the same as between you or I and our half sibling. I don’t think genetics in a general sense have anything to do with it: because any horse comes apart under present “training” regimes doesn’t necessarily demonstrate inherent fragility.

  • Jack Frazier

    Removing all drugs from racing would end the careers of not only horses but also on track veterinarians, and trainers who depend on them to win races. If the racing entities required EVERY medication given by vets to be disclosed. I know there is a sheet that the vet is required to turn in but the question is: do they divulge every thing they give or just what they want? A few years ago a friend had a horse under the care of a big name trainer and the horse won a race. When he received a bill he received a bill from the vet for over $1500 for the race. The purse was only about $8000 he said, and after paying his training bill from said trainer, he only got about $2200. I wonder how many horses have vet bill over $1000 per month and are routinely given these drugs? Small trainers cannot afford to do this type of “training”, so in essence, the playing field is definitely not level.

    • 4Bellwether666

      A TON of vets including the ones that treat your cat & dog are thief’s plain and simple…

      • Jack Frazier

        Most track vets would not be driving new trucks. I think if I werre a steward and wanted to know who was using and abusing drugs, I would find the trainers who have vets parked outside their barns all day long

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