The list of Honor Guests of the Thoroughbred Club of America reads like a Who's Who of the Thoroughbred racing and breeding world dating back to its first Testimonial Dinner in 1932 when Col. E.R. Bradley was recognized for his contributions to the sport.
There have been numerous owners and breeders, racing and auction company officials and executives, a handful of trainers, and even a media member or three have been honored. A select number of veterinarians is also on this list of Honor Guests: Charles E. Hagyard, Arthur H. Davidson, William R. McGee, Dewitt Owens, Jack Robbins and Robert W. Copelan.
This year, for the first time, the TCA named three Honor Guests – all of them veterinarians – for its Testimonial Dinner, held Sunday night at Keeneland: Larry Bramlage, Edward Hagyard Fallon and A. Gary Lavin. It's a well-balanced triumvirate: Dr. Fallon, a fourth-generation veterinarian, specialized in the area of breeding and reproduction; Dr. Lavin was a distinguished racetrack practitioner for decades; and Dr. Bramlage is a world-renowned surgeon.
As 1998 Honor Guest D. Wayne Lukas said in the testimonials, “As far as veterinarians go, this is the super trifecta of all time. Each one has made unbelievably extraordinary contributions to their profession and is a credit to their entire community.”
Lavin recalled the days when medications were confined to “antibiotics, a few vaccinations, tetanus antitoxin, some blood work and vitamins” – until the “medication clouds were beginning to form” with the appearance of Butazolidin, an oral medicine for inflammation. That, Lavin said, led to “an avalanche of steroids, hormones and synthetic medications. … Used properly, and I emphasize properly, they were therapeutic in purpose and very effective as such. The abuse of the same became a serious burden on the industry.”
Lavin, citing interstate wagering, called on federal prosecutions of cases involving banned substances. “Swift results and severe penalties most certainly would be a monumental deterrent,” he said.
Bramlage joined a growing list of industry participants who believes in the inevitability of the elimination of race-day medications, like furosemide, better known as Salix or Lasix.
“Let there be no doubt about what I am saying,” Bramlage said. “I believe furosemide is valuable to the horse when racing. But there are too many reasons we can't keep it. The general public can't understand it and the continual drumbeat of journalists, most of whom truly have no idea what they are talking about, will become a death knell if we don't stop it. The connotation that has been created is unsavory to the general public because they can't discriminate between furosemide and cocaine, they just read the headline ‘race-day medication' and feel racing is proving itself ‘unsavory,' if not ‘dishonest' again. Other racing countries won't let up emphasizing that they have no race-day medication, and overseas yearling consignors aren't going to give up the newly found marketing advantage of their bloodstock being so-called ‘drug free.' So I think the horse, and we connections, will have to go back to racing without furosemide's help. Racing survived 100 years without it, we can do it again, though it will cost horsemen more money and be terminal to some horses' careers to do without it.”
The other change called for by Bramlage was for racing jurisdictions to adopt the Uniform Medication Rules, saying, “You can't afford to oppose it any longer. Resist the temptation to ‘tweak' one or two items before you endorse them and adopt the rules first, and then work on them as we go forward. And, don't leave the penalty structure on the sidelines when you adopt the rules. Tolerating 65 percent of our positives from 5 percent of our trainers and their owners and veterinarians is not conscionable. We must prune the ‘diseased wood' with meaningful penalties or it will take the entire tree with it. A progressive penalty structure protects us all.”
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