Commentary: Lasix Industry An Out-Of-Control Juggernaut

by | 11.16.2015 | 10:07am
Lasix (Furosemide, Salix)

Now that the dust of American Pharoah's Classic victory has finally settled, it is time to take a look at the underlying story at this year's Breeders' Cup: the Lasix issue. The seemingly endless debate over the pros and cons of race-day medication was brought into sharp relief at Keeneland with the decision landing decidedly in the cons corner.

It is a result that has been largely ignored by most of the American racing industry, and for good reason. There are so many tangled webs in the American Lasix miasma that many people are skittish about speaking out, especially if they hold a position contrary to the owners and trainers associations, racetrack administrations, veterinarians and drug companies that profit by the manufacture and administration of the drug.

Only three of the 139 American-trained horses running in this year's thirteen Cup races ran without the aid of Lasix. That two of those three – Runhappy in the Sprint and Mongolian Saturday in the Turf Sprint – emerged victorious can hardly be interpreted as a coincidence. They were the only horses in their respective 14-runner fields running drug-free, yet they slammed all 26 of their longtime Lasix-using rivals, Runhappy setting a new six-furlong Keeneland track record of 1:08.58 in the process.

Their victories undercut the widely held theory in America – expressed so eloquently by Shug McGaughey in a recent interview – that Lasix is needed in America but not in Europe because horses in America are put under greater early pressure than their European counterparts.

Thoroughbreds that are put under the greatest early pressure anywhere in the world are American sprinters, yet Runhappy and Mongolian Saturday emerged victorious in the two Cup Sprints, both running clean. American hardboots, assembly line trainers and assorted Lasix lovers must have been wincing over their post-race bourbon and sodas. Their illusions about Lasix shattered, they had been upstaged by a pair of unheralded outsiders virtually unknown to the general racing public: Maria Borell, the unjustly persecuted trainer of Runhappy, and Enebish Ganbat, the trainer of Mongolian Saturday who hails from somewhere north of the Gobi Desert.

Their victories, emulating that of the Lasix-free, Michael Chang-trained Hong Kong invader Rich Tapestry in last year's Santa Anita Sprint Championship, in which he defeated two previous Breeders' Cup winners in Goldencents and Secret Circle, both long-time Lasix users, add substance to the growing suspicion that American racing has got it wrong on the Lasix issue.

If Borell, Ganbat and Chang can win races without injecting Lasix into their horses, why can't 99 percent of American trainers?

Those 99 percent who use Lasix either as a crutch or as a badge of conformism in thrall to the majority opinion are in denial as to the deleterious long-term effects of the drug. Can there be any doubt that the American Thoroughbred has deteriorated markedly since New York became the last jurisdiction to sanction its use in 1995? Twenty years later, not only do the overwhelming majority of American-bred, American-trained Thoroughbreds run on Lasix, but their sires and dams, their grandsires and granddams, and in some cases their great grandsires and great granddams, also ran on Lasix.

The Hydra-headed monster that is the Lasix industry is an out-of-control juggernaut. The grandstand observer or the simulcast viewer sees no difference between a horse running on Lasix and one that is not. In the early years of permissive Lasix use, there was the tell-tale performance boost a horse got when administered the drug for the first time. Now, most two-year-olds debut on the drug, so its presence is hardly noticed by the casual observer. Newcomers to racing might question the need for a column labeled “medication” on racing progams.

The victories of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Found in the Breeders' Cup Turf and Hit It a Bomb in the Juvenile Turf provided evidence of the first-time Lasix performance boost, with both horses showing great improvement over their previous outings.

Found, five-lengths ninth behind the Lasix-free Golden Horn in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe four weeks earlier, made it all up by getting half a length in front of her drug-free counterpart in the Turf. Hit It a Bomb, the winner of an insubstantial Listed race on the all-weather at lowly Dundalk three weeks earlier, jumped up to win an international Grade 1 on turf.

The only two-European-trained winners in this year's Cup, their performances will have been instantly recognizable to trainers throughout America who use the first-time Lasix tool in search of victory. Surely, American trainers must realize that these short-term benefits dissipate after repeated use.

Veterinary research has shown that the long-term effects on horses that use Lasix repeatedly is a shortening of their careers and an overall weakening of bone mass. Every time a horse is given Lasix, it leaches minerals from bones and upsets a very highly turned natural balance of electrolytes. A study published last year showed that horses take far longer to restore that balance that had been previously thought, with test subjects taking 72 hours to restore the calcium balance in their system upset by a racing dose of Lasix.

Repeated use of race-day Lasix has lengthened the recovery time between races. In 1975, just as Lasix was coming into widespread use in the United States, the average number of starts per year for an American thoroughbred was 10.23. Now, it's 6.32.

The big drug related stories at this year's Cup were the Lasix-free Runhappy and Mongolian Saturday. The anti-Lasix lobby, or to term it more positively, the pro-run clean lobby, has much to be grateful for to Ms. Borell and Mr. Ganbat, for they have shown that good trainers don't need Lasix to win races.

Gina Rarick is an American trainer based in Maisons-Laffitte, France, and the former racing correspondent at the International Herald Tribune. Alan Shuback is a former columnist and foreign correspondent at Daily Racing Form and The Sporting Life. 

  • Ernest Vincent

    Are these authors offering their opinions pharmacology, chemical process engineering, or Vet degreed vs a vs the outcome of two races within the Breeders’ Cup two day event?
    Statistically qualified to scope the numerical results of applied medications in a two-day sample performance in which the majority of the runners/winners did use Lasix?

  • Andrew A.

    According to the DRF survey Gamblers ranked the lasix issue 9th of 9 important issues to Gamblers

    • Interpreter

      That’s because gamblers measure their members by the size of the bets they place. If horses raced clean in America, there would be twice as many people betting on horse races.

      • LongTimeEconomist

        Don’t bet on it.

    • Racing Fan

      The same gamblers complain about field size which is down as a result of Lasix.

      • How so? surely one of the main arguments For it is that horses cannot run without it?

      • Ernest Vincent

        Most ‘attendees’ are clueless about what L really is all about, behind the scenes. Go to an OTB or race track and ask some peeps.

  • Gina and Alan are sharp observers and participants in the Turf. Americans with vast exposure to European racing, their comments are well taken. However, invoking the name of Maria Borell and characterizing her situation as unjust does not serve this piece well, as it is well known and documented that it was the owner of Runhappy who ordered this horse not to race on drugs and not the trainer, who is her previous incarnation as a public trainer did not embrace the notion of racing clean.

    • Old Timer

      That’s the ONLY problem with this article?!?

      How about all the unsubstantiated claim of “Veterinary research has shown that the long-term effects on horses that
      use Lasix repeatedly is a shortening of their careers and an overall
      weakening of bone mass” as a problem with this article!

      This is completely wrong and abhorrent for a supposedly well written article. These types of postulations have continuously found their way into this dialogue on Lasix and have no place being so. Why? Because no such research exists!

      Per St. Joe Friday “Just the facts, ma’am”. Would it not be nice, if that were the case dear Barry?

      • Alex

        Facts and The Liberal Mind is an oxymoron.

        • Larry Ensor

          excellent point

        • Renuncia Cupelluni

          Actually, I would argue that the opposite is true, but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

          • Judged upon what we have seen from politicians lately Liberal and Mind don’t belong in the same sentence.

      • Ben van den Brink

        The vet,s earn 25 dollar a shot enough reason for keep the stuff in the game. Only in NY 3 milj was spent on the stuff last yr. Nobody like to see it,s income drop, by banning the stuff, nor the infected buissiness. Bleeding normally occurs after a certain amount of starts, mileage and the suffer from stress. Through vanning, training change in stabling etc. Them flighty nerveous types are much more effected than the relaxed type of horses. The bomb proof ones, are not gooiing to suffer any bleeding at all, no matter what you are dooiing.

    • Ben van den Brink

      was administered to 16,761 (74.2%) horses. Horses that received
      furosemide raced faster, earned more money, and were more likely to win
      or finish in the top 3 positions than horses that did not. The magnitude
      of the effect of furosemide on estimated 6-furlong race time varied
      with sex, with the greatest effect in males. When comparing horses of
      the same sex, horses receiving furosemide had an estimated 6-furlong
      race time that ranged from 0.56 +/- 0.04 seconds (least-squares mean +/-
      SE) to 1.09 +/- 0.07 seconds less than that for horses not receiving
      furosemide, a difference equivalent to 3 to 5.5 lengths.

      This was the outcome from a study done in 1999.

      Above is the reason, why 95 % from from all the US starters use the stuff, perfectly explained.

      • McGov

        So then it is ok to MAKE a horse become completely dehydrated RIGHT before it is FORCED to perform.
        Because they run faster this way.
        The use of Lasix has little to do with therapy in most cases. It is a PED. The horse suffers from this drug. Especially in the summer months.
        If your horse bleeds retire it please. Simple.

        • Ben van den Brink

          There is more than enough water in the horse system to loose 20 ltrs of water without becoming dehydrated.

          Water weights and that is the key. Why males benefit the most is when males becomes older, they are putting weight on, get a chresty neck etc.

          Hence all the trouble with thyroid-l

          • What trouble with thyroid?

          • Ben van den Brink

            Thyroid-L takes weight off. and was fed by big name trainers to all the horses in the barn, while it should be on prescription only.

          • They need to make their minds up whether they want weight on with steroids or off with lasix!

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            Steroids add weight from muscle mass while Lasix as a diuretic removes water weight. That’s not even apples vs. oranges – more like steak vs. lettuce.

          • Ben van den Brink

            weight compare to weight , for that I do not have to ask my daughter.

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            Wow. You mean to say you see no benefit to an athlete from added muscle mass? You can see no determent to dehydration? You really believe this is about nothing more than what the scale says?

          • There may well be a benefit to an athlete through increased muscle mass – although Tinky’s Nascar model argues sensibly against it. And IMO the use of steroids in order to increase muscle mass in racehorses is not a good idea – heavy horses need more work, their forelegs are under more strain, and their attitude may be compromised.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Not only their forelegs btw. Too much muscles gives alot of troubles elsewhere in the skelet. Think of the places where the muscles meets the bones.Those endpoints are not made to work with the extra stress.

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            It is ridiculously impossible to compare a machine powered by an internal combustion engine to a living being powered by the muscles that are increased and strengthened by steroids. Of course it is possible to carry steroid use too far, but steroids were used and not discussed for many years before racing made it an issue and then banned their use. It will not make you happy to know this, but in the 70s and 80s it was pretty much a given that the top stakes horses were on steroids.

          • It doesn’t make me happy or unhappy. I thought it was silly then and I think it is silly now.

          • When I add ! you are supposed to chuckle!

          • McGov

            I’m not quite sure how anyone can argue that Lasix doesn’t dehydrate a horse. That is the purpose of giving the drug. To thicken the blood to reduce EIPH.
            As to why it is a PED…..and many debate this endlessly….it is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT.
            It simply IS a PED for whatever reasons and this is a fact today. Well established.
            Horse racing will stay stuck in NA until it can get its head around a few very basic things. Like Lasix. Like seriously addressing corruption. Not just one state or a few trainers. Not just dealing with the past…..but dealing with the future. The system needs complete overhaul.
            Starting with being uniform. It’s beyond embarrassing now.

          • TiffanyA

            If you think an adult horse can lose 20liters of fluid without becoming dehydrated, you are an idiot.

          • Ben van den Brink

            In your opinion every horse that,s run in Florida during the summer meet with lasix, should fall down, no that does not happen. A couple will be over heated, but not the majority.

          • TiffanyA

            I am just doing basic math that every doctor is taught:

            500kg x 4% = 20liters. Hence, a 20liter deficit is about 4% dehydration. Couple that with losses from exercise and/or heat/humidity(if that applies) the you may end up with an animal that is 5-7% dehydrated. And that, my friend, is significant.

          • TOP OF THE TREE

            Don’t forget about the significant loss of water weight due to vanning. Not very many people even have a clue about that but it is significant

        • Share

          Here, here is the sound of the voice of REASON! Thank you, McGov. Well done!!!!!

      • David Worley

        Is there a physiological reason why Lasix has a greater effect on males rather than fillies or mares? Why would that be I’m curious?

        • Ben van den Brink

          Males are putting more weight on, than fillies or geldings. Getting those cresty necks and heavier musculation.

          Hence the bigger effect.

          • Ben it’s horse, not a camel carrying water inits hump. There must either be another explanation, or,perhaps, it’s just a flawed inference from a flawed study.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Sure Bill, but i,am afraid there is no other reason, than the plain facts. In fact the whole study is a terrible good and perfect reason to use the stuff. Legal Performance Enhacer, what,s more you need.

            All later studies, have been on the positive side seeiing from the stuff, mainly because each shot provide the vet a supply for the basic income.

            What,s more interesting, that a lot of people are using the properties from the product, which are thought off, and not proven by the hard facts (necropsies) as truth.

          • Ben, the only thing missing from this whole discussion is plain facts. The lasix industry wants people to use it obviously, however it took the makers many years [I’m not even sure if they ever got it passed] to get it licensed by the FDA[?] to control EIPH. I’ve taken it myself, I got off the weight but felt like s***. Why would a horse be any different? That makes me think that there is another reason for using it in many cases, although I accept that many people may not use it for nefarious purposes but just because they are afraid to be seen not to – like toe grabs and long toes!!.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Toe grabs have almost ruined a fine gelding from me, His backlegs were almost cut in pieces, as that rider could not hold the horse

      • Ben, ask yourself – “what did this study set out to prove?”. Also, if there were 75% [say] bay horses as against 25% chestnuts then the bays would obviously do better. Did they observe both with and without in the same horse? And did the Lasix horses tend to come from “better” barns with higher class stock. I say again you need to try it yourself.

      • Ernest Vincent

        So sample says 3 of every 4 horses are provided X, and resulted in ‘more likely’ to finish in Delta positions, so X obviously has an effect. Well in an uncontrolled math equation of 3 to 1 I’d take 2-1 on the results.

    • Roark

      Barry, you and I have been at odds in the past, but thank you for chiming in regarding the Runhappy situation with 100% pinpoint accuracy.

    • McGov

      IMO this is the best piece ever written on the PR. Hands down.

  • Why say that Aidan’s horses showed much improved form? It was quite obvious that Found had a terrible trip at Ascot, and the 2yo had won very well the time before.

    • Ben van den Brink

      She could never beaten Golden Horn without the stuff. At least 10 pds, she improved.


      • Ben, as I’ve often remarked: “people believe what they want to believe”. If dehydrating helps then why don’t athletes do it? Boxers in fact do the very opposite – Alan Minter told me that they will put on up to 12lbs [ that they have reduced by to make the weight] after the weigh-in. As I have urged you before – try it and see whether you feel like running a P.B..

      • Ernest Vincent

        Do you bet races frequently? Or watch, follow?
        Also with or without L, any runner has to beat the whole field.

        • Anyone watching Ryan Moore looking to the future after finally getting clear of the Ascot traffic might have supported Found next time.

          • Ernest Vincent

            Yes that is true and supports my comment as well: to that writer as any horse has to beat everything in a race to win. He supports that perhaps Horn (would have won) wins on a L/no L notion to which my question is posed about the topic here: lasix vs who’s the better horse (handicapping) and is he speaking from a follower of racing trends such as L, or as a frequent player.

  • Concerned Observer

    Were these results reversed, and 139 horses ran without Lasix and only 3 ran with Lasix, and 2 of those 3 won convincingly, there would be a hue and cry to stop the cheaters. Statistically the cause and effect would be obvious.

    But since the facts are reversed, the “users” deem the statistics meaningless.

    But, this does tend to disprove the belief that most American horses can not run without Lasix. So the question becomes why do 98% use it?

    The answer has 2 components.
    1) Why not use it? …since it is legal.
    2) Tradition! Most trainers can’t remember a time without it.


    • Rhett Fincher

      3) it’s a short cut. 90 days to the first race instead of 150

  • Jack H

    When you handicap a horse race you take into account the amount of weight a horse carries. Does 122 LBS against a bug boy (girl) carrying 110 LBS make a difference? Of course it does. In handicap races even more so. Does anyone know how much water weight a horse loses prior to racing if lasix is used? It has to be significant.

    • Old Timer

      What about that horse that took a giant dump right before it went into the gate?!? You know thats a least 10lbs!! What if the horse completely emptied out prior to the race while walking up to the paddock?!? That could easily be 30-40 lbs! That should also be reported by the announcer because that’s a lot less weight also.

      Weight being carried (ie jockey) is far different than body weight of the horse. It carries far differently.

      I propose you find out yourself in this prime experiment, first drink a half gallon of water (about 3-4 lbs) and run around for a while say a mile if you can, while caring 10 lbs on your shoulders. Then try it with out drinking the water and still carrying the 10 lbs. Hmmm probably feels about the same.

      NOW drink the water and run without the 10 lbs on your shoulders! Yeah feels a bit different doesn’t it. Now try not drinking the water and no 10lbs, AGAIN still feels easier I bet. But again I could be wrong its just an experiment!! I can’t wait for your first hand results, should be a riveting read!

      • Tinky

        You really should invest in an elementary physics book.

        While it is true that there are differences between “dead” weight and body weight, it is unequivocally an advantage to be able to purge a significant amount of water weight right before an event. To argue otherwise can only mean that you are ignoring basic science.

        • Old Timer

          So is taking a huge dump right before the race….simple elementary physics right?

          This argument isn’t truly physics you know that right TInky? This isn’t taking a jet with the same engine and striping it of the radio, seats, bombing equipment etc on a say a B-52. This isn’t a machine we are talking about, its an animal. This is pharmacodynamics at play verse leaving the horse the same. There’s advantages to both, and to say its elementary physics shows you have no knowledge of higher level of expertise needed to discuss this topic. KISS principle doesn’t apply when talking about the working body of any animal, as you seem to suggest here. I applaud you knowing the difference, but there’s far more to understand than simply weight loss when it comes to a drug.

          To that end, my comment about the horse defecating has FAR more importance regarding weight loss on an elementary level then does the loss of water through the use of a drug.

          • Tinky

            The water weight loss as a result of Lasix use is likely to be greater than that of an evacuation in the vast majority of cases.

            Beyond that, and much more importantly, one is natural, while the other is drug-induced.

          • That makes sense, particularly if you read Hiram Woodruffe et al on emptying trotters before a major effort.

        • David Worley

          Tinky, do you know why Lasix would impact males more potently than females? Sort of puzzled by that? (I’m referring to Ben Van Den Brinks comment above.)

        • Ernest Vincent

          A closing remark does not change the laws of physics: W=F/D. That person’s statement is correct as the writer was commenting on Jockey weights. Not horse weights. And the quote is:

          “Weight being carried (ie jockey) is far different than body weight of the horse. It carries far differently.”

          • Tinky

            Same chassis + same engine -weight = performance advantage

            It’s true for cars and horses.

            The fact that less weight on their backs may confer a greater advantage is irrelevant.

          • Ernest Vincent

            That writer is saying what you just equated, but adding 10 pounds “on top of the car” as a variable, addition to the gross weight of the actual car. I’d give great odds that NASCAR would say that cars equal in X and Y, but adding 10 pounds over another over a required distance would certainly show that W=F/D. Bug boys and girls allow. and weight conditions and how excellent jockeys can dynamically ride Iwith their actual weights are a big deal in racing.

          • Tinky

            The fact that there are other weight variables is irrelevant, as they are either natural (e.g. defecating), or an intrinsic part of the game (e.g. apprentice or sex allowances).

            Lasix, in sharp contrast, is a drug that confers a performance advantage. In fact, more than one, as I have pointed out several times.

            And, it is unnecessary.

          • Tink, not to be argumentative – Heaven forfend!, but if it confers a performance advantage, then, other than to purists like you and I, it is Necessary. From having taken lasix to lose weight I cannot conceive it as an enhancer – dry mouth, ringing in the ears, dizziness never made me feel like turning in a championship effort even though I had got the weight off.

          • Tinky

            I take your first point, Bill.

            As to your anecdotal experience with the drug – and I’ve previously heard similar ones – I don’t believe that it is relevant.

            There’s a reason why virtually all American trainers have treated virtually all of their runners with Lasix over the past several decades, and, as you and I know well, it wasn’t because they were all bad bleeders.

          • No, but the attraction for the most “aware” trainers could have been that the lasix was pretty effective in clearing something [anything?] else that they were using – and the rest of the world just jumped on the bandwagon, encouraged by the veterinary industry.

          • Tinky

            As cynical as that is, I actually think that that is overblown.

            Much of the cheating that has gone on in the U.S. hasn’t required Lasix to be effective. The testing was so far behind for so long that “clearing” was rarely an advantage. In other words, they weren’t even testing for Clenbuterol, EPO, high blood-oxyegen levels (i.e. milk-shaking), etc. for years.

            No, trainers have reflexively used Lasix for three reasons:

            1) they run faster with it

            2) it calms highly strung horses so they conserve energy pre-race

            3) prophylactic for EIPH

          • It calmed me alright – I felt like death warmed up!

          • Ernest Vincent

            I’m not speaking to Lasix in the equation. The writer’s comment came to light as the water retention/loss but this is not what he commented on. Top of horse weights.

          • Tinky

            “Old Timer” was comparing carried weight to internal weight, and was clearly arguing that the latter is less significant. That is about Lasix.

          • Ernest Vincent

            This is exactly what he said —-

            Weight being carried (ie jockey) is far different than body weight of the horse. It carries far differently”
            Nothing about Lasix in a horse or not in a horse, or the jockey drinks beer and gets tested for it et yada.

          • Ernest Vincent


            The writer does not say the Lasix caused the dump. He’s not discounting Lasix or pro Lasix. As 75% are on lasix in most races according to article.

            He speaks to outside the horse and said: “Weight being carried (ie jockey) is far different than body weight of the horse. It carries far differently.”
            And this is true in handicapping and horse racing.

            He is not adding the two together to come up with a conclusion. The example does not require the human to take Lasix. And is a guide for his comment that in handicapping or horseplaying (L or no L) only the weights on the horse will be known and it is a factor.

          • Tinky

            Caused? Where on earth did you get that?

            You are really being obtuse. The article, and the comments on this thread are all related to Lasix.

          • Ernest Vincent

            Now you sound like that lawyer in the movie: ‘My Cousin Vinny”. You haven’t read one thing, and keep responding.

            Stay Thirsty my friend.

          • Tinky

            “What about that horse that took a giant dump right before it went into the gate?!?

            That’s the first line of his post, and is an obvious comparison to weight-loss caused by Lasix .

            Apparently it sailed right over your head.

        • Diane Knisley Hain

          All of you are unbelievable! You don’t even know the basics of what you are arguing for and against! The way Lasix supposedly reduces the incidences of EIPH is by reducing BLOOD PRESSURE not body weight.

          • Tinky

            Diane, you really should pay better attention before commenting.

            Everyone engaging in this discussion is well aware of how Lasix works to reduce/prevent EIPH. The weight loss discussion is about performance enhancement.

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            I did read, and you sure could have fooled me. And did. Despite my high IQ and reading level – I was reading on a college level in 7th grade.

          • Is that the human equivalent of what trainers call “a morning glory”? Anyway, it’s not pertinent to the discussion – Tink and I are trying to argue about quite specific point! [Although we do appreciate Ray’s indulgence!!]

          • Tinky

            If you did read it, then your comprehension failed to reflect your lofty claims.

            This conversation has been taking place, on and off, for years on this very forum, and no one other than you has made a causal connection between weight loss and and reduction in EIPH.

      • Quinnbt

        Did the jock take a big dump too?

      • They need to try it with and without the lasix rather than with or without the water.

      • Ernest Vincent

        You are correct in that adding 10 lbs atop/on is not the same as horses of different weights at random. And it is key to allowance weight races and what the jockey weighs and accordingly can use his/her body aerodynamically.

      • Ernest Vincent

        “Weight being carried (ie jockey) is far different than body weight of the horse. It carries far differently.”

        Absolutely correct. The/a jockey’s mass weight is extremely important against the +/- of the field weights. And adding to or subtracting a designated weight (saddle leads) is a factor that must be considered.

        And has no bearing on the runner’s body weight or L/no Lasix. And is a condition of the race (outside the horses physical weight)

      • Susanne Conway

        Does it have to be a mile???

        • Ernest Vincent

          My doctor told me to run five miles a day for two weeks. I called him on my cell phone and said Doc, I’m 70 miles away from my house, now what?

    • Ernest Vincent

      100% correct. Weight allowances and bug allowances are significant in leveling the field and a track’s book condition maker’s /secretary/ best friend. It would never happen and weight data (like in boxing where they weigh-in) for horse would be difficult. And 2 yr olds coming back can be packing 60 more pounds of muscle come mid yr.

      • Yet plenty of “educated and up to date” trainers blether about how much weight a horse gained or lost. Unless they weigh them 5 times a day and work on the average how would weighing them tell you any more than you could tell by looking at them. On the other hand a 2yo having his 15th or 20th start might be lighter than after his second or third start – and be a better horse.

  • Kirk

    I think this is a worthy discussion that needs some more data. How about a study on horses in the US that have started without lasix over the last 10 years? Break it down also, first time starters, sprint and route races, horses going off lasix, ages, etc

    • Diane Knisley Hain

      And just where would you find a horse going off Lasix in the last 10 years? Other than the few 2-year-olds that were forced to run in the Breeders’ Cup without that one year I doubt there are any horses who went off Lasix. You’d be hard pressed to find very many horses in North America that run without it. But there’s tons of data from the rest of the world where Lasix is illegal and amazingly their horses aren’t bleeding to death. Actually, fewer of them are breaking down too.

  • Noelle

    Getting rid of Lasix is such a no-brainer. Administering a raceday diuretic to animals about to run as fast as possible? On its face, that’s crazy. The idea of any animal being routinely shot up with any drug to enable its performance is ugly. If a horse can’t run 100% drug-free, it shouldn’t run.

  • Please let one state get rid of Lasix all together thus getting the ball going in the right direction!

    • Quinnbt

      You can race without Lasix in any state.

      • Ben van den Brink

        Yes, giving up five lenghts at least. You need a gr 1 winner to beat a low lasix claimer.

        • Ben, you have to stop this hyperbole. We agree that lasix ought to be banned, but we disagree that it is a magic bullet; in fact the reverse is more likely true. Put it like this: if virtually every good horse in America has been vastly improved by Lasix, then, based upon the International ratings in most years, the true standard of American racing must be dire.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Bill, I have seen my own horse on the track while blood came out of the nostrils. Bleeding is for most cases partly inherited, partly because of the stressfull (enviroment, vanning stable change etc) and no amount of lasix will ever prevent that, if the horse will be racing long enough.

            In the eighties horses in the US made some 11 starts on a yearly basis, nowdays they are making just about six.

          • European horses have far more vanning and stable change and only the very odd serious bleeding episode – so I entirely agree with you that lasix is quite unnecessary. Where I disagree is on why they are so keen to keep it; you say it is a performance enhancer in itself, I don’t think so.

        • Ernest Vincent

          Hey where can I get some of that five lengths legal lasix? And where are those Grade 1 winners running off Lasix in the USA to equalize the assertion?

          • A genuine Gp. 1 horse rated 120+ will beat a low level claiming horse of about 65 [ lets be generous and use the median rating of all British horses] by a hundred yards if you put them together. The times of their respective races may not be 6 seconds different but that would be the reality in a match.

    • Roark

      Screw the State. Do it yourself, as the connections of Runhappy have done. Stakes record at SAR, track record at KEE, BC Champ, Eclipse winner – ALL accomplished against Lasix-addicted competition. That being said; its much easier for a single brave owner and private trainer to pull it off.

      Dirt racing at sprint distances off hot paces is MUCH harder on a horses lungs, bones, and soft tissues than some turf affair where they saunter through an opening quarter in 24 on some yielding grass surface.

      • Belinda W

        This is what ticks me off about WHOA et al….we flap our gums and just say no but don’t look up our horses bc since they can’t say no they still run on it. Racing is filled with a bunch of monkey see monkey do fools. Too many are too scared to go against the grain bc those precious stats will take a hit. They should be called sheeptistics not statistics.

        • Concerned Observer

          Be my guest. Run your own horses w/o lasix against a field of users. The half second lasix advantage mentioned in Ben Van’s above comment makes you a loser in most races. A financial hit few owners can afford to take just to prove they can.

          • Roark

            So you mean with the benefit of Lasix I could have set even more records at SAR and KEE?

            Signed, Runhappy.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Yep, the win in the psrint, would have giving either daylight with the number two finisher, either a lot of gas would be left in the tank.

          • Belinda W

            I do and trust me I know. I may sleep poor but I sleep good at night knowing that even if my horses were 6th by half a length, they did it themselves not with some bs therapeutic vet magic behind them. It certainly is not easy on the pockets, but it is easy on my concious. Not a lot of those exist in this sport anymore.

          • Concerned Observer

            It is sad that those of us that want to run w/o lasix know we are going to get clobbered running without it.

          • TOP OF THE TREE

            Run Happy showed the world that when you’re actually trained to race the race you’re gonna race even the needle can beat you. Don’t you think that horses in that race weren’t on more than lasix. Training is the key. Period

          • And that’s the point I think: Lasix of itself is [more than likely] detrimental, but it certainly confuses the issue as far as other stuff is concerned.

      • Don’t forget to deduct the 2 or 3 seconds saved by the 70 yds run up in America.

  • Sal Carcia

    I really didn’t think that Found beating Golden Horn in the Turf Stakes could be offered as proof of the performance benefits of Lasix. Found was a length behind Golden Horn in the Irish Campionship Stakes and she was steadied repeatedly in the Arc. It is also difficult to win the Arc and a Breeder’s Cup race in the same season.

    • I agree – based upon his defeat at York and what should have been a defeat in Ireland GH probably ran above himself in the rc when everything went right for him. Unfortunately once “they” have mythicalised [?] a horse they won’t admit they might have been wrong!

  • OhHorse

    “Drug Free” horses are more likely candidates for slaughter than horses known to be running on medication. Just sayin’ Also, if I recall correctly, lasix was near the bottom of the list of concerns in the survey by DRF. Why the constant focus?

    • Diane Knisley Hain

      DRF survey of gamblers. Yeah, the gamblers really care about horse welfare and are not at all concerned about lining their pockets and getting perks. You do know sarcasm when you see it, right?

  • c. biscuit

    “the deleterious long-term effects of the drug”.. tell that to my 95 old dad who has been taking Lasix for 20+ years! The only fact here is that the benefits of Lasix far out weigh the negatives. Seems when there is nothing else to talk about, this subject always comes up.

    • Belinda W

      I’m going to guess your dad took far less furosemide than a horse takes pre race per weight ratios. And kudos for your dad going out and running his eyeballs out after every application. ….Oh wait he didn’t.

      • Ben van den Brink

        Oh yeah, and you forgot to tell C.B, that your grandfather was not pushed for the 110 yards human hurdles and not be beaten the hell out by whipping, also forgot the weight on his back like a jock

        • We don’t know that Ben!

          • Ben van den Brink

            Allright Bill, tha,s 1-0 for you.

    • Can we make a match with my 95 yo lasix free mother?

    • Noelle

      Your comparison is silly. My elderly beagle Scout did very well on Lasix, too, but she had congestive heart failure. The benefits to Scout definitely outweighed the negatives. She would have died much sooner without it. Would I – or my vet – have given her Lasix if she were in perfect health? NO.

    • Diane Knisley Hain

      Oh yeah? So what does your father’s bone density scan look like? Pretty bad right? I can already tell you nearly everything that is wrong with your father. He has severe arthritis, and most likely osteoporosis too. He suffers weak muscles with muscle spasms. He takes prescription potassium because his potassium levels are constantly low. He also suffers low blood pressure. He has had at least one bout of jaundice. He also has blotchy red skin. He has problems with diarrhea. And those are just the common side effects of Lasix use. No, the “benefits” do not outweigh the damage caused by Lasix. When your father breaks a hip, if he hasn’t already, are you still going to say Lasix is great?

  • GarlandTex

    Normally I agree with you, but I am not sure I do totally in this case. There are horses that bleed rather easily and as a former owner I know some I owned in partnership would not have done well without Lasix. So maybe the answer is that if a horse needs Lasix, that should have to be approved by a Racing Commission approved vet. The idea that Lasix makes them run faster is not true, what it does is make them di is not bleed which means they do run better since they can breathe, but it does not make them faster. This all comes down to the need for standards in the industry. Lasix is good when used properly to prevent a known problem, but too many trainers just say what the heck, why not. Therein lies the problem. It would be like a healthy person saying, well I don’t have a cold, but I might next week, so let me take some Nyquil daily just in case.


      If horses are trained properly and fit for the distance they are racing they won’t bleed. There are always exceptions but in this case there are very few. The problem with lasix is that trainers using it as a racing aid because there horses are not in top shape. Runhappy didn’t need lasix cause he was fit for the races he was running. Trainers today have no clue about training and that includes the ones people think are experts. When trainers start training properly and that includes feeding you will amazing things happen in the sport

      • Roark

        Bingo. Runhappy worked 7F numerous times in preparation to race 7F at SAR. He also worked 6F twice in the 18 days prior to the BC, and was roundly criticized by expert trainers and handicappers. Before he ran his first race at TP last DEC he worked 5F in 57ish from the gate. His lungs were prepared for the effort from Day One. No bleeding. Chickensh!t owners and trainers are as unprepared to do that as they are to put away the syringe. They deserve lifetimes of losing 15k claiming races at Gulfstream Park West while Runhappy sets records at SAR and KEE.

      • GarlandTex

        I have never seen any evidence that additional training stops bleeding. Please divulge this data. There are some non lasix procedures being developed that show a lot of promise. Hopefully they will become the way to go and halt this debate.

        • TOP OF THE TREE

          I’ve taken several horses that were on lasix and had bled bad in a race and had never won a race and got them to win nice races without lasix. The only thing I did differently from their previous trainer was feed differently and train a lot harder. I galloped three miles at a 17 sec eight clip and also breezed at a mile and over and breezed twice a week. Two minute clipped twice a week. At a certain point with each horse I only trained every other day and did intense work each time. I didn’t learn that horses don’t bleed when they’re fit through science. I learned it through experience

          • Not much call for your [+ everyone in Europe’s] type of experience here I’m afraid!! Perhaps they think that you and the Europeans have just been lucky!!

        • Nor have I. But I have satisfied myself that horses very rarely bleed to the extent that they are compromised – certainly if they are healthy and adequately prepared. It was established twenty or thirty years ago that the vast majority of horses do show some blood in the trachea on scope; instead of proving the event to be inconsequential in the vast majority of cases this statistic became a gift to the veterinary industry.

        • Ian Howard

          I think it is reasonable to believe that the cause of EIPH is multi factored. Horses at the racetrack live in poorly ventilated stalls, are exposed to bacterial and viral respiratory infections while under stress, and their genetic makeup may increase the risk of bleeding. While it would be nice to reduce the cause and treatment of EIPH to a single factor it would be foolish as well.

  • Ian Howard

    There is a difference between correlation and causality. Sample size matters and using limited anecdotal evidence to fit your conclusion doesn’t mean your wrong but it also falls short of proof. There may well be compelling evidence for ending the use of lasix but focusing on one day of racing at the end of the season with different surfaces is not the way to do it.

  • Racing Fan

    The HBPA will point to their science. Their science is designed so they can squeeze the lemon (the horse) dry. The first thing Todd Pletcher would do if he got Runhappy is put him on Lasix which shows you how few horseman still exist.

    • Roark

      Let’s not forget during all the criticism of Runhappy’s connections post-BC that a Pletcher sprint trainee named Rock Fall perished on the KEE track one morning after arriving onsite. Not a peep from the media. RIP.

  • turffilly

    Please fill in the blanks….
    As I recall as a young licensed trainer in 1995/1996, Bute and LASIX were newly introduced to the betting public by the DAILY RACING FORM. At that time there was a STRICT PROTOCOL which Veterinarians and Trainers were to abide by…. Relative to today, very few horses were racing/breezing on Lasix. According to PROTOCOL then, only a horse that bled from the nostrils (or determined by endoscopic exam) during a work or race could/should be administered with Lasix and a “lasix slip”, from the veterinarian, would be submitted to a racing commission/office. At that time, it was also considered fashionable to work a horse back after bleeding (with proper recovery from the bleeding) to come OFF of the “BLEEDERS LIST”. Lasix was a “gift horse” for the gift horse.

    Lasix was and is a wonderful (and LEGAL) substance for a very particular problem in very few horses in the mid 90’s and today.

    Fast forward 20 years…. as R.C. would say… WHAT HAPPENED?

    • Still the case except no one works the horse back risking it would bleed again. Every time the horse bleeds, he does more damage which would just cause scarring. In fear of risking more damage, they just stay on Lasix. They also make it an issue to take a horse off Lasix now. Now if you want a lasix slip, you tell the vet that the horse bled and it’s up to you to be honest.

    • A bit like racing on synthetics in Britain. Introduced in 1989 to maintain betting when bad weather disrupted the jumping. Very pompous declarations from the Arab supported stables that obviously this was not for them and to be left to the po’ folks. That was then … this is now.

  • Jack Frazier

    Before lasix, trainers relied on what was called “drawing” to purge the fluid from race horses and it worked. The water and hay were taken away from the horse for a period of time, depending on the horse, and it did not hurt them, in fact they had longer careers. Lasix came along and when it found that it masked other drugs administered to the horse. That is the bottom line for some; it masks PED’s. The list of illegal or illegal drugs given to horses nowadays, would fill a spiral notebook. Remember when Dancer’s Image was disqualified from the KY Derby for bute? Now bute is given without much thought or consequence and if an overage occurs, it is just a fine. The drug culture in America and American racing is embedded and will not go away without a tough person leading the way and it is not the government.

    • Ernest Vincent

      I thought Bute, say where (given before 48 hrs) and when there is an overage of compliance in winner’s drug sample by certified independent race results lab testing; is required by its contract with the State and jurisdictional racing entity and is required to report any and all findings. And that the purpose of such testing is to adjudicate against those whose lab results find them not in compliance with the State’s racing and wagering commission laws.

      • Jack Frazier

        It is 24 hours and the overages come when trainers or grooms, give bute tablets and the vet gives their dosage. It is a sham.

        • Ernest Vincent

          24 hrs in some states. My comment is that certified labs do not overlook and not report test results. And jurisdictions do not minimize documented lab results.

    • Jack, the drawing argument is an interesting one. When I started [some time ago now!] we used to try them with water when they arrived at the track [after perhaps 2 or 3 hours travel, and 4 or 5 hours before they ran] and take it away. However we later left a couple of gallons with them on the basis that they were unlikely to wait and drink it all just before the lad came to get them ready. I don’t remember the Old Man withdrawing it overnight either. Having quite extensive experience of lasix myself [!], I just don’t buy it as conducive to optimum effort.

      • Jack Frazier

        It was a common practice back in the day, if one had a horse that bled. Maybe more bled but it was not evident and the practice grew out of fashion with lasix, which takes more water out their system. As far as a conducive to optimum effort, notice that the nimrods on TVG pinpoint horses that are first time lasix. The perception of those guys is that it does enhance performance, whether rightly or wrongly.

        • However my own suspicion is that the statistics could still indicate that to be the case without lasix itself being the true enhancer? Presumably first time lasix in mid-career is now relatively rare, and may usually follow a change of address.

          • Jack Frazier

            Not so much. Until recently nearly 100% of two year-olds in California raced on lasix their first race. Why? Without evidence, i.e., scoping them to see if they bled, it seems to be an automatic injection along with bute. It does, as a matter of fact, mask certain drugs. In my opinion, all horses who bleed should automatically be given a 30-60 day ban from racing and have to pass an evaluation before resuming training. Won’t happen though.

        • TOP OF THE TREE

          First racehorse I ever trained was the craziest filly that probably ever lived. Didn’t know it at the time but that’s the reason I got her and the fact she had a bad reaction to steroids. She trained lights out but when I went to race her you couldn’t even saddle her in the paddock. I had no clue she was gonna act like that. She would get in the van to go race and have a melt down. I told the owner that we weren’t racing on lasix. After using no lasix for the first three races and the filly having melt downs, the owner calls and says that he wants to use lasix now. I asked why would you want to use lasix? The horse doesn’t bleed. He said well we need to try something. I said your horse is a nut case. Before her fourth start I spent a time with her to get her to just be able to be saddled in the paddock. By then she started to calm down and semi relax going to the races. The horse went out and won by fifteen lengths in a 25k claimer at Indiana downs and was running for 7500 before I got her. At her next start the TVG guys said wow look how this horse is running since she had lasix. I said wow they haven’t a clue. Lasix had absolutely nothing to do with it. The horse was starting to be professional.

          • Jack Frazier

            I agree with you. I had a similar filly last year before I stopped training. Bred to be a stakes horse but never really produced. The start before I got her she was beaten 31 lengths at Gulfstream Park. It took me almost 300 days to get her right and she won a starter allowance 40 K at a mile, first time back, at Santa Anita. She won three allowance races before sending her to be bred. I stopped training because I can train but I can’t out medicine. Ethically it just didn’t work for me. As the saying goes, the frost is off the pumpkin.

          • TOTT, I’m very interested in irrational/fluctuating behaviour [ in horses, ha ha!]. Someone once posted something that I wrote about Lyme disease – you can probably find it if you google Lyme /racehorses.

  • Ernest Vincent

    Sure makes it a puff piece when the results of a 2-day sample of horse races becomes
    science. So a math geek might say they would have also won with L. The two horses.

    Wish these absolute handicapping and horse playing tenants were
    discovered and evinced 45 years ago. Horse stats of racing 6 instead of 10 starts = purses are
    bigger, racing card days diminishing, tracks closing. So the stats are shrinking.

  • Gate To Wire

    A well written article…until you got to Rich Tapestry…who in his next race, the BC Sprint, bled, was 14th out of 14 and basically eased. I guess that tidbit didn’t further your point. Maybe if he raced on Lasix he wouldn’t have bled and he would have won.

  • Cory Martinez

    The bottom line is this; the use of Lasix allows a genetic defect, EIPH, to survive and spread throughout the thoroughbred gene pool. How is creating a weaker horse good in any way?

    The answer that no one wants to accept is that any horse showing signs of EIPH should be banned from racing and, more importantly, breeding. The rest of the world went this route decades ago when it was just a handful of horses. North America waited too long to rip off the band-aid and what would’ve been just a quick sting is now going to hurt really bad.

    • Ernest Vincent

      And yet, all those two year-olds that raced in the first mandatory BC Jvy colts with no Lasix as a condition of the race, not a one made it to the Kentucky Derby.

    • But why doesn’t this genetic weakness trouble them in Europe?

      • Ben van den Brink

        I,ve had one, (female line was US) btw.

        • But was it nature or nurture?

          • Ben van den Brink

            100% nature. The only way out, should have been, no racing at all

          • Ben van den Brink

            In it source ( bron) it was nature, but it happend, because of a very serious troubled nerveous mind. Difficult with transport, beiing brought to another stable. Lots of people around instead of her normal enviroment etc Not able to go in the pasture for a whole day etc. Her half for the same dam, did have the same. Another half got serious lung inflamations

          • Ben, you might look at my reply to TopOf The Tree two days ago – it might be relevant to this case.

  • chanceland

    Having trained horses for over 45 years (well before lasix), I find the Breeder’s Cup results confirm my belief that lasix is not performance enhancing. Horses run faster when they don’t bleed. We all know that not all horses bleed all of the time but the reason for running everything on lasix is preventative. I used to run all of my young horses without it until they showed signs of bleeding and one day it hit me. Why am I waiting for them to bleed? The damage from bleeding (scar tissue) is cumulative and the science (which all of us in the field already knew) has proven that lasix reduces the occurrence and severity of bleeding. What actually happens, I believe, is that a horse can go a little further with lasix before bleeding starts and if that gets you to the wire before it starts, you have protected your horse. The “fact” that lasix significantly lengthens the time it takes a horse to recover from a race is ridiculous. The body, mind and legs need a lot more time to be ready for the next race. If you manage your horse properly with electrolytes, it is not an issue. If you care about the welfare of the horse, it is far preferable to the alternative measures that have been suggested, like withholding feed and water for lengthy periods. Some of us actually remember the old days when, on a fairly regular basis, horses would come back to unsaddle with blood streaming out of their noses and splattered across their chests. And please, stop using “eliminating lasix” and “reducing breakdowns” in the same sentence. There is no connection.
    People are free to run their horses without lasix if they think their horse is better off, but every time they do, they are gambling. On the other hand, a horse who has run without lasix and never bled and who is fit and sound (like I hope all Breeder’s Cup horses are) is at very little risk. The fact that those two horses (six furlongs) could beat stellar fields without lasix reaffirms my belief that lasix is not a PED.

    • Diane Knisley Hain

      Bull. There’s lots of medically proven connection to show conclusively that diuretic use causes muscle and bone deterioration. Those electrolytes you are removing with Lasix and then trying to replenish later are calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium – all of which are required for proper muscle function and strong bones. When the Lasix takes the calcium out of the body the immediate biological reaction is for the body to take calcium out of its natural stores to support body functions. That means it pulls the calcium from the bones, and this happens before you even start to try try replenish electrolytes. Plus it’s a lot easier to take out the calcium than it is to replace it – ask any doctor about that. Every dose of Lasix causes bone deterioration.

  • daltemose

    i see football and baseball players hydrating as they are competing. I don’t know about track and field athletes. The equine athlete is dehydrated before competition.

    • Tinky

      Apples and oranges. Track is the only analogous human event.

  • kybreeder

    The problem is that we will be at a disadvantage when it come to the big races especially the French and the British are using other this that we don’t know about , its not that they are any different than our they have different medicines. If we keeping letting other countries and these animal rights groups are going to ruin racing in the US. What are the animal right groups like PETA going to say when they see a horse come back from the races or a work out with blood rushing out of there nose , that is worse than the use of LASIX.

    • Tinky

      What on earth are you talking about?

      ALL raceday medications are illegal in France and England.

      • kybreeder

        People don’t always play by the rules, so in England and France there horses just don’t bleed?

        • Not to the extent that its a problem – either in number of events or severity. That’s just a fact, however inconvenient.

        • Tinky

          In England, France, and most of the rest of the racing world, bleeding is a manageable condition without Lasix, just as it was for many decades in the U.S. prior to the advent of the drug.

          With careful management, only a very small percentage of racehorses bleed badly enough for it to be a significant problem. Certainly under 10%, and probably closer to 5%.

          • kybreeder

            This is AMERICAN racing why do we need to follow the rest of the world, it helps the horses , I have ran plenty of horses with out Lasix but what are we going to do when we have PETA and other animal rights people all over racing for a horse that comes back with blood rushing out of his nose. It needs to be available for the people who want it the racing between the three country’s are totally different from riding crops and the way the are trained and bred. I don’t know if the breeding has a thing to do with it , but we have for sure breed these horses in America weaker, the horses in the old days we definitely tougher.

          • Tinky

            There are a number of reasons why it would be a mistake not to join the rest of the world in an enlightened attitude towards Lasix, and those reasons have been repeated by me and many others countless times on this very forum.

            The argument that American racing is different than in other parts of the world doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I say that because I have spoken to top vets and major racetracks, and have been told that horses running long on dirt are just as likely to bleed as dirt sprinters.

            Furthermore, that argument doesn’t make sense given that there were as many, if not more sprinters that contested fast fractions, etc., over the many decades before Lasix was introduced, and other than the odd bad bleeder, it wasn’t a problem.

            As to PETA, the perception right now is that our horses can’t compete without drugs, and that perception is potentially more damaging than the occasional breakdown or epistaxis.

            Finally, while we agree that the American breed is much weaker than it was just a few decades ago, why do suppose that that is the case? In other words, we have been masking bad bleeders with Lasix, rather than culling them from the breeding pool, and that short-sighted approach has consequences.

          • Tink, I’m not happy with the general assumption of genetic weakness – or specifically of inherited bleeding. First of all, 500 years [+?] of breeding racehorses is unlikely to reverse itself in, say, 2 generations. Second of all, if bleeding was hereditary then surely that would have been much more apparent long before it could be masked by lasix – High Time for example was a notorious bleeder but a very good sire. We agree that most horses break down because they are under-prepared [over-medicated and under-monitored]; I’m sure that the same is true of most serious bleeders. Horses rarely suffer serious breakdowns out of a clear blue sky. Healthy horses rarely bleed to any degree, and with sympathetic and conservative treatment most episodes will not re-occur.

          • G. Rarick

            I don’t think we can say with any certainty that a tendancy to bleed is necessarily passed along in the breeding shed. But I think that American breeding has been weakened overall because it is based on chemically enhanced performances rather than genuine ability. There’s just so much uncertainty about what, exactly, is being passed along because too much is masked in the selection process.

          • There might be something in that – but what? I suppose you could quote Fusaichi Pegasus and so on as examples, yet plenty of horses over here without any chemical stain on their character fail as stallions. And can we really say that the same horses that did well in a lasix environment would not have done so if they -and of course the opposition – were lasix free?

          • Tinky

            It’s a complex subject, as you know, Bill.

            Your first point is one echoed by some geneticists when the topic of unsoundness in racehorses is discussed. The problem with the view that it takes much more time (i.e. many more generations) for a meaningful impact to be seen is that there is ample evidence to the contrary.

            I mean by that that while there are other contributing factors, it really isn’t plausible that the transition from breeding to race to breeding to sell was purely coincidental with the remarkable plunge in the average number of lifetime starts in America from around 1970 to today.

            Much as I am (obviously) a critic of medication abuses, and of year-round racing, etc., I simply cannot believe that there isn’t a genetic component as well.

            I think that part of the problem is that when sires’ books were limited, so was their influence, and usually to a large degree. Now, when fashionable sires cover thousands of mares, and their sons are also sought after as stallions (e.g. Storm Cat), the impact that they can have – at least over a short to medium term – is significant.

            Prior to the advent of Lasix, which was also when breeders tended to be more careful and emphasize soundness, bad bleeders would have been much more likely to be culled. Presumably that is the case, broadly speaking, to this day in medication-free jurisdictions.

            The fact that High Time was a bleeder and did not pass the trait along means little, as there will always be anomalies.

            When the average sire in the U.S. has raced five, six, or ten times in its career, how can one expect the resulting offspring to be tough and durable?

            From my understanding, bleeding is typical in racehorses. But we agree that it can be rather easily managed by sensitive trainers, and that bad incidents are both rare, and usually a symptom of another problem.

          • But who can say how many times any of those horses would have run if, say, Mark Johnston had them? Don’t forget that we were already hearing that “they aren’t as tough as they used to be” before Provideo appeared – that was “an absolute freak result” until TT duplicated his achievement. I really think that with a faster start [1 from his first 5] Abdu could also have done it. And the first two had pretty US pedigrees too. You can see why I’m sceptical.

          • Tinky

            Skeptical based on a sample of two or three horses? On that basis, one could argue that Unbridled’s Song got sound horses, and Storm Cat got horses with correct forelegs and good throats.

          • That isn’t fair comment. My opinion is based upon several hundred horses – I rather reluctantly used those three to emphasise a point. I am pretty sure that Mark Johnston takes a similar view. IMCO, the vast majority of racehorses could be far better prepared to withstand arduous campaigns, and if that were the case then they would likely stand up to those campaigns. I base that opinion upon current British training methods as opposed to those of say twenty or thirty years ago. And you know the situation in America is considerably worse than here. Too many subscribe to a convenient theory of inherent fragility – enriching the veterinary profession and it’s subsidiaries and absolving trainers from blame.

          • Tinky

            While again, we agree that there are multiple contributing factors, one problem with your hypothesis is that there have been plenty of trainers who have straddled both periods (notably the likes of Allen Jerkens in the U.S.), yet have been unable to overcome the breeding aspect with “old school” methods.

            Furthermore, there were plenty of butchers disguised as trainers back in the ’70s (and earlier, of course), and the horses, at least in terms of durability, largely overcame them.

            Now, if you are simply arguing that horses these days are grossly undertrained, and that that is the primary variable, I would further suggest that you haven’t had the benefit of having watched certain American trainers train in the U.S. I’ve seen plenty of horses “overtrained” by today’s standards, and there is no evidence that I can find supporting the case that more work is the primary answer.

          • Tink, Allen Jerkens [now RIP?] continued to succeed but likely no longer had the ammunition he once had before the grim reaper went though his owners. If you are arguing that he used lasix, we have to realise that – owners being what they are – if he had not used it then he would have had no horses at all unless he happened to be winning at an exceptional %. As far as the old time butchers are concerned – surely the fact that their horses were durable must say something about their methods? Now [again reluctantly getting into a me,me,me situation] I cannot tell you how many people have said to me that”of course you only had the very prolific winners led out between races”, when in fact the very opposite was true: they did a lot of work and so their races never took much out of them. When Henry Cecil was at his very best, the second canter 4 days a week was about what we called “half speed”, or around 14 sec/f. The other 2 days were work days and on the seventh day they rested! When I was at school Jackie Jarvis’s did the same thing. You cannot tell me that any horse trained on the track in America follows anything like those serious training regimes. Obviously I have not been able to study this a first hand, however Emma and Alan Munro have done so and I have for thirty years had many many conversations with Ca. regarding horses that I have exported. Not to mention studying purportedly genuine training schedules for named horse in Ross Staaden’s excellent book and in Preston Burch’s book. What you describe as “over-training” is very likely the result of trainers ignoring Tom Ivers’s simple admonition to make sure there are “No Surprises” in a horse’s preparation. I see and hear the results of peaks and troughs training over here almost weekly nowadays: and, of course, the fragility of the TB gets the blame. This is an interesting discussion.

          • Tinky

            Probably best to dig deeper when we meet again, Bill, as the topic is so complex. However, with respect to Jerkens, the switch to regular Lasix use aside, he did many things that were extraordinary. He worked horses from a mile to nine furlongs (and beyond!) on countless occasions over the years, and, to use just one other example for now, I saw him work horses twice on the same morning when things didn’t go well the first time around.

            I’m not suggesting that these were everyday occurrences, but he was never afraid to experiment, or to do things that few other trainers would dream of doing. My point is that he wasn’t at all afraid to train horses hard, at least by American standards, and had tremendous success doing so for decades. Of course he was sensitive, and did’t train them all hard, but this is a topic that I broached with him on several occasions, and he certainly believed that contemporary horses were not as tough and durable as those that he trained 40 0r 50 years ago.

          • We will of course. And of course I have only been involved with the odd troublesome one of Emma’s lately, but I still maintain that almost all the conversations I have nowadays leave me thinking “for f***’s sake, what did you think was going to happen when you treat them like that!” It seems to me that in most cases “the fault is not in their stars but in themselves!”

          • Tinky

            Oh yes, there is plenty of incompetence about…

          • kybreeder

            The reason that they are weaker and don’t hold put he way they ust to is the way we breed them…….. They are bred for sales

          • Tinky

            We agree that the switch to breeding to sell has been damaging.

          • They were definitely fitter: that’s it and all about it!

          • kybreeder

            They were also bred different now theses horse are bred for the sales , but what people don’t realize is that with tracks closing and there days being reduced , there won’t be sales….

          • But if they are bred for the sales yet go to Mark Johnston they can run every other day. How come?

          • kybreeder

            We are talking about AMERICAN racing and AMERICAN bred horses , who knows what they are using over there…. Outsiders what us to stop using lasix so they can come to the U.S. And win our big races, the horses are bred small and to look racy as babies we over train them when they are young and many don’t even make it out of there two year old year……. If they make it at all….

          • There are plenty of US breds in Europe – that was my point. Tinky and Gina have explained our very strict med. rules several times.

          • kybreeder

            They are trained different than in the U.S.. You all want a lasix ban because you all are properly using a drug that dose not test….. Why don’t you just keep to your own problems with racing in your country…..

          • “We” couldn’t care less what you do! I myself am in discussion/argument with Tinky and others; we express our views on medication generally and, in this case, on lasix in particular. As far as I’m aware that is still legal. But I do suggest that you read some of the correspondence regarding the miraculous cure that transatlantic travel seems to produce.

          • Interpreter

            kybreeder: You are a perfect example of what Isaiah Berlin has called “the closing of the American mind.”

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            What are we going to do when somebody at PETA finally wises up to the facts of Lasix side effects like bone and muscle degeneration? Diuretics like Lasix pull electrolytes from the body – that is an undisputed medical fact. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are all electrolytes, and all required for muscle and bone health. Lasix is the real reason breakdown rates are so high.

          • kybreeder

            No the real reason for break down are people who don’t know how to train and don’t know when to back off , it’s not like lasix is given everyday it’s on race day and workouts only , people don’t feed for bone if u feed a good feed and the proper supplement your horse will be fine……

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            I’m sorry but that’s just not the case. You are ignoring simple bodily function. Every time the body’s calcium level drops below normal the body will automatically pull calcium from bones to keep muscles functioning. Remember the heart is a muscle, and so is the diaphragm which is the muscle that makes the lungs work.

            Those muscles can’t function properly without adequate calcium, which is why the body pulls calcium from bones to keep muscles functioning – death could occur if it didn’t because the heart and/or lungs would not function properly! This is basic biology.

          • I think that you might extend that observation about muscles to include the breathing mechanism too. Laboured breathing [through lack of fitness] may well be a big part of EIPH.

          • Diane Knisley Hain

            Interesting thought. I am really old school in that I believe horses need races to be fit, not just workouts. I love to point out how many Triple Crown winners ran in a race between the Preakness and the Belmont because back then trainers raced rather than worked out. And those horses won without Lasix because they were fit! Back then most horses ran more times at age 2 than today’s horses run in their entire careers. And they were healthier and fitter because of it. Ever heard the term “bone remodeling” before?

            I’d like to carry that labored breathing thought in another direction with a little speculation. Could it be possible that some horses bleed through the Lasix because of impaired lung function from calcium depletion? Like I said, purely speculation. If the body did its job and pulled the calcium from the bones that shouldn’t happen.

          • If that.


    Research Blood clotting cascade and see what’s needed for the blood to clot and then ask how many horses you know get what’s necessary for that.

  • otterbird

    From the article: “Their victories, emulating that of the Lasix-free, Michael Chang-trained Hong Kong invader Rich Tapestry in last year’s Santa Anita Sprint Championship, in which he defeated two previous Breeders’ Cup winners in Goldencents and Secret Circle, both long-time Lasix users, add substance to the growing suspicion that American racing has got it wrong on the Lasix issue.”

    I notice the authors don’t discuss what happened to Rich Tapestry in his next race, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, in which he ran Lasix-free, finished last and was found to have bled badly in his lungs during the race- a 3 out of 4, in fact. Goldencents won the Dirt Mile that year (becoming the first horse to win it two years in a row), and Secret Circle, in the same race as Rich Tapestry, finished second.

  • Secret Circle #1 fan!!

    Lasix are for the good of the horse. there’s nothing wrong with it.

    • Try it.

    • Diane Knisley Hain

      No, there’s lots wrong with it. And there’s plenty of medical facts to back up all the detrimental side effects. Lasix as a diuretic depletes the body of electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium mostly. All are required for properly functioning muscle and strong bones. When the body doesn’t have enough calcium to work with it draws upon its reserve supply: Bones. So Lasix weakens bones and muscles, this is a scientific fact. And we wonder why so many are injured and breakdown. The industry’s reaction? Sell a calcium supplement. Just like with human doctors, vets are selling drugs to treat the side effects of the drugs. They know what damage they are doing to their equine patients, and they just don’t care. They make money off the Lasix, the supplements to counteract the effects of the Lasix, the bone scans and x-rays and son on that most horses wouldn’t need if it were not for the Lasix…. Lasix is destroying horses and horse racing.

      • Secret Circle #1 fan!!

        You not a damn scientist! Have you ever been on the backside of a racetrack?! You are what is wrong with this sport, people like you want to withhold helpful medication for the benefit of the horse.

        • NO Lasix

          Diane is spot on correct. Please learn to train and feed your horses and there will be no need for lasix or this argument. Hence no need to get your blood pressure up about comments that you don’t agree with

          • Secret Circle #1 fan!!

            No i think that you are spot on wrong, all of you people sound like idiots, when lasix come out in the late 70s it was to helps horses from basically passing out on the race track and dying….. is this what you want to happen and have these animal rights people all over us as a sport. the problem is that these horse are not bred the same as they just to be and the trainers these days are business men and not trainers…… they have people working for them and all they do is pr. People like you are going to turn this business for the worst….

        • #1 fan, I’m afraid this type of response shows just why the issue of serious PEDs cannot be addressed: as long as everyone is so hooked on “therapeutics”, stimulants will thrive.

          • Secret Circle #1 fan!!

            When your horses are coughing up blood don’t tell me I didn’t tell you to use lasix

          • I promise!

        • Diane Knisley Hain

          You are so wrong. You assume too much. Of course I have been on the backside. I worked in the Thoroughbred industry for 27 years. I’m betting you are the one with no experience.

          • Secret Circle #1 fan!!

            I’ve been on the backside for 20 years, I think I know my stuff. Where have you been working at? Beulah Park…

      • Interpreter

        Thank you, Diane.

  • Gene

    Sorry Mr. Irwin, It was something they agreed on. One of the reasons she was hired.


      Who argues with evidence that’s right there in front of you. She was hired because a friend of the connections told them she would do what they needed done which was to do exactly what they said. The trainer doesn’t matter in there system because they use a heart rate monitor and the info from it to train their horses like Olympic athletes. She’s clueless and still is. The public is well aware of who she is now so it’s amazing to me that you are still trying to convince us of something different. Mr. Irwin is EXACTLY right.

      • Actually if trainers stuck to the number of horses they could monitor closely the computerised monitors would never have been thought of. I have mentioned several times to people who have advocated them that it would be interesting to see whether the graphs were as helpful as informed observation: no takers so far.

  • condor

    The American racehorse through Lasix and drug use has become a fragile shadow of horses from yester-year. They cant stand proper conditioning which would eliminate 90% of bleeding so have to be given Lasix. The breeds to weak now to consider racing without meds.

    • Interpreter

      You have hit the nail on the head, condor.

  • Eggzackly.

  • Rod Cundy

    As a retired racetrack vet – 40 years in practice- I have seen racing with and without Lasix and feel that we would be well served to go back to no Lasix. The owners, fans, breeders and, most of all, the horses would all be better off. Of course this would not sit well with those perpetuating the problem- vets, trainers and drug companies.

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