Phipps, Janney: ‘Lasix is a performance enhancer’

by | 01.31.2013 | 7:09am

Ogden Mills Phipps, longtime chairman of The Jockey Club, and Stuart S. Janney III, the Thoroughbred breed registry's vice chairman, called the anti-bleeding medication Lasix a “performance enhancer” but defended their decision to allow their 3-year-olds to be given the drug this year after signing a pledge in 2012 that their 2-year-olds would race without the diuretic.

Responding to a letter to the editor of Thoroughbred Daily News written by Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which called their actions a “glaring contradiction” that created a “very dangerous scenario,” Phipps and Janney said they signed the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association pledge with more than 60 other owners to “demonstrate that horses could successfully be managed without the use of this performance-enhancing drug on race day.”

Wellman, who said he favors the continued use of the drug, pointed out that in recent weeks at Gulfstream Park, owners of horses who are racing 3-year-olds on Lasix after signing the 2-year-old pledge reads like a “Who's Who” of the industry. “As a 35-year-old professional in this business,” he wrote, “I looked up to these owners and breeders for decades and placed my complete faith in them to guide our industry for the better. However, the mixed signal being sent by them on this all-important Lasix topic is confusing and extremely troubling.”

Last Saturday alone, Wellman pointed out, there were four winning 3-year-olds racing on Lasix who were not given the drug as juveniles.

Phipps and Janney said that is one reason they decided not to extend their 2012 pledge to their recently turned 3-year-olds of 2013. “While we look forward to the day that Lasix becomes a prohibited substance for all horses on race day,” they said in a letter to the editor of TDN, “we believe Lasix is a performance enhancer and it is necessary to be competitive in the current medication environment.”

Following is the complete text of their letter:

“Aron Wellman's letter in the Jan. 30, 2013 edition of Thoroughbred Daily News made reference to the Thoroughbred owners who pledged to run their 2-year-olds without Lasix (furosemide) in 2012 and race those same horses, who are now 3-year-olds, with Lasix.

“As the owners of 3-year-olds that did not race on Lasix as 2-year-olds but are doing so now, we would like to provide an explanation of our thinking. We signed the TOBA pledge to race our 2-year-olds without Lasix primarily to demonstrate that horses could successfully be managed without the use of this performance-enhancing drug on race day.

“It was, and is, our hope that an experiment like this will help prove that a ban on Lasix for all horses would not result in the dire scenario some have predicted – for the horses or for the Thoroughbred business. Today, approximately 95% of all starts are made by horses who have been treated with Lasix. But that didn't happen overnight; it happened gradually over a period of time.

“It would make sense to ban the use of Lasix on a gradual basis, as many of us have recommended, and the data derived as a result of the TOBA pledge will be useful in those considerations. While we look forward to the day that Lasix becomes a prohibited substance for all horses on race day, we believe Lasix is a performance enhancer and it is necessary to be competitive in the current medication environment.

“As owners, we race our horses in accordance with the rules in place at the jurisdictions in which they run, and Lasix is currently permitted on race day in all domestic racing jurisdictions. Until such time as the rules in this country are changed to conform to policies in most worldwide racing jurisdictions, only our 2-year-olds will compete without Lasix.”

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