What’s missing in the racing medication debate?

by | 10.04.2012 | 7:08am
Racing from Oaklawn Park returns to TVG

If the medication issue in horse racing were easy, it would have been resolved a long time ago.

It isn't easy, however, largely because we don't have consensus on what direction to take, even within the same constituency groups.

Example: Veterinarians, including some very well known and respected equine practitioners, can't agree on whether certain therapeutic medications can be harmful to a horse or mask lameness, a situation that can lead to catastrophic injury.

Among owners, you have a vocal minority that wants to put American medication rules in line with those followed by the rest of the world. Other owners (many of them mimicking the positions of their trainers) insist that American racing is different, that our horses race primarily on dirt, are stuck 22 hours a day in dirty stalls with polluted air, and are incapable of competing without an array of drugs in their system to help them breathe more easily and loosen up their stiff joints.

Breeders are the one group that seems to be most insistent on racing horses in their natural state. They worry that drugs are altering performance and polluting the gene pool with runners whose best races were chemically enhanced. But many of those breeders who produce Thoroughbreds for the commercial market cycle their mares with lights and medication, straighten the limbs of their foals with corrective surgeries, and bulk up their yearlings with food additives that can have the same effect as anabolic steroids.

So let's start by acknowledging that hardly anyone in this business lays exclusive claim to high moral ground.

That goes for New York, where some believe a circular firing squad actually might be a good idea. We have a governor who is a bully, a legislature that is filled with political opportunists, a State Racing and Wagering Board that is out of step and in denial, and a New York Racing Association that is tone deaf. Oh, yes, and a horseman's organization, if I can borrow a phrase from a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, that is full of “pious baloney.”

The report from the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety, through its lengthy series of recommendations, found plenty of blame to spread around.

The politically appointed State Racing and Wagering Board is far behind other states in things like requiring necropsies of horses that die on racetrack premises. The task force found New York's medication rules are far too lax in the administration of corticosteroids and clenbuterol, to cite two examples. That the NYSRWB has no regulation of Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy is, well, shocking. (NYRA regulates the treatments with a house rule, which is problematic.) The absence of an Equine Medical Director is another example of New York being behind the times. And the fact that the NYSRWB has allowed veterinarians to ignore existing rules that require reporting of certain drug treatments suggests the regulatory body is going through the motions.

Missing from the task force report was any kind of assessment of the statement's drug testing program, which is long overdue. Drug testing has been in the hands of one person, Dr. George Maylin, for far too long.

This poor record of regulation by the NYSRWB overshadows whatever shortcomings the New York Racing Associated was cited for having. NYRA's biggest problem, it seems, was having the team of track veterinarians reporting to the racing office – an obvious potential conflict of interest. A veterinarian's job is to assess the soundness of horses before racing, and scratch them if necessary. A racing office priority is for larger fields. That is a bad recipe.

The task force consisted of veterinary surgeon Scott Palmer, regulatory veterinarian Mary Scollay (Kentucky's Equine Medical Director), attorney and horseman's association head Alan Foreman, and retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey. Their report, among other things, examined past performances of all horses euthanized at Aqueduct from late November 2011 through mid-March of this year, and also looked at medical treatments of those horses prior to their races.

The report found, in many cases, that horses were administered intra-articular injections of different corticosteroids and given non-steroidal anti-inflammatories within days of their races. The task force concluded in several fatal breakdowns that the administration of multiple drugs “may have represented a missed opportunity” to prevent the injuries.

The task force singled out what it called Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher's “aggressive pre-race medication protocol” and said it may have masked unsoundness. The protocol, which the report quoted Pletcher as saying was routine, included intra-articular joint injections of hyaluronic acid and Depo-Medrol five days before a race, administration of two non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (which the report called “controversial”), and treatment with the joint health products Legend and Adequan.

But two racetrack veterinarians contacted by the Paulick Report said there was nothing controversial or aggressive about Pletcher's pre-race routine, which they insisted was designed to help horses avoid injury by insuring more fluidity, particularly in the hind limbs.

Another vet said pushing clenbuterol use back to 21 days out, as recommended by the task force, was a mistake. “Many of the Aqueduct barns have no ventilation, they're filthy, with birds flying around and dust everywhere,” he said. “These horses have airway problems caused by this environment. Clenbuterol is a very effective treatment for that.”

But it does not sit well with many people that horses need to be on multiple medications when they race: injections of corticosteroids or cortisone, administration of anti-inflammatories, and the almost obligatory race-day treatment with furosemide to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

I know many racetrack veterinarians, and I don't think a single one of them believes they are doing anything but helping the horse when they treat them with therapeutic medication. Most vets I know believed anabolic steroids were useful and therapeutic, too.

But the vast majority of veterinarians, along with most of the trainers who hire them to treat their horses, are clueless when it comes to understanding how their routine drug administrations are viewed by the public. They are as tone deaf as a racing association struggling to make ends meet spending $250,000 for a vanity art mural.

I am confused over whether the use of therapeutic medication, including furosemide, is in the best interest of the horse. But I am certain the general public views it far differently than the vets and trainers do.

Veterinarians have done a lousy job explaining to the public why they feel therapeutic drugs are necessary. Until recently, the medication protocol for horses has been kept secret, many fans thinking Bute and Lasix were all that were given to horses. However, when drug treatment sheets are made public, as they were earlier this year before the Belmont Stakes and more recently in the Travers, people were shocked to see how many different kinds of drugs were given to horses before they race. Likewise, until Rick Dutrow spilled the beans about giving anabolic steroids to all his horses routinely, most people had no idea steroids were then legal.

Perhaps one reason vets have not told their story very well is the division within their own profession. Several years ago one vet told me he would not want medication records made public because groups like PETA would have a field day. But if you can't defend those treatments, to PETA or anyone else, should we be doing them? Make no mistake about it: calls for medication transparency are not going away.

It's clear the veterinary community is on the defensive right now, and in my opinion they should be. This is not “their” game, it is a game supported by the public, which has a right to know whether the horses they wager on are medicated and how much.

If the veterinarians feel these treatments are justified, they need to inform and educate us exactly why. If they can't, the sport needs to phase out the use of these drugs so close to a race.

  • Peyton Lasiter

    It may be that racing is just a reflection on the society today. Every person thinks receiving medical treatment to keep them going for longer in this day and time is what they deserve, and need.  We end up with an escalated health care cost that most can’t afford (punters and would be owners) and a breed of oder people struggling longer in the competitive work force to make ends meet and stuffed in nursing homes in their later years whose lives have been prolonged by medicine.

  • Cheryl

    Feel free to call me stupid, but if one of the reasons being cited for horses having breathing issues is poorly ventilated barns, why not fix the cause rather than the symptom and invest in updating the barns?!  Surely state racing authorities can make racing licenses conditional on the track passing an inspection of appropriate facilities?

  • M. A. Thrope

    Excellent editorial comment.  When you read the part about the Aqueduct barns, you have to wonder why the vets – or any articulate spokesperson – can’t explain the need for helping these horses simply breathe.  Regarding public perception, a little explanation will go a long way.  The public should be educated and informed, but not in charge.

  • Rachel

    … here’s my own conjecture…no “therapeutic” meds means less blood calcium being excreted, less side effects like tying up, less contraindications with antibiotics and nsaids, less post-race fatigue, far fewer gastrointestinal problems, e.g. ulcers, colitis, ruptures,

    A horse with no bute on raceday will “tell” you if it’s sore or not.
    A horse with no lasix will bleed IF it’s a bleeder, and won’t if it’s not a bleeder, time manages all but the worst bleeders and severe bleeders (out of responsible compassion) should not be raced or in the gene pool.
    A horse not given lasix won’t have to worry about certain antibiotic/NSAIDS contraindications.
    A yearling not on steroids will look like a yearling at yearling sales.
    2 Year olds not on steroids at the 2 year-old sales will not have to be “let down” after the sale.
    Full Veterinary records that follow the horse for life at least let’s future owners and breeders better manage the genetic plus and risks.

  • No Penalties in Horse Racing

    Linda Rice should be ashamed of what she did to her horse’s joints just days before the race.

  • No Penalties in Horse Racing

    Agreed.  The barn excuse is an extremely lame one that is ridiculous.

  • Sean Kerr

    There is only one solution to
    each of the problems – including medications – that are ruining American horse
    racing: a national horse racing commission, by way of a new federal act of
    congress that decouples all horse and dog racing from the state’s authority,
    and that allows racing to be a totally free enterprise system free of
    government management, but subject to clearly defined law – on a national

    The states cannot handle racing
    and wagering: they have never been able to – and they never will. Racing and
    wagering are two sides of the same coin of a totally interstate commerce
    industry. The congress of the United States has a duty and a responsibility to
    cease allowing this industry and the people who invest in it, to suffer at the
    hands of the current poorly managed inept and corrupt confederation of
    ineffective state governments, and the so-called industry organizations presuming to lead us.

    I intend to make it happen. It is
    my life’s purpose. Crazy or not, for better or worse, I am not going to sit
    back and let this sorry state of affairs continue.

    Are you with me?

    The choice is yours. This is the
    only solution. You can make this happen if you want it. None of us are victims
    here. If we don’t like this current situation, we have a responsibility to
    stand up and make it change.

    Join me – send me a note at [email protected] and
    tell us you want to roll your sleeves up and make American horse racing the
    next NFL.

    Let’s make history. Now is our

  • Pmeckman

    Great job of succinctly clarifying why we have such divergent positions on the administration of drugs to race horses. It is clearer to me now that: “There is plenty of blame to go around.”

  • Sean Kerr

    Has anyone reading been to China? I have – and you will witness a horror of pollution that you cannot believe until you see it. Trainer John Size, who races in Hong Kong told us at the International Race-day Medication Summit last year that he rarely sees a bleeder. So the pollution argument in America is difficult to believe. I don’t think it is a major issue – and besides, why don’t we fix the problem instead of using medications as an alternative. All medications have side – effects. How many legally prescribed medications actually cause bleeding and exacerbate EIPH? We don’t know because there has not been a single study to find out. The Hinchcliffe South African study was never replicated and it begged more questions than it answered. On it goes.

  • August Song

    Ray, that’s what I like about you – the ability to cut through the smoke screens and focus on the real issues that are imperilling our great sport. Kudos!!!

    Is there any chance you might be interested in heading a National Thoroughbred Horseracing Commission, if the dolts and those in charge of their petty fiefdoms ever manage to get through their Brainlock Illness?

  • Nick Kling


    Of all the commentary you’ve posted on this site, this may be the single best.  It hits the sacred cows.

  • Janfis

    I can’t believe that Pletcher or any trainer would give all of that medication to a horse for any race.  I find it inexcusable.

  • Tbhorseman

    There should be criminal charges on trainers and vets on class 1 medication violations.  The thought of doing time may be a serious deterrent…

  • Stanley inman

    Transparency is our best tool to effect meaningful change.
    Paulick report is at the forefront on that campaign.
    Embarrassed leaders are forced to act
    to deflect attention away
    From their dereliction of duty.
    Pour it on

  • Mando02

    A horses enviroment plays a big part concerning their airway(breathing,bleeding etc…) Having been envolved in racing over 40 year have seen the elements that contribute to problems(airway) with horses stabled at American tracks!. Dust,grooms parlaying stalls  etc.. many factors.

    Had a nice filly would cough and consistenly have nasal drainage while training at the track,took her to a specialist.Scoped,cultures and lung x rays! All good! Allergies! Took to farm,all symtoms disapeared!Went on and had a productive career.

  • Mlynnbuckley

    It’s time for racing to understand that the fan base is not going to grow as long as vets and trainers continue to “drug” horses.

  • Vconwicke

    I don’t understand why the awful conditions of the barns at Aqueduct are allowed!  The poor horses!  I don’t believe the same is true of the barns at Saratoga – at least the ones I have seen!  Who is responsible for oversight of the barns at Aqueduct!  Something needs to be done to improve conditions there.  Also, I have read in print Arthur Hancock state that legal medications have led to the fragility of today’s racehorses going back five generations.  Doesn’t the racing public hope for another Seattle Slew, Citation – never mind the mighty Secretariat??  It appears to me that unless something is done about the over the top use of legal medications this will never happen again.  Result might be the continuing decline of interest in thorough horse racing in America which to me would be a real tragedy.  I am hopeful that racing can return to the glory of the past but feel this will not happen unless something is done about the rampant use of legal medications on our beloved race horses. 

  • Stop raceday medication

    Thanks for caring Ray. Unlike Steve Crist who likes to boast “I don’t know one bettor that cares about medication.” Caring is what will fix racing.

  • Liberal

    Sorry, the we need Clenbuterol to deal with barn conditions at Aqueduct is specious for so many reasons it can’t pass the straight face test.  1) They are using it everywhere not just Aqueduct; 2) Horses were successfully racing out of those barns before Clenbuterol started being administered like peppermints; 3) It is a non-steroid that increases muscle mass, thus it conveniently replaces the steroids; 4) Use of the drug increased when steroids were outlawed; 5) Other jurisdictions where medication is permitted draw the line much farther out from race day than NY.  In short, this drug is being administered because it enhances performance, a “breathing issue” is just the phony excuse offered up as justification and just like lasix, everyone is doing it in order to compete because their horses get beat if they don’t.     

  • Convene

     Steve Crist must hang out with some really funny people (ones I’m glad I don’t hang out with!). Maybe they’d be better bettors if they did care.

  • Convene

    All valid points to consider, Ray. There are a lot of reasons we’re in the mess we’re in, many of them fixable if people wanted to change how they do things. Day-to-day environment certainly counts, probably as much as just about anything (Michael Matz takes most of his back to Fair Hill!).

    One comment did sort of make me say, “Huh?” As therapeutic meds are given to ease pain, I’m not sure how anyone could question whether or not they mask lameness. Isn’t that the whole point – to allow the horse to be free of pain? Only it’s supposed to continue till he heals and doesn’t need it any more!

    As for justifying protocols to PETA – you’ll never justify anything to them until you turn all the horsies loose to run free. Read their mandate! It’s all the rest of us who are interested in the theories behind therapeutic meds and why continuing to race horses who need ’em isn’t ridiculous.

  • Cynthia

    You say this controversy isn’t easy. I couldn’t disagree more. As an OTTB and race horse owner, I feel it’s really quite simple: First, do no harm. I’m going out on a limb here, but I would venture to say a lot of owners/trainers/vets are in it for the wrong reasons, and here’s where it gets very simple. Professionals don’t put the horses at risk. Ever. That includes their food, medications, boarding, exercise and treatments. Find a trainer and vet that feel the same way you do. Then at race day, if they’re not sound….if there’s a whisper of not being sound….look at your horse, listen to your heart, and there’s your answer. Scratch. It’s the right and in my opinion, the only thing to do. I may never line my pockets with thousand dollar bills, but I have a really easy time sleeping at night. I know my horses are being taken care of as well as I’d take care of a member of my own family. If everyone did, there’d be no controversy. I just feel deep in my heart, if you’re not in the racing business for the love of your horses, somewhere down the road, you’re going to be looking at a big, hot pile o’ trouble. It’s as simple as that.

  • voiceofreason

    “Perhaps one reason vets have not told their story very well is the division within their own profession.”

    Nope. There is one clear reason, let’s not be sophomoric about it.

    The one reason vets have not told their story very well is simply this: They don’t want to disclose whatever medication cocktail they use that gives horses in their care advantage over others. They have ZERO incentive for a “level playing field”, and why would they? Look no further than steroids. If you were an owner stupid enough to use trainers who only cared about the welfare of the horse, you lose. How do THOSE people get money back for decades of SANCTIONED and LEGAL abuses?

    This is all chatter. Until the sport cares more about the welfare of horses, and a fair shake for everyone, it’s moot.

  • Marc

    Spot on, Rachel. Every point you make is valid, and your reasoning is simply expressed and flawless.

    On the racetrack, the label “therapeutic medication” is a bastardization of the term specifically intended to whitewash the patently non-therapeutic misuse of drugs.  Therapeutic implies that a drug or procedure is used to cure an underlying ailment, not merely to mask its symptoms or the enable performance of an otherwise unsound horse.

    Racetrack veterinarians are dishonest if they claim otherwise. They know that their pre-race pharmacologic administrations are palliative, not curative. They know that they often worsen the condition, as in intra-articular injections, and they certainly know that a three-year old horse should not be suffering from advanced osteoarthritis, chronic EIPH or other physical ailments common to the racehorse. 

    Veterinarians defend these practices because the financial rewards for THEM justify the betrayal of their patient.  Their actions are motivated by greed and they are willing to violate ethical veterinary standards to maintain their obscene profits.  Trainers, owners, and breeders all have their own profit-based motivations, but they find in veterinarians the perfect enablers.

  • Dylan Thomas

    So this begs the question – Why do these horses deserve to live in squalor? 
    We need Backside reforms to improve conditions for animals and humans who live and work there. Politicians should have found lays to stick that on any new casino construction.  Missed opportunity.


    What is missing from the medication debate is a bold individual who will stand up before one of theses committees and simply say the rest of the world does this and America does that. all the racing countries in the world are racing the same breed but yet the American  raced horses are the most medically dependent. If America is the home of the smartest,creative and competitive like we have all been indoctrinated to believe since elementary school, than surly we can figure out how to run horses with out race day medications like they did in the early 70’s and times prior to that.

  • Doc

    I agree the veterinarian should be able to justify what medications were given to a horse and why.  However, that is part of the veterinary/client/patient relationship.  It is confidential information similar to attorney/client privilege.  Therefore, it isn’t information that can be made available to the public unless the owner releases it.  The veterinarian should be held responsible for the medications he/she administers, and yes they should be better educators of the public, but they also can’t be required to provide medical records to the public, unless there is just cause to do so.

  • Sue Chapman

    If NYRA is “broke” where would the money come from.  One of the larger problems is Pigeons.  They are everywhere and nest in the lofts where hay and straw  and unused equipment are kept.  NYRA tried poisoning the birds more than once, but the end result was many pet dogs and cats dying. 

  • Allison Roulston

    Totally agree with you, Sean. The most egregious aspect of the situation is the near total lack of credible science to support or refute all the anecdotal claims being launched for and against various medications. Absent science all we get is self-serving and prejudiced opinions.

  • Beknighted

    After years at it, one of my vets has recently quit work at Hollywood and Santa Anita. Said track work was too depressing and he just couldn’t do it any longer.

  • PP

    Sean, I am against race day meds, but you have confused bleeding, clenbuterol and lasix. Horses do have allergies and airway problems caused by poor barn conditions that horsemen are powerless to correct, so they turn to meds, but Clenbuterol is already banned from race day. Lasix does nothing to help clear airways, and we don’t have solid evidence that congested airways cause bleeding but that should be studied. Certainly we should focus on better barn conditions.

  • Marc

    The permissive pre-race medication problem begins and ends with veterinarians. If they were unwilling to enable horses with significant physical ailments to race with the aid of injury-masking or performance-altering drugs, they sport would change overnight.  

    If veterinarians followed their profession’s ethical standards and practices, acting always in the best interests of their patients, change would be immediate and thousands of racehorses would be spared crippling, career-ending injuries before they have even reached maturity.

    A few hundred veterinarians practicing on the track have managed to bamboozle owners, trainers, regulators and fans into thinking their actions are acceptable.  They are not.  Racing veterinarians are the central miscreants in a sport that is increasingly viewed as animal abuse.  

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    I’m curious….were the two racetrack vets who defended Pletchers program in any way connected to Pletcher?  Have they treated any of his horses? 

    I also agree the problem should be fixing the environment these horses are kept in.  I would wager that if someone actually sat down and did the math, if trainers and owners put the money they pay for medications on a monthly basis towards fixing the barn conditions they house themselves and their horses in, the backside could have some of the nicest housing environments for horses anywhere. And yes…I know the tracks own the stables and should be responsible for it…and I agree…but it seems some of the healthiest horses out there are in the more relaxed and open areas of say a Fair Hill.

  • guest

    The real issue is the UNDETECTED drugs that are performance enhancing, stop the BS please.  Test every horse of every trainer clipping >30% wins…. Simple.

  • Mstarseq

    Great article. Lasix IS detrimental to the horse. It dehydrates them, makes them anxious, makes them sweat off the water that their body actually NEEDS when giving it’s utmost exertion. It’s not fun to see a horses reaction to Lasix, and I can’t imagine it’s healthy for them at all.

  • Larry Ensor

    Though I agree with your premise. I don’t think it should apply to any horse that is in training at a race track or private training center in preparation to be entered in a race. I feel the customers, the betting public have a right to know everything about the horse they about to spend money on. They should have the same rights, expectations and assurances that consumers have enjoyed for decades. Be it at a restaurant, the place has passed a health inspection as had the food. Or buying a car, it is mechanically sound, safe and not held together by duct tape and Bondo.

  • Tinky

    I second Bryan’s questions. Any vert who claims that pre-racing with acid and depo as a matter of course is NOT aggressive, is being dishonest, and has an agenda.

  • snazzygirl

    Excellent editorial – keep them coming.

  • Bob Hope

    how did 100 alphabet groups and “accreditation” miss all of this ?  if you answered horsemanship you may have gotten it right !

  • Marc

    The racetrack veterinarian is not the solution to the problem.  The racetrack veterinarian IS the problem. Drug peddler, enabler, apologist for the indefensible betrayal of their patients.

    Injecting joints, giving pain-killers, Lasix, clenbuterol and the like to enable horses to run is not “therapeutic” in the common definition, meaning curative.  The drugs are palliative, like morphine is to a dying cancer patient.  “Just one more race…  “You ARE your brother’s keeper.  Do something about unethical colleagues and stop making excuses.  

  • Ronald Turcotte

    There should allways be a fine and suspention to discourage such abuse of horses
    no strick penalties just encaurage others to take chances to get away with doing the same thing.

  • pennell

    Amen, Amen, Amen!

  • nu-fan

    Stanley:  If I am not mistaken, you are a breeder.  I’m not, but think that I can understand how difficult it must be to breed some wonderful horses and, then, see some of them abused by those others who are either greedy or just plan ignorant.  And, yes, transparency is critical in getting reforms created and implemented.

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    I have often wondered about this aspect of the rules myself, and the release of records to the public as they have been.  I agree there are Vet/Client Confidentiality issues there, and I don’t know how they are to be resolved easily.  I also have wondered if because you are dealing with something that the public is betting on, and is “regulated” by the state (and I use the term regulation VERY loosely) that the confidentiality doesn’t exist anymore.  I think that is something the State Boards of Vet Med are going to have to look at in their Practice Acts and make a ruling on.  I’m actually surprised some vets have not objected on those grounds, but then again it is the owner who decides to make the records public or not.

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    How do you test for drugs that are not detectable?  Do you just say you are winning at such a high rate you must be cheating.  While I might agree there is reason for suspision there, you will need more than that to prove it.

  • nu-fan

    M.A.Thrope: Agreed, regarding the conditions of the barns needing to be corrected, first.  But regarding the public:  When the horseracing industry does not monitor itself and these abuses go on, a vacuum forms and the public, then, takes charge.  The public isn’t going out of its way to do this; they are being sucked in because of that vacuum.  The horseracing industry needs to take a leadership position.  But, who’s the leader?

  • nu-fan

    Mlynnbuckley:  So true.  But, so many people in the horseracing industry do not get this.  Why?  I don’t know.  Do you?  This seems like such a no-brainer.   

  • nu-fan

    Vconwicke:  Maybe, you and I should join forces with Sean Kerr.   (Please see his comment on this page.) 

  • guest

    I think the real horseman know the problem is deeper stemmed than lasix, bute, clen.  Lets be real.  Lidocaine, EPO, ITPP, snake venom, frog juice are are a few that come to mind.  Stop playing games and chasing after lasix and bute when the issue lies MUCH DEEPER than prerace medications.

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    I agree with you on other things being used.  I also think instead of testing, people just need to come forward and inform the regulators of who is doing this.  Everyone on the backstretch I am sure knows the ones who are doping the horses, they are just too scared to come forward.  Look at the report where the 2 jockeys said they knew the horses were unsound but would not say anything.  Until we find a way to get that fear of reprisal aspect out of the backside…it is going to be very hard to really curtail anything.

  • nu-fan

    Marc:  Every profession has some individuals who are scummy.  Perhaps, this is symptomatic of our overall culture.  Just take a look at the news.  Greed has become commonplace.  However, I am hopeful that there are enough individuals who have higher ethical standards who will take a proactive role in making a stance against those who have long ago lost all sense of decency.  Perhaps, we should join Sean Kerr in his quest.  (Please see his comments on this page.)

  • Doc

    Although I am not a race track vet, I am an on farm equine veterinarian.  I am compassionate about all of my patients, and always observe “above all else, do no harm.”  It is my belief that this is the case for the majority of veterinarians.  However, just like owners, trainers, or any one else involved with the horse industry, there is a percentage willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead.  Unfortunately, that group includes some veterinarians.  However, I don’t think a blanket statement of “the racetrack veterinarian IS the problem” is appropriate or correct.  The blame has to be shouldered by the entire industry as a whole, and stop the finger pointing.  There is not a solitary source to this issue, and there won’t be an easy resolution.  The blame game must stop in order for the industry as a whole to move forward.  The State Veterinary Boards will need to get involved and punish those veterinarians who have acted unethically, similar to the recent trainer fines and suspensions.

  • nu-fan

    Larry:  Occasionally, I watch a race and some horse that has never had a good race, suddenly, wins over so many others who have had better records–even though there seemed to be no real explanation for that success. What goes through my mind at that time?  In this current climate, I wonder why that horse did so well this particular time out?  Makes me more cautious about placing a wager. 

  • RayPaulick

    We talked under condition of anonymity. I’m sure I could find vets who said these pre-race treatments were “aggressive.” Don’t forget that two of the four task force members are vets very familiar with what goes on at the track and their opinion was to use the words “aggressive” and “controversial.” The point is  there is no strong consensus on what is right and wrong, even among veterinarians. AAEP is the organization that most of these vets belong to, but the racetrack practitioners make up a minority of the AAEP membership (though some will say they also have too much influence on its positions on relevant issues).

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    I understand all of that.  I always have a problem with the “under condition of anonymity thing” though.  If you have a strong opinion on something…don’t be afraid to stand by what you say and be willing to defend it.  I also understand that these vets probably would look at it as a threat to their livelihood.  Just wish more people were willing to just go on the record and give an opinion.

  • RayPaulick

    The New York State Racing and Wagering Board made public all medication treatments of starters in the Belmont Stakes and Travers. Hiding behind this shield of veterinarian/client-patient relationship doesn’t fly any more when it comes to racehorses that compete a state regulated racetracks with pari-mutuel wagering.

    Check out the veterinary transparency practiced in Hong Kong. Here’s an example: http://racing.hkjc.com/racing/

  • A complete make over, would be the best for all in the buisiness. Include the horses.

  • Marc

    I definitely agree with Sean and am actively supporting his quest.  I’m totally supportive of the Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act pending in Congress.  I believe that racing has proven itself incapable of self-regulation and uniform action.

    Nevertheless, it is important to note that trainers and owners don’t prescribe drugs — that takes a veterinarian’s license. The old excuse that everybody else is doing it doesn’t cut it on the playground, why should we tolerate it on the backstretch?

    Vets have the ability to stop the pre-race drugging that endangers horses and jockeys. “Just say NO, Doc, just say no! 

  • Marc

    Yes.  Fair and precise commentary.

  • Marc

    Vets know what is right and wrong.  The various state veterinary practices acts and associated regulations, and the AVMA ethical standards are subject to some interpretation but they in no way excuse veterinary treatment without proper diagnosis and without an absolute commitment to act in the best interest of the patient (horse) not the trainer.

    “Racehorse is not a diagnosis.”  – Dr. Sheila LyonsJust because something is widespread does not make it morally defensible. Veterinarians are both victim of the backstretch drug culture and its principal enablers. They could also be the most influential reformers if they cared enough to do their very best.

  • Marc

    Sorry – there should have been a paragraph break after the Dr. Lyons quote.

  • Polowonder

    One item worth noting: racetrack vets only make money when they dispense or administer a medication or perform a procedure.  my farm vet bills me for a visit (more if after-hours) and exam, regardless of whether a treatment is given.  The way in which the practices are setup pushes unneeded drugs.  Owners and trainers would howl loudly if the had to pay every time they asked a vet to ‘take a look at this horse’.

    The situation is so entwined that it will be difficult to change without extremes.

  • Sue Chapman

    Rachel: good argument except: When a practicing Veterinarian comes to the barn, the trainer voices a concern, the vet examines the horse, reports what he sees and they make an informed decision together. 
    Sean, the States cannot self regulate.  You will never be the Racing Czar, no matter how you promote yourself.  The problems racing faces are not vehicles for self promotion.

  • Vertigineux04

    Let’s add GastroGard to the list of meds that many racehorses get on a daily basis. Let’s eliminate that too, because all the “experts” will say “well if your horse needs ulcer medication, then they shouldn’t be racing”. Then try to fill the entries. 

  • Lisa Wintermote

    To the best of my knowledge, Mr Hancock’s statement was his OPINION. He’s entitled to it and his credentials lend validity but it’s still an opinion, not fact. As to the fragility of today’s Thoroughbred–Awesome Gem won a graded stakes this year at the age of 9. He ran on dirt, turf, and synthetic and raced on 2 continents in a career spanning 7 years and 50some races. Precious Passion, another venerable old warrior, retired recently. He was also 9 and had greater than 50 races to his credit.
    The 3 horses you name as the ideal to strive for: Seattle Slew raced 17 times and retired at age 4. Secretariat raced 21 times and retired at age 3. Citation did the best with 45 starts and retirement at age 6.
    Again, the record for the oldest Graded Stakes winning Thoroughbred was set in 2012 not the “glorious past”.

  • Peyton Lasiter

    You make a good point that maybe the good old days are partly illusion to us and not really as they were.  Along that illusionary path of thought I wonder if the european race world we often assume is representative of the glory days really is?  I come away from these posts thinking its mostly healthy and clean over there, but have no first hand knowledge or proof it is such.

  • Twenty1n1

    Most casino/racetrack associations don’t want the horsemen, horses or racing…  Perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of maintenance of the racing surface, not the meds. Therefore, the barn ventilation upgrade is highly unlikely.

  • waldo

    Ray your article clerarly illustrates the problems facing racing. We, who have horses, know it’s better if a horse can receive certain medications, but it is no longer in the best interest of racing to continue  this Unfortunately we have lost the battle in the eyes of the public and whether or not you like it, perception will prevail. What we now have to do is take the high ground and call for no medication period on race day and with we need a clear understanding of the withdrawal times for all therapudic medications. We should also support stiff penalties for any infraction of the rules. We must do this in order to gain back the confidence of the general public before it’s to late 

  • Grarick

    Gastroguard, along with every other medication, is on the list of prohibited substances here in France. I have two horses I hope to run in Chantilly on Monday and I’m not sure we’re going to get in, because we have 90 horses entered for 40 slots. Somehow, us barbarians in Europe manage to fill fields with no trouble at all.

  • A quick point I wanted to make before I re-read this article is that the racing officials send the wrong signal to the trainers and vets when the existing laws are not carried out. It’s difficult to stop illegal activities if the enforcers of the laws show no interest in enforcing them.

  • I’m not sure which is worse: the ambient air quality in the stalls or the ambient air quality in the greater NY metro area!

  • ManuelB

    The past always seems rosier than it was. On the other hand, horses used to run once a week regularly, now they maybe do it every two or three weeks. Why?

  • guest

    I think more than the fear of saying anything is the fear that it can’t be proven!  In addition I don’t think the grooms should have to get involved in this.  Seriously they need to have 800# hotline anonymous tips that will only be reviewed with enough information given to warrant an investigation.  Also they are doing a POOR job of reporting the trainers getting days and many times they are listed AFTER the fact.

  • Vertigineux04

    And it might be helpful to clarify to readers why the races are easier to fill, and oversubscibed in Chantilly. It is because there are only 4-5 race days EACH MONTH, there. And good luck to you if your horses get in.  

  • AmPugs

    I’ll ask this again here:  Has there been a study on the relationship between growth stimulants being fed to young horses and fractures suffered early on in their racing life? The ‘superfeeds’ can speed up growth of muscle mass – muscles can and do break bones. It’s not that much of a jump to see why I want to know, and if there hasn’t been, why not?

  • Tbhorseman

    We are not in France… The horses here for the most part live at the tracks in which they race.  Very little grass for grazing and usually in urban areas. Making the horses here more prone to ulcers thus making gastroguard nearly a necessity.

  • Sean Kerr

    I have no desire whatsoever to be a racing ‘czar’ or ‘commissioner’ of any kind. I have never stated this in public, private no publication, no email etc. I am promoting a ’cause’ and not myself. As usual you cannot seem to  argue a point without lowering yourself to personal insults or attacks. I feel sorry for you.

  • Tbhorseman

    Someone should poll Pletcher’s ,Asmussen’s ,Dutrow’s ,O’Neils etc. for their monthly vet bill costs…

  • ManuelB

    Confidentiality is never about the horse. It’s always about the trainer/owner and shouldn’t be allowed if the horse is going to be running and people are going to be betting on it. As Ray pointed out, look at what they do in Hong Kong

  • Susie Byrd

    Why blame Linda Rice….shes not the only one….when the decisions to rectify all the problems surrounding racing I’ m sure she’ll be on the front row as well as many other good trainers….its not a simple solution….many, many years have gone into this….I’ve been a trainer for 40 years and was married to a vet…takes all kinds….look at all other sports and your crazy politicians….this is not a perfect world and never will be….I’m on the side of the horse…always have been, always will be but you must remember….greed and avarice runs rampant in all walks of life.

  • Susie Byrd

    Very well put Ms Chapman!

  • Barry Irwin

    The clock is ticking on our sport. Federal legislation will be rammed down our throats because we cannot come together. It might help. Our entire country is divided, so why shouldn’t our sport be divided?

  • Digger_20715

     I have said many times and easy way to get the ball rolling on ZERO meds in racing including therapeutic drugs is for ONE racing secretary to card one race per day that is a hay, oats and water race only, no tapping,milkshaking,stacking or slamming only hay,oats and water.Make the purse higher and of course you will have to agree to quarantine protocol and pre and post race testing which most honest trainers will have no problem with complying. Watch as the true horsemen flourish and the ness’es,pletchers,dutrows drop to 10% or don’t even enter at all unless dropping.

  • Hopefieldstables

    “While France’s six most prestigious racecourses are clustered around the
    Paris region and at Deauville, there are also 239 more dotted all over
    the country.
    As a result, on every single day of the week, come rain
    or shine, one or more courses offer a meeting with an average of eight
    races on the card.”

  • Barbie13007

    I hope you feel this is state side problem more geared to New York. I race quarter horses here in Ontario at Ajax and we have very stiff rules. Clenbutal was kicked to the curb last year because it can mask other drugs. Yes we use drugs to coat and protect joints. Older horses need extra for wear and tear on joints. But, don’t paint us all with the same dirty brush. My horses get chiro, massage and accupuncter to help with issues. If it’s broke it gets rest and fixing. Many of my fellow horsemen are the same. We have drugs for a reason not abusing.

  • Karen Worthington

    You make some excellent points, Ray!

    Something that has bothered me about the “medication” debate is the lack of alternatives considered or even discussed.  I see and hear NOTHING about increased conditioning or proper pre-race warm-ups. There is only the reliance on the quick-fix (and damn the side-effects or consequences) injection.

    Alternative therapies such as homeopathic treatments, which have NO SIDE EFFECTS, are  ignored, again, in favor of the quick fix.

    And no-one seems to look to proper nutrition, believing that the feed corporations’ claims must be right.

    The barns at many tracks, while perhaps adequately ventilated, often find that ventilation challenged with poor-quality, dusty bedding. And that dusty bedding often doesn’t offer the cushioned support Mother Nature designed the horse to need. Of course, if the facilities were able to offer turn-out, or if the horses could be out of their stalls more than an hour to and hour and a half each day, it would help.

    I think it’s sad that the debate, if there is one, seems too often to be “For” or “Against” instead of, “What would be best for the horse?”

  • Tbhorseman

    I am not in favor of gov’t regulation but we have allowed this to happen.   I always thought the states racing commissioners would come together and set uniform rules.   Since this has not happened and the expenses getting higher and higher I can no longer ask my owners to play by the rules while these guys get away with murder on the backside.  I have decided to quit training for a while.  Over 20 positives in IL and all they got was slaps on the wrists and allowed to keep the purses for prednisone.  Seriously?  And no sanctions on the vet….

  • Vconwicke

    I’ve read in the press that important people in horse racing such as Arthur Hancock, yourself and others have been asked to testify in front of Congress about the issue of legal medications and its effect on race horses.  I have sensed that Arthur Hancock whose family has bred race horses probably longer then any other in the United States, as well as yourself, and others involved in breeding race horses feel that over use of legal medications is detrimental to the health and well being of race horses.  I have not been able to find out the results of those Congressional hearings.  What is happening in terms of those Congressional hearings?  There seems to be a consensus among horse racing experts that today’s race horses are definitely more fragile then in the past.

  • Grarick

     I agree that the American system is hard on the horse. SO CHANGE THE SYSTEM. One of the primary excuse for continuing the litany of drugs is that the horses live and train in such deplorable conditions. So change the system to fit the horse, rather than medicate the horse to fit the flawed system. If the system CAN”T change, then the sport doesn’t deserve to survive in its current form.

    And Vertigineaux, there are about four or five race meetings EVERY DAY in France, not four a month. We ship all over the country to race. Just because racing isn’t clustered at the same track doesn’t mean there isn’t racing. And our average field size is 10.

  • Vertigineux04

    Still, only 4-5 days of racing at Chantilly every month. Totally different scenario than here.
    Yes, the American system is tough on the horse. it has flaws, and we absolutely need some changes. But the entire system will never be changed to look like Europe’s. And it will survive and DESERVES to survive. We still have the best bred horses in the world, our horsemen and woman are the best,  our veterinary industry is second to none. I have been to some training yards in France. Once when trying to buy a son of Mill Reef owned by the Niarchos family. The horse was 200 pounds underweight and looked like a cart horse. Clearly had been forgotten about, when it could no longer earn any purse money. Mon Dieu! I am so tired of hearing that the European model is better than anywhere else. If it is good enough for you and you are happy there and you chose to train there, good for you and Bon Chance!
    I, for one, am glad I do not live nor race my horses anywhere but in the USA.
    They still eat horsemeat in France, n’est-ce pas?

  • Paul

    It is no secret (but too often ignored ,overlooked or accepted) that certain successful trainers have a veterinarian as their most important ally especially in cases where owners can afford and are willing to pay the price of aggressive treatments . It’s not ulike a  beauty parlor makeover for a plain looking woman who looks like a million after undeergoing expensive day long treatments. In her case its mostly external .  But with a horse it’s all manner of injections and ingestions typified by Pletcher’s “pre-race ” routine and the vet treatment reports released by the NYSR&WB for the recent Travers starters. With multiple stacked doses of NSAIDs , inter-articular injections , and several other “theraputic” meds plus race day Salix , short term success is almost a given . Long term however it can’t be good for the horse and may very well be the main reason why so many horses especially 3 year old stakes performers have such short racing careers.

    For me the key question for any veterinary treatment is whether it is for the health and welfare of the horse and/or addressing a specific physical condition or ailment  as opposed to treating for racing performance. Circumstances and intent will generally define the difference. Too often theraputic substances  as above are used in a manner that crosses the line and that is the very real essence of North American’s racing drug culture.

  • No Penalties in Horse Racing

    Because she made the decision to do it just 5 days before the race.  From an ethical standpoint, it should be at least a week if not much longer if you truly want the horse to run on it’s own merit.

  • Sal Carcia

    Peyton, I am not sure what this has to do with horseracing. It just might though. Medications in our society are used to keep people healthier while they are alive. Medications could easily add to one’s quality of life. It could also add to the length of one’s life. Whether a person takes medications or not, there will be an end of life. And whether that person takes medications or not there, it will require a lot of expensive health care at this time. With respect to nursing homes, it is possible that they extend one’s life during a time of medical need. It is because it is managed care. It is costly. But, I hope the choice to take this managed care or not is up to the individual.

  • Marc

    Forensic chemists develop new testing methods and drug-specific kits as they learn about new illegal drugging techniques. There can be a significant lag time – months or years – between the appearance of a new designer drug in the barns and an effective test for the drug.

    The best way to deter the use of currently undetectable drugs is for racing jurisdictions to freeze and store suspicious samples for future testing. This has been used successfully on many occasions.

    The other serious problem encountered by testing labs relates to the cost of drug detection.  A single dermorphin test kit for testing up to 96 samples costs about $500.  Multiply that cost for testing all samples for dermorphin and for purchasing drug-specific test kits for dozens of other illegal drugs and you’ll see that the budgets for most racing labs are too inadequate for the job expected of them.

    To find more drugs and to deter future violations the following steps are necessary:
    –  bigger budgets for detection labs to purchase the necessary equipment and test kits
    –  ISO certification/accreditation of testing labs with periodic compliance inspections and performance testing
    –  freeze and store suspicious samples for later retesting
    –  widespread backstretch intelligence gathering including use of undercover operatives
    –  penalties that include higher fines, returned purses, and suspensions of all convicted individuals in all racing jurisdictions.
    –  suspension of racehorses associated with positive drugging cases
    –  seizure of all veterinary records associated with a positive horse
    –  referral of all “doping” cases to law enforcement officials for criminal investigations relating to race fixing (racketering) and animal cruelty
    –  conduct upline investigations to determine and prosecute suppliers of illegal drugs. We can’t simply hold the trainer responsible without going after the dealer too.

  • Marc

    Racetrack vets are in a unique position to protect racehorses from deteriorating injuries caused by running while physically compromised.  Or they can facilitate the problem if they let outside considerations like pressure from trainers, owners and track management override their professional judgment.

    I truly don’t understand why those who firmly desire industry reform on medication abuse are so reluctant to hold veterinarians more accountable. Veterinarians have the professional training, the license to dispense drugs and the legal and ethical duty to act in their patients best interest.  How is it that they are not center stage in this debate?  

  • Thelibrarian

    Adequan+Clenbuterol+Ace…..long term. Tapping the week of the race……Bute/banamine right up to the race. Unfortunately, this has been mainstream for quite awhile.

  • Marc

    Great comment, Paul.  It’s all about respect for the equine athlete.  The owner trainer and veterinarian must all be committed to providing excellent care for their animals and allowing full recovery before returning horses to rigorous exercise and racing.

  • Matt

     U.S. horse’s the best bred in the world? Best Horsemen in the world? Vets second to none? Of all the countries around the world the U.S. rates at the bottom except at the premier tracks. Take a trip to Beulah, River Downs, Suffolk Downs, etc and then seriously with a straight face tell us about American exceptionalism in horseracing!

  • Marc

    I definitely agree about the need to involve state veterinary boards in evaluating horse doping cases when the veterinarian is directly implicated — such as the Louisiana dermorphin cases.  Perhaps we can also agree that scrutiny should be a bit greater.  Veterinarians who dispense drugs at the request of a trainer — without even examining the horse — aren’t acting ethically. Those who agree to pre-race joint injections, two NSAID’s, Lasix and whatever stacked cocktail is requested by the trainer are knowingly letting an unsound horse on the track.

    Who really is to blame when such a horse suffers a catastrophic breakdown?  Traditionally, the finger points to the trainer.  The horse died, the owner lost an investment, the trainer may face a fine but only if a positive test results. But what about the veterinarian?

    An estimated 25 horses a week die on the track, a situation that has grown far worse in the era of permissive pre-race medication  Many more limp back to the barn only to be loaded on a van and shipped to an auction.  How many jockeys are seriously injured in spills?  Is it always the trainer’s poor conditioning, the track surface or a simple act of God that leads to these tragic circumstances?

    To me, questions of malpractice surround any case where a horse “requires” a half dozen injections or more in the days leading up to a race.  If the horses otherwise couldn’t be deemed racing sound and make it to the starting gate without pre-race drugs, why on earth doesn’t the veterinarian feel morally bound to intervene?

    It’s too easy to blame the industry, the regulators, the economy and by all means, the trainers.  But the only licensed animal health professionals are the veterinarians.  And they are the only one’s who took an oath to serve the interests of the animals above all other concerns.

    Okay, here’s the clincher. I really do think the medication abuse issue begins and ends with vets. If we strip a few bad veterinarians of their licenses to practice — starting with the dermorphin cases — we may get the attention of a larger group that just can’t say NO.

  • Barbara

    And imagine how many more owners could afford to participate if the monthly vet bills were reduced, not to mention leveling the playing field.

  • Babstovman

    Untill you pay the bills, it is not your horse! These horses are privately owned and are given the highest quality care in most cases. The trainers are 100% responsible if the horse breaks down. No one else. It is no more complicated than that.

  • Rayneman9

    Excellent overview of the multi-headed monster that is the thoroughbred racing industry. Expecting any kind of consensus in finding solutions to emerge from such varied interests is wildly optimistic. Racing continues to slide toward irrelevance.

  • Recoop55

    When I took my trainer test in Kentucky, that is what I learnt, a trainer is responsible for he’s barn and everything in the barn end of story ….he should take the bullet…..

  • Marc

    I’m impressed. It’s as simple as that.

  • Marc

    The federal legislation is “on hold” for the remainder of this year.  It will undoubtedly be reintroduced after the election in the next session of Congress.  With sufficient public and industry support, it could be enacted.

    The pending legislation is very modest,  It DOES NOT create a new federal bureaucracy to oversee racing.  There will be no racing czar or national commission.  What it does do is fairly straightforward.  It says that for racetracks and racing states to participate in interstate wagering, which they want very much to continue, they must comply with certain uniform standards.

    These major standards include: 1.) no race day medication, 2.) drug testing labs must be ISO certified. 3.) all suspensions and other penalties will be honored in all racing jurisdictions.

    Its modest, but it will achieve uniform medication rules, enforcement, and penalties.

  • Hopefieldstables


  • Clenbuterol is proven to have serious cardiovascular side effects. Scientific studies show after 8 weeks structural changes in the equine heart and an increased chance of aortic rupture due to those structural changes. Trainers and veterinarians are playing with fire. Read the label, read the studies….IF you care about your horses.

  • From an ethical standpoint why the hell is anybody racing a horse that needs joint injections?! If veterinarians and trainers had the morality to know when to stop and retire horses, many [horses]  would be alive, happy, and useful in second careers other than being served on a dinner plate. If one needs to engage in animal abuse in a career centered on the well-being of animals perhaps they should look into another career…

  • Marc

    Brilliant. Excellent idea that I never even considered before.  Thanks. 

  • Vconwicke

    Thank you for this information.  I think it is better then nothing and, as you state, will achieve some uniform standards. 

  • Marc

    Yes. There was an excellent study conducted by veterinarians Lennart Krook and George Maylin of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine that looked at the relationship between high planes of nutrition and accelerated growth to serious bone and joint problems. Thanks for reminding me. I’m going to reread the research.

    Dr. Krook (deceased) was also one of the foremost experts on the damage caused by intra-articular corticosteroid injections.  His conclusion was that even a single injection into a joint caused significant, irreparable harm and generally necessitate ever more frequent IA injections until the joint was destroyed.

    Dr. Maylin is the director of the New York state drug testing program and a pioneer in many forensic laboratory techniques. 

  • Dantana

    Where do we find the link that shows the medication sheets of the Travers
    and Belmont?

  • RayPaulick

    Look in the center column of this page for various reports. http://www.racing.ny.gov/

  • racehorse lover

        All though I totally agree that horse racing needs to continue to make strides towards uniform medication rules on a national level, I simply can’t agree with all of your story… 

       As you say, “It does not sit well with many people that horses need to be on multiple medications when they race.” Please tell me which state allows “multiple” medications to be used on race day, as you have led people to believe by writing it this way???? The ONLY allowed race day drug I know of, in any state, would be lasix…

        I would also like to remind you that a lot of people are tired of hearing about “The Betting Public” when members of the press are trying to make a point about medication issues..

        We just broke attendance, and wagering records in this years Derby, and Preakness, and the Belmont had it’s second largest on track handle ever..  This took place while ALL horses, in all three races, received lasix. Obviously the fans were not hindered by horses receiving lasix on these days…

       The problem “we fans” have is very simple, and I’ll be happy to offer just a couple of them…

    1. Doug O’neill is given a suspension this summer for medication violations. He buys Richards Kid while suspended, and then the horse shows up to race in the Pacific Classic wearing his blinkers, and racing equipment, while supposedly being trained by his assistant??? Isn’t this kind of a kick in the face to “the public” when they see something like this, and are led to believe this trainer is suspended???

    2. Dutrow would be denied a license in Oklahoma for numerous medication violations, yet Willie Beamin is allowed to race under another trainers name in the Oklahoma Derby…  I just found it odd that Dutrows assistant was seen on TV saddling the horse prior to the race… Yet another kick in the face???

    These are just two of the major issues that “the public” has with horse racing. It makes us all look like cheaters when things like this continue to go on..  It’s almost ignored by racing commissions, race tracks, and the press, and it needs to be stopped.  Medication issues, and public perception, will never be addressed properly until something is done about this… 

    Let’s discuss the real issues at hand Ray…


  • Stanley inman

    Because of side effects related to the drugs we give them.
    To blame the horse underscores the level of sanctimonious rationalization
    for our abusive practices.
    Can’t be us must be the horse

  • Stanley inman

    How about giving 100per cent of the purse to
    any winner running without raceday meds.
    Afterall they are spotting everybody weight plus defeating all running with performance enhancing drugs.
    It would make for some serious winner circle
    (as it should)

  • nathan

    lie detector tests for all owners, trainers, vets and grooms, pony boys, and anyone licensed to be on the grounds.
    case closed.
    aren’t there certain trainers that you would love to get strapped up?
    we could use maury pauvich’s people.  why not? racing has become a joke.
    when horses pay boxcars off of mind boggling form reversal, it’s not a fluke.
    test all you want. the chemists that the top trainers and vets employs will always find a better synthetic. eliminate lasix. so what. the harness guys have much better “stuff”.
    lie detector tests.
    case closed.

  • voiceofreason


  • Vconwicke

    The article on Awesome Gem (retired at age 9) in Blood-Horse (9/29/12) is certainly a tribute to this wonderful and hardy racehorse.  The article points out that Awesome Gem was a gelding which no doubt is the main reason why Awesome Gem raced to age 9.  There was no financial incentive to retire him at age 3 or 4 to be a stallion with a lucrative financial career.  It needs to be pointed out that the immortal Secretariat would have continued to race to age 4 and probably beyond had Christopher Chenery lived longer then 1/73, just prior to Secretariat winning the Triple Crown.  Secretariat had to be syndicated at age 2 and was retired at age 3 because he was too valuable financially as a stallion to continue to race.  This also is true of Seattle Slew racing only to age 4.  These great racehorses were not retired because they were unsound or fragile.  I point this out because the over use of legal medications is a very serious issue and very harmful to the racehorses and their offspring by many people considered experts in the world of thoroughbred horse racing.  Apparently, European interests do not want to buy American mares for breeding that have had careers in racing here due to their having been on legal medications routinely during their racing careers which they considered harmful to future offsprings.   The fact that we have not had a Triple Crown winner, all the breakdowns, and early retirements seem to indicate that the over use of legal medications is a contributing factor to present day apparent fragility of our race horses.  And, is it fair to the American public having to watch medicated racehorse compete?  

  • Vconwicke

    I think the use of legal medications with people can be applied to horse racing.  Recent medical literature suggests that Americans are over medicated, many medications are overprescribed, and some don’t work. 
    For example, medications for high cholesterol have been found not to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol (statins). There are detrimental side effects to medications.  In terms of horse racing I have read that legal medications such as Lasix do give the racehorse an edge for various reasons.   I prefer that the best racehorse wins.  This is not always true when racehorses are routinely injected and given legal medications almost on a daily basis long term because these do give the racehorse an edge according to many knowledgeable people involved in racing and outside of racing.  And, just because the veterinarians say so doesn’t always mean that they are right.  Knowing that a racehorse is plied with legal medications takes away a lot of the excitement of the race for me; and, I would think the American public.  Why should American racehorses be plied with legal medications long term routinely when racehorses in Europe are not.  Does Frankel race full of legal medications?  And, I believe Frankel is the top racehorse in the world.  I surmise that Europeans do not use over the top legal medications on their racehorses during their racing careers as do the Americans.  Is all that legal medication really necessary??  I don’t just mean on race day because it seems all that legal medication is used routinely here throughout our race horses’ careers.  What is the sense of attending a horse race when the best horse does not have a chance to win because another race horse has the edge with legal medication!!  What fun is that!!

  • Tbhorseman

    Mr. Hancock’s horses race on meds.  The stallions he stands were on meds.      
    If he wants to do something he should start with his own horses..

  • Vconwicke

    reply to Tbhorseman:  Thank you for the information regarding Arthur Hancock.  I am familiar with Blame bred and raced by Claireborne Farm.  It is a valid viewpoint that you raise in terms of legal medication used on American racehorses.  I believe that Arthur Hancock has seen the negative effects of this from the Hancock family historically (in terms of genetics) having bred and raced horses for so many years.  I also think that perhaps if Arthur Hancock does use legal medications on his racehorses, he must do so because mostly everyone that races American thoroughbred horses here probably does; and, his racehorses would not be competitive without doing the same.  However, I feel, that Mr. Hancock’s view that today’s apparent fragility of American racehorses is in large part due to all the legal medication used on them going back five generations is most likely valid.  As Mr. Paulick points out, the use of legal medications on our racehorse is a difficult issue to deal but worthy of our attention.   I’m sure everone would love to see another Seattle Slew or Affirmed and perhaps that will happen someday.  But, there probably never will be another Secretariat which certainly is a tribute to Christopher Chenery who was Secretariat’s owner and breeder.  Over a thirty year period, Mr. Chenery developed the bloodlines that resulted in the greatest Triple Crown winner, Secretariat.  I wonder what Christopher Chenery would think about all of this???

  • Melissa

    What about nsaids being a cause of bleeding? It takes 7 days to get platelets back to normal function. Wouldn’t it make sense that treating horses with Nsaids increases bleeding tendency in the lungs?

  • Tbhorseman

    valid point not sure any major research has been done on the subject.

  • Tbhorseman

    You have around 80 to 100 horses in barns built in the 50 and 60’s makes it a valid issue.

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