On March 28, 2011, eight years ago today, former racing regulator Joe Gorajec reminds us in his InsideRacingRegs blog, the Association of Racing Commissioners International dropped a “bombshell” on the horse racing industry by calling for a five-year phaseout of race-day use of the anti-bleeder medication furosemide, or Lasix. InsideRacingRegs is published by Horse Racing Reform, an industry initiative of The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
Gorajec, longtime executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commissioner and one-time chairman of ARCI, quoted incoming ARCI chairman William Koester of Ohio, who said at the time: “Today over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them four hours before a race. That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it necessary to win a race. I'm sure the decision makers at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted, however this decision has forced our jurisdictions to juggle threshold levels as horsemen become more desperate to win races and has given horse racing a black eye.”
Outgoing ARCI chairman Dan Hartman of Colorado agreed that it was time “to bring North American racing polities in line with what is going on in other parts of the world like Europe and Hong Kong.”
The phaseout of race-day Lasix never happened.
Fast forwarding to the present, Gorajec writes that the ARCI gets another chance – a mulligan he calls it – to examine the Lasix issue as a result of the reforms proposed by The Stronach Group, owner of Santa Anita in California, where a spike in horse deaths prompted a public outcry. Though no one suggested Lasix was causing horses to suffer fatal injuries, the sport was put under the microscope and one of the biggest questions had to do with race-day medication treatments. The Stronach Group and Thoroughbred Owners of California agreed to eliminate the use of race-day Lasix beginning with foals of 2018.
“The RCI,” Gorajec writes, “through its model rule process, makes recommendations to racing commissions as to industry best practices. It has the ability to revisit the Lasix issue and revise its rules in a just a few months. That would make a nationwide policy in sync with the Santa Anita ban, which begins with 2-year-olds of 2020.
“The RCI has a shot at redemption. What will it do with its mulligan?
“Hole-in-one or triple bogey?”
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