John Ed Anthony: ‘Show Me How Abundant Use Of Medication Has Improved Racing Or Its Public Image’

by | 05.16.2019 | 4:53pm
John Ed Anthony, left, on the Preakness victory stand after Pine Bluff's win in 1992. He is joined by trainer Tom Bohannan and jockey Chris McCarron

John Ed Anthony is no stranger to the Preakness Stakes. His Loblolly Stable had back-to-back wins in the Grade 1 Preakness in 1992 and '93 with Pine Bluff and
Prairie Bayou, respectively.

Anthony is no stranger to champion racehorses either, having campaigned three Eclipse Award winners in Temperence Hill (1980 champion 3-year-old male), Vanlandingham (1985 champion older male) and Prarie Bayou (1993 champion 3-year-old male). The stable's first nationally prominent runner was Cox's Ridge, who won important handicaps in 1977 and 1978, including the prestigious G1 Metropolitan Mile Handicap

In 1995, Anthony formed Shortleaf Stable, which currently keeps 15-20 head in training and 20 broodmares located in Arkansas and Kentucky.

Anthony is a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and is a former member of the Breeders' Cup Board and American Graded Stakes Committee.

He shared the following comments in a recent statement to the Water Hay Oats Alliance:

“Over the last few weeks I have read with interest the articles about prominent tracks proposing new rules that would ban the use of some race day medications,” Anthony said. “I applaud the effort. In fact, I have long believed that racing without race day medication should be the rule for racing. The Horseracing Integrity Act would accomplish that.

“Few have been in racing as long as I have. Beginning in 1973 as Loblolly Stable we raced across the U.S. but primarily at Oaklawn Park and tracks in New York. I have always been proud of having raced in a drug free environment for most of Loblolly's successful years.

“During those years, without Lasix or Bute, we had three champions, several near champions, and over 100 stakes winners in Cox's Ridge, Temperence Hill, Vanlandingham, Pine Circle, Demons Begone, Pine Bluff and Prairie Bayou; all Grade 1 winners, plus countless others raced clean.

“I blame the invention of the fiber optic scope for the explosion of Lasix use. With it vets could always find some blood after a race, normal in Thoroughbreds, usually harmless but still within the rules.

“Now racing as Shortleaf, after a hiatus of sorts from about 1995, we got serious again in 2010. We quickly found how different racing has become during that interval and have struggled to adjust to it. We race all our 2 year olds without Lasix, believing that it's harmful to developing young stock to have their vital fluids drained routinely, older horses too if they show no need. Still, since we're the exception, we spot the competition 15+ pounds in each race. Knowing the disadvantage, most trainers have to be forced not to use it.

“The Grayson Foundation has found, I believe, that the percentage of true bleeders in the breed is in single digits. In 'the good old days' the remedy for a horse who was bleeding was to give it some time off for healing, and it worked. I also note that now horses run much less often than in the past. During the Lasix-free era, a normal pattern for a healthy horse was to run every two weeks, or less. I have PP's in hand from those days proving this fact. As an example, after a knee chip at 2, Cox's Ridge raced for 14 weeks in the fall of 1977 at 3 when he won eight of nine starts in the East, seven stakes, four in New York with intervals of 15, 12,19, 15, 7, 14, 14 and 12 days between starts. Then after a short vacation and a move to Oaklawn Park, he won 3-of-3, two of them stakes, with intervals of eight and 13 days before returning to New York to win the G1 Metropolitan with 15 days rest. Temperence Hill won the Belmont in his third start inside two weeks. Conquistador Cielo (owned by Henryk de Kwiatkowski) won the G1 Met Mile for Woody (Stephens) on a Monday and the G1 Belmont five days later. All normal racing patterns before the liberal use of Lasix. I could go on and on with this.

“Now trainers want 6+ weeks between starts in order to 'recover' from Lasix use.. I doubt the jugs administered just after running can restore what's been taken from these athletes that is unknown to science.

“It's clear to me that since the era of limited race day meds to today's overuse of the same, much has changed and none of it is good for owners, horses or racing,” Anthony concluded. “You'll have to show me how the abundant use of medication has improved either racing or its public image.”

The Horseracing Integrity Act (HR1754), led by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY), would create a uniform standard for drug rules and testing through a national program overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a private, non-governmental entity. The need for this legislation is urgent. The future of horse racing hangs in the balance of its enactment.

The Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) is a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing. The appointment of an independent anti-doping program run by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will resolve the problem of widespread drug use in American racing and put U.S. racing jurisdictions in step with international standards.

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