Racing without Lasix: Juveniles take center stage

Of the approximate 4% of racehorses in the U.S. that race without the diuretic furosemide (Lasix), a majority are 2-year-olds.

The 2-year-old season begins early April with racing at Keeneland, Gulfstream Park, and Turf Paradise. For the record, the first non-Lasix winning juvenile this year, however, was on March 30 at Sunland Park in New Mexico, outside El Paso, Texas. The horse, Using Nitro, is trained by Everardo Hernandez.

While most of the 2-year-olds won’t begin racing until later in the summer or in the fall, I thought it would be interesting to see what an early leaderboard looks like. The criterion for this list is having a minimum of six 2-year-olds placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd without Lasix.

Name                                    Starts    Wins        2nd         3rd           Win %                   WPS %

Rivelli, Larry                          12           4             3              1              33.3                        66.7

Short, Tommy                      24           4              2              0              16.6                        25.0

Hamm, Timothy                  25           4              4             5               16.0                        52.0

Ness, Jamie                          11           3              4              3              27.3                        91.0

Clement, Christophe         11           3              4              2              27.3                        81.1

Connelly, Teresa                 30            1              6              5               3.0                         40.0

 

The most significant training accomplishment of racing without Lasix, perhaps, was for a trainer who didn’t step foot in the winners’ circle. Most any trainer would take pride in having a stakes-placed horse at Saratoga. Christophe Clement had three such horses in one week, all 2-year-olds, none on Lasix.

It began on July 13, with Mr. Clement saddling a More than Ready colt, Tomato Bill, to a second-place finish in the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (G3). On July 17, a Mr. Clement-trained Afleet Alex colt, Listentoyourheart, came up a nose short running second in the Rick Violette Stakes for New York-breds. The next day, in another New York-bred stakes, this one for fillies named the Stillwater Stakes, Mr. Clement saddled Jewel of Arabia to a 3rd place finish.

Double Oddity at Saratoga

It is unusual to have a majority of horses in any race running without Lasix. It is also unusual to have a trainer run 1-2 without Lasix. Both happened last month at Saratoga – in the same race.

On July 18, a Maiden Special Weight race for 2-year-olds attracted six horses, four of which raced without Lasix. A Kenny McPeek tandem of January Won and Beyond Gone finished first and second. Edward Barker trained the 3rd place finisher (also without Lasix), completing a Lasix-free trifecta.

What’s with Del Mar?

Trainers simply don’t race many horses at Del Mar without Lasix. As I reported last month in my “Racing without Lasix” series, last year only 30 horses started at the SoCal oval’s summer race meet without Lasix (only one winner). Contrast that with Saratoga Race Course where there were 152 starts and 11 wins from horses racing without Lasix.

Through July 31, only two 2-year-olds started at the beachside oval without Lasix.

Props for Mandella

There is one bright spot for drug-free racing at Del Mar. It’s the Wickerr Stakes winner Bombard trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella. A 2001 inductee into Horse Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, Richard Mandella shows us that success off Lasix is not necessarily limited to 2-year-old racing.

Mr. Mandella has nursed the lightly raced War Front 6-year-old gelding Bombard to an enviable lifetime record of 12-5-3-2 with earnings of $265,371, with each of the five wins coming without the administration of race-day Lasix, and all of the 12 lifetime starts taking place at Santa Anita and Del Mar.

Last June Bombard scored a half-length win in the Siren Lure Stakes at Santa Anita on the 6 1/2 furlongs downhill turf course. On July 21, 2019, Bombard prevailed by a half-length in the 1-mile Wickerr Stakes on the turf. The gelding was the only horse in either stakes to race without the aid of race-day Lasix.

Mr. Mandella is no stranger to racing without race-day Lasix. Last year he scored wins in both allowance and maiden special weight races off Lasix. Although his most impressive performance off Lasix last year was likely the 2nd place finish of Courteous in the Jimmy Durante Stakes (G 2). On November 24, 2018, at Del Mar, the 2-year-old Midnight Lute filly led throughout at 28-1 only to be overtaken in mid-stretch. She was the only filly in the 12-horse field without race-day medication.

The stars are aligning for all 2-year-old races to be Lasix-free in California in 2020.

Will some SoCal trainers now begin to experiment easing off race-day medication? If so, is there a better trainer to emulate than Mr. Mandella?

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