To use Lasix as a preventative on every single horse is just insane.
— Stacy Hendry
I came across Stacy Lane Hendry’s name for the first time as I was doing research for articles to write about racing without Lasix. In my mid-year report, Racing without Lasix: Mid-year leaders and Del Mar v. Saratoga, Mr. Hendry was listed as the second leading trainer in the nation without Lasix with six Lasix-free wins.
How could a trainer with a relatively small stable (he has started 13 different horses through Labor Day) be among the leaders in the nation?
Unlike some trainers who race many of their 2-year-olds off Lasix only to put them on Lasix when their 3-year-old campaign begins, Mr. Hendry races all his horse, with few exceptions, off Lasix regardless of age.
Mr. Hendry’s recent entry into training Thoroughbreds belies his historical root and old-time training methods. According to Equibase records, Mr. Hendry’s first win as a trainer was in 2014 and 2018 was the first time he reached the 50-start milepost in a year.
This year his success racing horses without Lasix is on full display. Through Labor Day, Mr. Hendry has 50 starts with 11 wins, six seconds and four third-place finishes for a 22 % win percentage and 42% in the money. All but one of his 11 wins have come without race-day Lasix. He raced this past winter at Tampa Bay Downs and has headquartered his stable this summer at Delaware Park.
Half of Mr. Hendry’s 10 wins without Lasix this year have been accomplished by a pair of 5-year-old mares, Heather Hills (Shackleford) and Steelin Magnolias (City Place). Steelin Magnolias’ last out was a track-record performance at about seven and one half furlongs on the turf at Delaware Park on August 28, 2019, in a starter allowance.
Mr. Hendry’s father, Milton Hendry, was a former Quarter Horse jockey who trained for Fred Hooper for over a dozen years prior to Mr. Hooper’s death in 2000. Milton was the head trainer on the Hooper farm in Ocala, Florida, and was responsible for preparing horses to ship to trainers at the country’s top racetracks. Stacy Hendry lived in the manager’s house on the farm throughout his high school years.
During Milton Hendry’s riding days, he took Lasix often in order to make weight. “He hated Lasix,” said Stacy of his father.
“In my opinion, there is not an athlete in the world that you can dehydrate and have a better athlete. Especially over a period of time. So, we just started studying the old trainers, the Burches and a lot of the Europeans guys that still break and train horses the way Thoroughbreds are supposed to. In my opinion, you are better off without Lasix than with it, if you do it right,” said Mr. Hendry.
The Burches whom Mr. Hendry studied were none other than the only three-generation trainer trio inducted into horse racing’s hall of fame, consisting of William (grandfather), Preston (father), and Elliot (son).
“Most vets tell you that almost every horse bleeds, and I just don’t believe that. I don’t believe that at all. Usually if I have a horse that doesn’t finish strong and pass other horses, I’ll get it scoped. And I’ve only had two in all my starts that I’ve ever been told that bled. The first one was here at Delaware Park, they told me it was a four out of five and I had to put it on Lasix. Her next start was without Lasix at Tampa, she won and got claimed,” said Mr. Hendry.
Mr. Hendry believes that an influx of Quarter Horse training methods and the popularity of 2-year-olds-in-training sales has led to an over emphasis on speed, which has resulted in an overutilization of Lasix. He has firsthand experience in consigning 2-year-olds while operating Hendry Training Stables since 20007.
Mr. Hendry said, “I grew tired of taking expensive yearlings bred to go two turns and three or four months later laying them on the fence beating them with a stick to see how fast they can go an eighth of a mile. That’s just not how you develop Thoroughbreds; that’s a Quarter Horse mentality pin hookers are forced into to attract buyers. The idea of the 2-year-old sale is great but what we have allowed it to morph into is all about speed and clock as opposed to pedigree and does the horse show signs of developing into that big pedigree. All that speed takes the class right out of a good majority of them and creates a nervous run off horse probably on the road to bleeding and a life of running half dehydrated due to the need of Lasix.
“The horse that Lasix helps is one that is running farther than it is fit, physically or mentally to go. If all you ever do is work your horse as hard as it can go and then you let it shut its engine down and then you try to run it a mile, more than likely that horse is going to bleed and Lasix will help that horse. But you are also dehydrating that horse and over time making the bone brittle.
“In my opinion you are just better off to make sure your horse is fit to run farther that what you are asking it to run. I don’t do a lot of short breezes. Most of my breezes start at the finish line and end at the finish line. They’re a mile. The (speed) will vary but they always learn, mentally and physically, to go around two turns. They expect that when they come out of the gates. Even if they are only running six furlongs. They’re fit enough to go a mile or more. If I put that horse on Lasix, in my opinion, it is going to back him up as opposed to making him better.”
As the industry grapples with the Lasix issue — to ban or not to ban — one might take a backward glance at old-school training regimes such as Mr. Hendry’s for guidance and inspiration.