Good luck with that!
In a tone deaf salvo on the ongoing debate over Lasix, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) has released what they call a “PUBLIC LETTER on Stance to NOT Eliminate the Choice to Administer Lasix on Raceday.” Lasix is the trade name for the powerful diuretic furosemide.
The letter, dated September 19, 2019, and posted on the HBPA’s website, reads in part:
“It is our belief that banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of our racehorses as well as the strength of our industry. Research also proves an increased number of horses will bleed significantly out of their nostrils, or into in their lungs, and an increased number will die.
“We are committed to reforms emphasizing transparency and developments that will address misunderstandings from those in the non-racing public as well as ensuring our horses are treated with the highest degree of care.”
So that’s it in a nutshell. Drugs or death. Wow! The general public is going to love that one.
Memo to the HBPA: the public isn’t stupid.
What is absent from the letter, of course, is the fact that the United States is one of the few countries that allows this drug to be administered to a horse on race day. In 2018, 96.4% of all 279,744 starters in the U.S. raced on race-day Lasix. Also absent, and contrary to the HPBA’s position, is that many of these other countries have equine fatality rates well below those in the U.S.
The letter appears to be a response of Lasix proponents to a “An Open Letter to the Thoroughbred Community” released by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI) on August 28, 2019. The CHRI letter encourages the passage of the federal legislation known as the Horseracing Integrity Act. This legislation would place the management of horse racing’s anti-doping program under the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). A provision of the current bill would ban the use of race-day medication, including Lasix. The CHRI open letter was signed by a number of trainers, including Hall of Famers Janet Elliot, Claude R. “Shug” McGaughey, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher, and Nick Zito.
The HBPA letter has 600 signatures from individuals and is encouraging prospective signees to visit their website.
This isn’t the first time scare tactics have been used by Lasix proponents.
On May 14, 2019, I wrote a piece published on the Paulick Report titled, “Gorajec: RCI’s Scare Tactics On Lasix Ban Disingenuous, Ill-Informed And Just Plain Shameful,” in which I criticized a release from the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI).
The release, issued on May 6, 2019, is titled, “Commissions Put on Alert for Animal Cruelty Resulting from Furosemide Ban.” It contains these passages:
“All racing regulatory commissions have been put on notice that the banning of voluntary race-day furosemide administrations by some US racetracks or lawmakers is expected to encourage a return to practices deemed cruel, inhumane, or potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of a horse.
“The ARCI also advised commissions that it is anticipated that some horsemen will return to a practice known as 'Drawing and Muzzling.' This practice, common in Europe where race-day furosemide treatments are also not permitted, denies a horse food and water for twenty-four to thirty six hours prior to a race.”
The California Horse Racing Board has already begun the rule-making process for a complete race-day Lasix ban with a phase-out implementation scheme. Many major racetracks, including all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated, the New York Racing Association Inc., and The Stronach Group, as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred), Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs, have signaled their intention to ban race-day Lasix for 2-year-olds next year and all stake races beginning in 2021. Taken together, these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018.
I believe that it is inevitable that the U.S. will ban the use of Lasix on race day. That ban will either be imposed top down and universally at the same time (if the Horseracing Integrity Act becomes law), or it will happen organically one state at a time on a patchwork basis.
Despite the widespread and growing support for a ban on race-day medication, the opposition has made it clear that they will drag out the process. It might take a couple years, or it might take a dozen or more. But happen it will.
A pertinent question to ask is how much more damage to the sport will occur when some regulators and horsemen promote what the rest of the civilized world does, and what will be happening here soon, as something that leads to starvation and death?