Put up or shut up

Unfortunately, the Lasix debate in the United States has become sort of an U.S. vs. Them, as in the rest of the world, but that’s the American way. Sort of “Oh, yeah? Says who?” Well, says me, for one. I have been an outspoken critic of race-day medication, and I got the chance to express my views again in the Daily Racing Form (thank you Ryan Goldberg, for contacting me). For those who have not been paying attention (which means you must be living in a deepest, darkest cave), most of the world prohibits the presence of any drug in a horse on race day. You can treat a horse that needs treatment, but it must be cleared from the system to race. In the United States, Saudi Arabia and some South American countries, horses are allowed to be treated with Lasix, a diuretic that has shown some evidence of reducing the incidence of bleeding into the lungs. Racing authorities that allow Lasix often allow a list of other “therapeutic” medications as well, including anti-inflammatory drugs, Lasix “adjuncts” and other steroidal respiratory remedies.

My quarrel with Lasix is simple: If a horse needs it to race, it shouldn’t be racing. I have several other issues with allowing its use: First off, it has a list of very unpleasant side-effects, which over repeated use break down the skeletal system of the horse and leave it more vulnerable to catastrophic breakdown than it already is. Secondly, racing jurisdictions that allow lasix tend to allow a laundry list of other medications. All of this leads to a shortened career and a host of health problems.

But I digress. In the best tradition of “put your money where your mouth is,” I offer a test case. At the Autumn Horses in Training sale in Newmarket, I saw a filly that seemed right for a client of mine. She was four years old, had not run at two or three but had placed a few times on the all-weather tracks this year. I was looking for a cheap horse to have some fun with this winter at Cagnes-sur-Mer and Deauville, and this filly fit the bill. Plus, she was French-bred, so she qualified for our lucrative premium system. Her trainer told me he galloped her on Lasix, even though it wasn’t allowed on race day, because he suspected she had a bleeding problem. Most trainers in Europe do not train this way, but I came to find out that this particular trainer galloped most of his horses with the drug. I bought the filly anyway, because she ticked all the right boxes and I thought it was worth the risk. She cost all of 1,500 Guineas, or just under 2,000 euros.

She is called Satwa Sunrise, and she arrived at the yard on Nov. 1. She is a lovely big filly, seems to be doing very well and I have no intention of galloping her using Lasix. As a matter of fact, she had her first speed work yesterday and showed no sign of trouble. I will write about her progress here, and I am fully prepared to fall flat on my face if this horse turns out to be an unmanageable bleeder. But I will be honest with you, and I’ll chronicle her road to the races, pitfalls and successes alike. For the moment, I plan to race her on Dec. 7 at Deauville. She isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I think she will do what we want her to do, which is run successfully in low-level claimers and handicap races. Watch this space…

4 Replies to “Put up or shut up”

  1. I thought that the part of the DRF article about where racetracks in the US are located was really a bingo sort of insight. Pollution! Kudos to the DRF for going into such depth. It is a shame that whole breeding lines are thriving on Lasix and distorting the sport. Also, check out the following:

    http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?ID=19152&source=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheHorse%2FNews+%28TheHorse.com+-+News%29&utm_content=My+Yahoo

    I would love to know the European statistics–or the French statistics.

  2. Great piece, as usual, Gina. All the very best with Satwa Sunrise. But don’t lose sight of the fact that American horsemen are always right 🙂

  3. Good luck with her, Gina. Quick questions:

    What (roughly) are the purses of the “low-level claimers and handicaps” you plan to run her in? Typically, how big are the fields in those winter races? Is the purse distribution though finishing 4th? 5th? What?

    [By the way, re: the above comment… however Lasix may be distorting the sport, the REAL distorter is steroids. Long story deleted.]

  4. Jon – She’ll run in races with total purses of 15,000 to 20,000 euros. Prize money goes down to 5th place; for example the claimer I plan to try her in will pay 7,500 to the winner, down to 750 for 5th. She is French, so she would get a premium of 48 percent on top of whatever she wins. The fields in those low-level races are usually full, which in Deauville is 16 and in Cagnes sur Mer is 16 or 18, depending on the course. There are usually many, many horses eliminated because the races are oversubscribed.

    I agree with you 100 percent on steroids, by the way. It’s wrong to pin everything on Lasix, but that is what opened Pandora’s box to all the other shit allowed. Let’s hope one day the American’s can close it!

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