The deep divide inside the Kentucky horse industry continues over the use of an anti-bleeding drug commonly known by its brand name, Lasix. It pitted horse racing’s public image against what’s best for the horse during meetings Wednesday by two industry oversight panels.
More than 90 percent of the thoroughbreds that run in Kentucky are on Lasix, which helps prevent them from bleeding through the nose. Last month the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission deadlocked 7-7 on a proposal to ban use of the drug. An altered, phased in approach was brought to the panel Wednesday, but no vote was taken.
A motion to block any type of ban for a year was rejected 7-4. The panel is in charge of regulating horse racing in Kentucky.
One of the commission’s advisory panels, the Equine Drug Research Council, voted 4-3 Wednesday against the phased in ban. The proposal was to ban race day use of Lasix on horses running in graded stakes races. The ban would start with two year olds in 2013 and eventually include all stakes races by 2015.
The commission is still planning a “town hall” type meeting in Frankfort on the issue in early June. "I think Kentucky has an opportunity to be a leader here." Robert Beck Jr., chairman, said.
"I think it's a big mistake,” Foster Northrop, a veterinarian, who is a member of the commission, said. He said Lasix is necessary as a
John Ward, a former Derby winning trainer, who is now executive director of the commission, admitted it was a “very emotional” issue inside the industry, comparing it to the abortion, smoking and gun control issues in the general population.
At the Equine Drug Research Council meeting member and state senator, Damon Thayer, forced a vote on the issue. He ended up on the losing side.
He warned the industry is losing “in the court of public perception” and is under threat of having the federal government “take this sport over.”
Thayer called the use of Lasix “a significant perception problem” which he claims is “starting to reach critical mass.”
Horseman Rick Hiles, also on the council, said banning the use of Lasix would be “suicide” for the racing industry in Kentucky because trainers and owners would take their horses to other states.