race-day medications in thoroughbreds

A coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations announced April 18 a new initiative committed to phasing out the use of furosemide (marketed as Salix and often called Lasix) beginning in 2020 and eliminating the drug’s use in stakes races held at their racetracks beginning in 2021.

Veterinarians prescribe furosemide to prevent or reduce the effects of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH, bleeding into the lungs or out the nose). Current U.S. rules permit veterinarians to administer it a few hours before a horse races, however international drug rules prohibit race-day furosemide administration in all horses.

Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), and The Stronach Group, as well as Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Keeneland, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (for Thoroughbreds), Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs. Taken together these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018. The coalition tracks will work diligently with their respective horsemen’s associations and racing commissions towards implementing this effort.

Under the new program, beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, 2-year old horses would not be allowed to be treated with furosemide within 24 hours of a race. Beginning in 2021, the same prohibition would extend to all horses participating in any stakes race at coalition tracks. Accordingly, races in the 2021 Triple Crown would all be run under the new rules regarding race-day medications in Thoroughbreds.

Breeders’ Cup Limited, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association (TOBA), TOBA’s American Graded Stakes Committee, and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association have also joined the coalition in support of this new policy.

“This is a progressive and unified approach to the subject of race day medication, achieving consistency with international standards for young horses and those that form the foundations of our breeding stock,” said David O’Rourke, NYRA president and chief executive officer.

Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of The Stronach Group, added, “This is a huge moment that signals a collective move to evolve this legacy sport. While there is still more work to be done, these reforms are a good start. This industry coalition has taken an important step forward toward a uniform policy and we are committed to focusing our attention and resources on how to make further improvements that directly prioritize equine health and safety..”

Bill Carstanjen, CDI chief executive officer, said, “Over the past several years, we have met with numerous stakeholders to drive action on many of our sport’s central issues. This is a significant and meaningful step to further harmonize American racing with international standards. We will continue to work with other stakeholders, including our horsemen and regulatory agencies, to fully implement this and other important reforms.”

Keeneland president and chief executive officer Bill Thomason, added, “This new program is an essential step as we look toward the long-term sustainability of U.S.-breds on the national and international stages. Protecting the integrity of our sport is core to our mission and is our collective responsibility to the industry.”

The coalition of racing organizations invite other North American race tracks to join this effort and adopt the same policies. Participating tracks include Aqueduct Racetrack, Arlington International Racecourse, Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos (for Thoroughbreds), Oaklawn Park, Pimlico, Presque Isle Downs, Saratoga Race Course, and Tampa Bay Downs. Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita Park will continue to run under the previously announced limitations to race-day medications in Thoroughbreds.