In less than 10 months, the Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita for its world championships, and trainer John Sadler said this past weekend there will be an attempt to reverse the decision to ban the anti-bleeding medication lasix from all horses running in the event.
“Our main focus in the first half of the year is to try to get it rescinded,” said Sadler, who is a member of the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. “There’s a lot of working going on behind the scenes. I think they’re going to find it’s a very unpopular decision, and frankly, they’ll have a tough time filling some of their races.
“People aren’t going to ship, put up a lot of money to run and then not be able to run without lasix. Where are you going to get the horses for the dirt? They’re not coming from Europe. They’re going to have to think it through.”
In July of 2011, the Breeders’ Cup board voted to ban race-day lasix from five races involving 2-year-olds at last year’s Breeders’ Cup. This year, on Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita, all horses running in the 15 Breeders’ Cup races will be barred from using the diuretic that trainers believe helps prevent bleeding in the lungs, a common problem for thoroughbreds. It will be the first Breeders’ Cup since 1990 in New York with a total lasix ban.
Despite grumbling from trainers and horsemen, Craig Fravel, president of the Breeders’ Cup, said in an email, “There has been no change in the policy.”
Fravel said last November, “Every other major championship race around the world outside of Canada and the United States is under a race-day medication ban.”
Lasix is prohibited on race days in Europe.
Ron Ellis, another Southern California-based trainer, said he believes the general public and many owners still haven’t been educated about the coming Breeders’ Cup lasix ban.
“A majority of owners don’t want to ban lasix,” he said. “Lasix is a diuretic that lowers blood pressure. They’re very intense animals. The calmer they are, the better they will be. I don’t think it’s right to have these animal bleeding in their lungs. We’re going to try to educate the people who want it done.”
Even if the lasix ban remains for the Breeders’ Cup, Ellis and Sadler said they won’t stop using lasix for horses that could be candidates to run in the Breeders’ Cup races.
Another trainer, Mike Puype, said it’s “business as usual” and too early to start plotting a plan for the Breeders’ Cup. “You’re sitting nine, 10 months away,” he said. “There’s no guarantee horses will be there.”
Puype said he stays out of the politics involved in the pro- and anti-lasix debate but added, “I don’t like the idea they’re taking it away. It’s a very useful drug. I think removal in a lot of things is good, but that’s not one of them.”