The pros and cons about Lasix, the controversial diuretic used to treat horses that bleed, will not be affected by today’s running of the Goodwood Handicap, but the winner of the 1 1/8-mile race at Santa Anita figures to be either a horse that has been helped by the medication or one that can’t handle it.
Cutlass Reality and Ferdinand represent opposite ends of the dispute over Lasix, the brand name for the furosemide commonly given to horses that hemorrhage from the lungs, frequently because of the stress caused by running. In New York, however, which bans all medication, horses are not allowed to race with Lasix in their systems.
Cutlass Reality apparently never bled when he campaigned in New York and at other Eastern tracks. For 4 years, the 6-year-old chestnut couldn’t beat the better horses back there, and under new ownership and with new trainers he came to California this spring with a record of only 7 wins in 54 races.
On May 1, however, at Golden Gate Fields, Cutlass Reality bled while running fourth in a stake and has been given Lasix ever since. Coincidentally or not, he has become one of the top handicap horses in the country. With Lasix, Cutlass Reality has 5 wins and a second in his last 7 starts, including 2 victories over Ferdinand and 1 over Alysheba while winning the Californian and the Hollywood Gold Cup in June.
Ferdinand, winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby and the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as ’87 horse of the year, bled in a workout early this year and was given Lasix. He was second 3 straight times, losing twice to Alysheba by less than a length in the Santa Anita and San Bernardino handicaps.
But then, at Hollywood Park, Ferdinand’s year soured. He finished last in the 4-horse Californian, running 9 lengths behind Cutlass Reality. He was third in the Hollywood Gold Cup, 12 lengths behind winning Cutlass Reality.
Trainer Charlie Whittingham decided on a rest for Ferdinand, and later figured that Lasix wasn’t doing the 5-year-old chestnut any good. “It was making him loggy,” Whittingham said, and Ferdinand will run without the medication in the Goodwood.
Racing experts concede that they still have work ahead, to better understand bleeding and the effect of Lasix.
“Lasix, like most medications, has its drawbacks,” said Marilyn Macvey, a physician who breeds and races horses in Maryland. “There is no evidence that Lasix has any effect on blood clotting.
“The overall effect of Lasix is to decrease the work of the heart. The diuretic effect could be (harmful) by causing loss of fluid and increased blood viscosity, making dehydration and heat stress more likely. All the factors are not known, and horses still bleed.”
When the Breeders’ Cup was held at Aqueduct in 1985, not being able to use Lasix was a concern for many trainers. This year, the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, which has a liberal medication policy that includes the use of Lasix.
Both Cutlass Reality and Ferdinand will have to run strongly today to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5.
Cutlass Reality has had foot problems recently. He suffered burned heels while running second as the odds-on favorite in the Budweiser Gold Cup at Hawthorne in his last start, and a bruised foot forced him out of a stake at the Meadowlands in what trainer Craig Lewis had planned as his Breeders’ Cup warm-up. Since the horse is not nominated for the Breeders’ Cup, it would cost $360,000 to supplement him into the $3-million Classic--with a chance to win $1.35 million--and Cutlass Reality’s owners wouldn’t want to risk that outlay if they can’t be sure that the horse has regained his earlier form.
Whittingham, on the other hand, won’t send Ferdinand to Churchill Downs just because he won the Derby there 2 years ago. “We know he loves the track back there,” Whittingham said. “He trained super on it before he ran super on it, but if it doesn’t look like he’s got a chance to win, there’d be no use running him in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Ferdinand’s program last year, leading to his win by a nose over Alysheba in the Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park, bears strong resemblance to this year’s. A year ago, Ferdinand couldn’t win in two early tries at Hollywood Park, including his first fourth-place finish in the Californian, but the difference is that he won the Gold Cup and a minor stake at Del Mar before coming to the Goodwood.
He won the Goodwood as well, by a length under 127 pounds on a muddy track. Today, under high weight of 125 pounds--a pound more than Cutlass Reality--he doesn’t need a win, but at the least he must earn the chance for a curtain call in Kentucky.
Horse Racing Notes
With no progress Friday in the New York Jockey’s strike against horse owners, Santa Anita jockeys Laffit Pincay and Chris McCarron are not expected to ride today in the $500,000 New York Racing Assn. Mile at Aqueduct. The jockeys have been out since Wednesday, mainly in a dispute over how much pay they deserve for riding horses that finish second and third. Pincay was scheduled to ride Forty Niner, the favorite, today and McCarron is the regular rider of Precisionist.
Forty Niner’s trainer, Woody Stephens, said that he would use Billy Fox, a 22-year-old jockey who has had 6 winners in the 3 days that replacement riders have been working at Aqueduct.
“Seth Hancock (the owner of Forty Niner) said that if Laffit doesn’t ride his horse Saturday, he’ll never ride him again,” Stephens said Friday night. “At his age, why would Laffit worry about other jockeys? I can’t believe he’s so weak that he would give in to what other jockeys want him to do. I can’t believe that, considering all the success he’s had with my horses through the years, that he’d be weak enough to get off this one now. If Fox rides this horse good Saturday, we might use him again in the Breeders’ Cup, or we could use Julie Krone, who’s also had good luck riding this horse.”
Krone is riding today at Laurel, where Sunshine Forever, under Angel Cordero, is favored to win Sunday’s Budweiser International. . . . On Friday at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., Pincay finished off the board with High Brite, the 9-5 favorite in the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup. Calestoga won the race on a sloppy track. . . . A sloppy track is also likely today at Aqueduct, with Mawsuff, Talinum, Parlay Me and Claramount also entered against Forty Niner and Precisionist.
Besides the one with Cutlass Reality, trainer Craig Lewis has another Breeders’ Cup decision. Music Merci, a candidate for the Juvenile at Churchill Downs, bled while finishing far back in the recent Norfolk at Santa Anita and a workout today will determine his status.