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New York’s Ban on Lasix Tarnishes Triple Crown

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Lasix question keeps causing controversy, and horse racing seems to simply shrug its collective shoulders and moves on to the next race.

Belmont Park is preparing for the 122nd running of the Belmont Stakes June 9, and Summer Squall, the winner of Saturday’s Preakness, will not be there because the state of New York does not permit the use of Lasix, a diuretic that controls respiratory bleeding. Consequently, the Belmont, which should be breaking the Triple Crown tie between Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and Preakness winner Summer Squall, will have only Unbridled.

Summer Squall’s managing partner, Cot Campbell, is rejecting the Belmont, and the chance to run for a $1-million bonus that goes to the horse with the highest finishes in the Triple Crown races, because his colt needs Lasix to prevent bleeding. Summer Squall was able to run on Lasix in the Kentucky Derby--in which he finished second--and in the Preakness.

Laz Barrera, who trains Mister Frisky, the eighth-place finisher in the Derby and a distant third in the Preakness, says the best bet in the Belmont is that Unbridled, who also usually runs with Lasix, will bleed.

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“A mile and a half (the Belmont distance)? That horse will bleed for sure,” Barrera said.

By virtue of his Derby victory and second-place finish in the Preakness, Unbridled can earn the $1-million bonus simply by completing the course in the Belmont. Besides Mister Frisky, the only other horse expected to run in all three races is Land Rush, who was seventh in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness.

Carl Nafzger, who trains Unbridled, says he can overcome his colt’s potential bleeding by putting him on a strict diet that includes potassium, which will prevent the muscle soreness normally associated with dehydration.

“I don’t care what they do,” trainer Wayne Lukas said Sunday, “but I just wish that at this level--the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup races--the medication rules were the same all the way through.”

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The Breeders’ Cup, seven races worth $10 million, will be held at Belmont Park this year.

Lukas ran two horses in the Preakness, Land Rush and seventh-place Kentucky Jazz, and will run Land Rush in the Belmont.

“If racing could get the right person--someone like (former NFL commissioner) Pete Rozelle or (NBA Commissioner) David Stern--then it ought to have someone like that running the whole thing,” Lukas said. “The way it is now, you can’t get two people in racing to meet on the same day. They have these conventions, discuss the problems, then they go home and don’t do anything about them, and then they come back four months later to discuss them again.”

The purpose of the Triple Crown bonus point system, when it began four years ago, was to encourage trainers to run their horses through the series.

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“I shouldn’t be knocking the bonus,” Lukas said, “because it’s money out there to be won that we didn’t have before, but it hasn’t worked and hasn’t done anything to keep horses in or out of the races. Now we’ve got a situation in the Belmont where a horse (Unbridled) can run the race in 18 minutes and 22 seconds and still earn $1 million. All he has to do is beat the water truck by a neck.”

Lukas said that a better idea would be to pro-rate the bonus as extra purse money for the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

Only three of the nine Preakness horses--Unbridled, Mister Frisky and Land Rush--are expected to run in the Belmont. They will be joined by possibly six others--Video Ranger, fourth in the Derby; Killer Diller, sixth in the Derby; Thirty Six Red, ninth in the Derby; Real Cash, 11th in the Derby; Dotsero, winner of the Illinois Derby; and Go and Go, winner of the Laurel Futurity last year and European-raced this season.

Video Ranger, Killer Diller and Real Cash will run in the Jersey Derby at Garden State Park a week from today before their trainers make a decision about the Belmont. Neil Howard, the trainer of Summer Squall, talked Sunday morning at Pimlico as though he’s almost glad his colt won’t be there.

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“They had to use up some of the horse to move quicker with him in the Preakness,” Howard said. “Unbridled will be tough in the Belmont. That mile and a half should do wonders for him.”


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