Archives for March 2013

MORE ON THERAPEUTIC MEDICATION IN HORSE RACING

Item 1: Vivien Malloy, owner of Edition Farm in New York, in an interview with Eclipse Award-winning writer Claire Novak of the Blood-Horse, made some intriguing comments pertaining to her philosophy of breeding racehorses: “I don’t breed for speed. I’ve always believed in trying to breed as well as I could for stamina and soundness—not plodders, but [a racehorse] with stamina who does have that wonderful turn of foot when they need it. The other thing I’ve believed in for a long time is trying to go back to Europe or South America and get bloodlines that have not raced on medication. That’s very important to me, and it seems all the world is turning in that direction now… “

Item 2: The U. S. Polo Association has strict rules on the use and administration of therapeutic medication. Its publication titled USPA Polo Pony Welfare Guidelines states that 250 mg. or less of furosemide (a diuretic) and 800 mg. of dantrolene (a muscle relaxant) may be administered at least three hours prior to competition.

Interestingly, the majority of the mounts used in polo are Thoroughbred horses (not ponies), so exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhaging appears to plague the polo sport as well as horse racing (furosemide is also sometimes used in barrel racing).

The USPA also mandates that “Any drug administered at least 12 hours prior to the competition for a medically and scientifically valid therapeutic purpose must (1) be administered by a Veterinarian licensed in the specific state…wherein the USPA event occurs; and (2) requires that a USPA Medication Report Form 1 be submitted by the owner or his or her representative to explain the presence of the medication that may later appear on a Drug Test Screen.”

(As an aside, I recently visited the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame in Wellington, Florida. The museum building is immaculately maintained and the collection of silver trophies and exhibits is impressive. Several of the Hall of Fame inductees had or have ties to Thoroughbred racing, including currently John Oxley, whose Monarchos won the 2001 Kentucky Derby. Admission to the museum is free though one can leave a donation.)

Item 3: According to Dr. George Maylin, director of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board’s Equine Drug Testing Program at Morrisville State College: “Furosemide does not interfere with drug detection, provided that it is administered at least four hours prior to racing and within an intravenous dose range of 250 to 500 mgs. New, ultra-sensitive instrumental testing, combined with the regulatory control outlined above, precludes the possibility of furosemide interference with drug testing.”

Item 4: Reputable medical websites that do not have a point of view, but rather present scientifically documented information, identify a lengthy list of side-effects of furosemide in both humans and animals. The side effects are usually not discussed in detail in the ongoing controversy over furosemide use in racehorses.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

THE BREEDERS’ CUP RETREAT ON FUROSEMIDE

Race-day use of furosemide is the most divisive American horse-racing issue in memory. It has torn the industry apart. Experts and friends can be found on both sides of the subject and strong arguments can be marshaled for and against the use of furosemide on race-day. The debate has gotten so intense that it has turned nasty and personal at times, with people denigrating one another rather than focusing on the facts of the argument at hand and a possible compromise.

A recent vote by The Breeders’ Cup board reflected this divided opinion. In a close vote, the board agreed to continue the ban on furosemide in 2-year-old races in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup. In another split vote, the board reversed the previously planned ban on the use of furosemide in all the 2013 races.

It is important to consider that the representatives on the Breeders’ Cup board from Darley Stud (Oliver Tait) and Coolmore (Clem Murphy) voted to prohibit furosemide across the board. In the wake of the decision to allow furosemide in all of the races except for the 2-year-olds, the Darley representative almost immediately resigned from the board. This is a significant event because Darley and Coolmore have for years been the leading buyers of yearlings at American auctions and have, in fact, propped up the industry during hard times.

Mr. Tait, Darley’s Chief Operating Officer, lamented the Breeders’ Cup vote: “Progress is being made in all sports around the world in relation to drugs…This is not progress.”

Were these major players to partially or fully withdraw their support from the Breeders’ Cup, or more significantly, from the American bloodstock market, the American bloodstock industry would be hurt in a monumental way. It says a lot when the world’s two most prominent racehorse owners manifestly want a furosemide-free Breeders’ Cup and at least one of them is adamant.

The American racing industry had better tread lightly with these folks.

The Darley connections obviously believe strongly in a no-race-day-furosemide policy, as evidenced not only by the resignation of Mr. Tait from the Breeders’ Cup board but also by the upcoming Dubai World Cup races, in which no furosemide will be permitted.

As a bizarre sidebar to the controversy, a racehorse owner has reportedly threatened to sue the Breeders’ Cup board for supposedly violating its fiduciary duty to do what is in the best interests of horse racing. It would be unique to hear his lawyer explaining to a court why keeping drugs in American horse racing’s championship day is in the sport’s best interests. Outlawing drugs would be a more logical line of reasoning. Moreover, unless the owner has a major stallion station, he would not have the legal standing to bring the law suit.

In my view, what is likely to eventually emerge in the unfortunate furosemide controversy is a grand bargain—a two-tiered system, wherein all graded stakes are run drug-free and the rest of the races permit furosemide. The stakes races generally will produce sought-after high-end breeding stock , who will have shown their ability to compete without furosemide. At the same time, less gifted allowance horses and workaday claimers will be able to run on furosemide and thus have help with exercise-induced pulmonary bleeding. Neither side to the furosemide issue would be happy with such a grand bargain, but that is the nature of compromise.

Finally, it is understandable that the members of the Breeders’ Cup board are in a difficult no-win situation. Most of them do business with people who feel strongly about furosemide, one way or the other. It is not easy to take on divisive topics.

Copyright ©2013 Horse Racing Business

THE GRAND NATIONAL STEEPLECHASE

Few horse races have the storied tradition of the Grand National, held at the Aintree Race Course, located seven miles from the center of Liverpool, England. The steeplechase is the most famous race of its kind in the world and its global television audience is in the hundreds of millions from some140 countries.

Opening Day at Aintree, for 2013, is on Thursday, April 4, with Ladies’ Day on April 5, and Grand National Day on April 6. Seven competitive races will be held on each card. The three days of racing, social events, and entertainment draw royalty, celebrities, politicians, and people from all walks of life. Indeed, it is a highlight of the British sporting and social calendar.

The Grand National is a 4 ½ mile marathon over 30 fences, some of which have descriptive and colorful names like Becher’s Brook, Canal Turn, and the Chair. Except for the water jump, all of the fences are covered with spruce, making Aintree unique in British National Hunt racing. The race typically draws a contingent of 40 horses.

The field is sent on its way at approximately 4:15 PM, when the starter releases a tape, prompting the crowd, quiet with anticipation, to erupt into an ovation. By the time the leaders reach the last jump, the contenders are sorted out and the result is often decided in the 465 grueling yards to the finish line.

In 1956, the leader, Devon Loch, collapsed 50 years from the wire and lost a golden chance for racing immortality. The horse (who recovered) was owned by the Queen Mother and ridden by Dick Francis, who later became a bestselling writer of mysteries within a horse racing theme.

Neptune Colognes eked out a win in the 2012 Grand National by the smallest margin in the long history of the race—by a nose over Sunnyhillboy. The grey Neptune Collonges came on in the last yards of the race to catch Sunnyhillboy, literally right at the wire, in a pulsating drive in which the outcome had to be confirmed by a photo. Jockey Katie Walsh rode Seabass to third place, the best showing ever by a female rider in the Grand National.

Neptune Collonges was ridden by Daryl Jacob, trained by Paul Nicholls, and owned by John Hales. Nicholls is the outstanding National Hunt trainer of his era, and has been the leading trainer seven times. He previously trained Kauto Star, one of the very best chasers of all time.

Grand National betting is hugely popular. The bulk of the estimated £500 million wagered at Aintree is placed on the Grand National itself. The field of 40 horses puts a premium on skill and racing luck, which attracts bettors because of the potential payoffs. In fact, the Grand National has proved time and again that anything can happen over 4 ½ miles and 30 fences.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business