Two significant developments in the past several weeks should benefit Thoroughbred horse racing and are worthy of commendation.

The first initiative is explained in a press release by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association dated April 20, 2011:

“The Breeders’ Cup has conducted a major overhaul of its ‘Challenge’ series that guarantees winners of designated stakes races berths in one of the 14 races of its annual year-end event, dropping 24 races from last year’s schedule and adding 27. As part of the revamping, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for any horse who wins a Challenge race, provided the horse has been nominated. Breeders’ Cup will also provide $10,000 in a travel allowance to U.S. based horses who win one of the Challenge races, and $20,000 to foreign-based horses.”

The travel allowance and entry-fee payment, particularly for foreign-based horses, should raise the level of competition by attracting more of the better horses from abroad.

The second initiative has to do with eliminating the legality of race-day medication in the United States. The groups and organizations reportedly endorsing this move include major industry players–among others, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Keeneland, and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has opted not to take a position.

One important question raised by opponents of an outright race-day ban on the use of furosemide to inhibit exercise-induced bleeding is this: To what extent will the sight of horses that bleed during a race create a public relations problem that Lasix presently mitigates? In other words, will the recommended cure for racing’s drug-perception problem have unintended negative consequences? This issue needs to be addressed. In particular, the European experience with no race-day medication can provide guidance.

On an unrelated note, but worthy of praise, congratulations to editor/writer Tom LaMarra of the Blood-Horse and photographer Barbara Livingston of the Daily Racing Form for being selected to receive Old Hilltop Awards for excellence in covering Thoroughbred horse racing. They will be presented with this much-deserved honor in Baltimore during the week of the Preakness.

Copyright © 2011 Horse Racing Business


  1. Charles Bardi says

    Trainers are going to have to learn how to race horses without a crutch. It is possible to eliminate bleeding without a raceday needle. People have gotten lazy and this is the wakeup call that is needed.

  2. Charles, How about telling us about how your going to eliminate bleeding.

  3. First, it’s not obvious to the public whether or not a horse bled.

    Second, there will be fewer bleeders when bleeders are eliminated from the track and the gene pool. If a horse bleeds it should be banned for 3 months, and retired the second time. (Japan, S Africa and Hong Kong have such regulations, don’t know the regs in Europe but they send their bleeders to the US.)

    Third, Lasix makes it hard to test for other meds because it’s a diuretic.

    Here’s a purely economic view from a consignor, Mike Taylor of Taylor Made from a January Bloodhorse article:

    “The cost of maintaining the horses is continually going up and vet costs, especially on the racetrack, are really high. Purses are basically stagnant or going down. It’s a broken model.

    “I used to be more ‘hey, we’ve got to be able to run on Lasix (the animal version of the drug now is known as Salix) or whatever because what about if somebody buys a million dollar yearling and all of a sudden it starts bleeding. You’ve got to have a safety net.’ But I’m almost to the point where — and I’m not in that game (racing) every day – – (I would support ending race day medication) just from a sheer economic point view.

    “If you just said, ‘You can’t run on anything,’ and everybody couldn’t run on anything, it would cut your veterinary bills in half. They (the horses) may not run as fast, but they’re either capable of getting around the racetrack or they don’t need to be there.

    “Until we can get the economics of the industry turned around and going in the right direction, you’ve got to cut costs, so I think it’s going to get more back to horsemanship. It is becoming more and more valuable all the time now. That’s what I’ve been telling our nephews who are coming up. I’m like ‘keep working to improve your horsemanship while the market’s down because the really good horsemen are still going to be able to make money. If you’re not a horseman, you’re going to be in trouble.’ ”

    Hey, if it’s all about horsemanship instead of drugs that would be great!