JC / Railbird

Lasix

Harthill’s Legacy

Take a break from handicapping tomorrow’s Churchill Downs card and read this fascinating story by Ryan Goldberg about veterinarian Alex Harthill, the 1964 Kentucky Derby, and the origins of the modern drug culture in racing:

It is unclear if Northern Dancer was a true bleeder. His performances on the track — except for a third-place finish against weaker company in early 1964 — suggest he may not have bled badly, and Harthill had other reasons for administering it. Veitch said Harthill had told him that Northern Dancer was hot-blooded and that the diuretic would lower his blood pressure and calm his volatility. He wouldn’t leave his race in the paddock, as horsemen say.

The Indefensible

Andrew Beyer:

It is wrong to characterize Asmussen as a bad apple. It is unfair to single him out for stigmatization. And it was thoroughly disingenuous for Phipps to say, “His presence and participation [in the Kentucky Oaks and Derby] would indicate that it’s just ‘business as usual’ in the thoroughbred industry.”

Through the industry, the indiscriminate use of drugs is business as usual.

Yes. And so long as it is, racing will be a target for groups like PETA.

Or Congress.

The Target

Trainer Rusty Arnold defends Steve Asmussen:

The two medications alluded to in the video (Lasix and thyroid powder) are both legal to have and legal to use. So, what crime has Steve committed?

None, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? The indiscriminate dosing of horses with unnecessary drugs has become routine. Maybe it shouldn’t be.

Lasix-Free Delta

Well, that’s interesting:

Mott said Royal Delta probably never needed Lasix to begin with and probably won’t run on it for the remainder of the year.

Royal Delta is aiming for a repeat win in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on August 25 following her second straight win in the Delaware Handicap on Saturday. She was given a Beyer speed figure of 105 for that performance.

No Trace

When Kentucky mandated last year that state veterinarians give pre-race Lasix shots, in place of private vets, the results were eye-opening, reports Ryan Goldberg in the final installment of TDN’s drugs in racing series (PDF):

Besides the volume of Lasix [which declined], murkier drugs largely disappeared from post-race tests. Scollay said she had seen evidence that a drug called GABA, short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, was commonplace in Kentucky. The amino acid, which is present in the supplement “Carolina Gold,” is endogenous to horses as well as humans — it’s the predominant receptor blocker in the central nervous system. It has a pain-mitigating and calming effect that can conserve a horse’s energy prior to a race. However, because it’s naturally occurring and leaves a horse’s system within three to four hours, finding suspicious levels in post-race tests is difficult.

Its use in Kentucky was apparently curtailed once regulatory vets came in. The “noise” in post-race samples all but departed. Lasix is administered within four hours of a race; private vets were apparently giving GABA at the same time. There was no trace.

Wow. I wonder if the same thing happened in New York after the NYRA detention barn — in which horses were monitored for six hours before a race and only state vets could administer Lasix — opened in 2005, and if the concentration of Lasix in the blood, as well as the presence of other drugs or supplements in test samples, rebounded after it closed in 2010?

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