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?

Nobody’s Clean

Responding to the British turf press, which has become somewhat obsessed with the idea — in the wake of the Zarooni steroids scandal that shook their island nation last week — that Australian raiders on ‘roids might have, or might in the future, run off with Royal Ascot prizes, trainer Peter Moody denied that undefeated Black Caviar was treated with steroids before she won the 2012 Golden Jubilee Stakes or at any other time in her illustrious career, and then dragged in America to make a point:

Moody took a swipe at “lilywhite” English trainers.

“They bang on about steroids but they are the first to use Lasix when they campaign horses in the US,” he said.

Lasix is an anti-bleeding drug outlawed everywhere bar some states in the US.

“Maybe the Poms might start looking at themselves rather than looking at us,” he said.

Moody isn’t the only Australian trainer getting fed up with the chatter.

(Link to Moody’s comments via @claimsfive.)

The Better Horses

Two items from the DRF story on the Breeders’ Cup juvenile race Lasix ban:

At Saratoga, the biggest East Coast summer meeting for 2-year-olds, 137 of 694 starters (19.7 percent) in 90 juvenile races raced without Lasix. The Lasix-free horses won only half as frequently as Lasix users … but other factors drove the disparity in win rate. Principally, trainer Todd Pletcher, the strongest 2-year-old trainer in New York, sent all his winners out with Lasix.

And:

“We can talk about it the day after the race, but I can guarantee you right now,” [trainer Christophe Clement] said. “The better horse will win …”

Re: the first, Pletcher’s all-Lasix Spa baby squad is definitely one of the factors that must be taken into account looking at this summer’s Lasix-free winner stats. And for the second, that there’s no Lasix in the juvenile races tilted trainer Richard Hannon toward sending Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Sky Lantern to the Breeders’ Cup because, “[it’s] a level playing field for all of us.” It can only be for the good if trainers here and abroad perceive the Breeders’ Cup as letting the best horses shine through drug-free.

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