Lasix shouldn’t be the dirty ‘L-word’

On Saturday, October 22nd, as I watched a wonderful card of racing from Mohawk, made up mainly of Breeders Crown eliminations, I was a bit saddened to hear two top-notch horsepeople sounding almost apologetic when they mentioned the use of ‘Lasix’ on their horse during post-race winner’s circle interviews.

I’m paraphrasing here, but after Pebble Beach and King Of The North were both victorious in their respective races, trainer Noel Daley (Pebble Beach) and driver Mark MacDonald (King Of The North) both said something along the lines of “I think being back on Lasix helped him… but he doesn’t even get that much of it… just a little.”

First of all, in my opinion, it’s nobody’s business how much Lasix someone’s horse receives - I believe that the options are 3, 4 or 5 CCs. Neither of these men should feel that they need to justify its use with the public. What most anti-Lasix people are missing here is the word ‘HELPED’ - the horsepeople used it to help their horse. It’s something that should almost be applauded and not looked down upon.

Some who are uneducated on the topic will say things like, “Some trainers just use it to mask other drugs!” That’s a conspiracy theory that’s been refuted by science, reported as recently as two days ago in The Paulick Report…

“But floating about amongst all those opinions are sometimes misconceptions, including one we’ve heard repeatedly at the Paulick Report – that furosemide (Lasix) is used as a masking agent to cover up illegal drug use in post-race testing.

Dr. Rick Sams, former laboratory director at LGC Science, said that under current regulations, that just isn’t possible.”

The long report goes on to provide ample scientific support to back this up, and if you disagree with me on this I invite you to Google the column and give it a read.

Taking it even one step further, award-winning Thoroughbred trainer Mark Casse believes that if we were to actually deny the use of Lasix in horse racing it would make the issue of illegal doping worse and not better, saying, “If they eliminate Lasix there will be more cheating going on by far” because “there will be people out there doing everything to stop horses from bleeding.”

Lasix has been scientifically proven to be a therapeutic drug that can enhance the performance of race horses that bleed. Some trainers use it; some do not. I’ve heard some actually admit that they will even keep one off of it because to use it they have to be there four hours early and it costs too much. Again, in my opinion only, those are the people that need to take a look in the mirror - not the ones who do use it. Seriously? You’d let your horse bleed in a race simply because it cuts into your afternoon nap time?

Let’s give our heads a shake here.

I do realize that each racing jurisdiction has their own decision to make regarding the use of Lasix, and that in the end, as long as they look at the facts and not just the perceived perceptions around the topic, we’ll live with the decision each makes. Further to that, I agree that a good argument can be made as to why there should be no Lasix available to two-year-olds. I’m not saying that I agree 100% with implementing that as a rule, but that an argument can be made.

A major issue in North American racing for a number of years now has been a horse shortage - especially in the winter. It should be noted here that Australia and New Zealand do not allow the use of Lasix, and due mainly to that single rule we’ve had 702 different horses who have an ‘NZ’ or an ‘A’ following their name help fill North American entry boxes since the beginning of 2021 - 640 of which have raced on Lasix here.

The use of Lasix HELPS horses that bleed.

Lasix does NOT mask other (illegal) drugs.

Let’s do right by our horses and continue to help them in every way that we can. And let’s make sure we continue to present facts over uneducated opinions, that are not backed up by facts, when it comes to public perception.

I received an email from a disgruntled owner approximately six months ago. He said that he had owned parts of eight horses over the past five years and that none of them had required Lasix, but that he gets frustrated seeing some WEG trainers that have 60% of their horses on the drug - he accused them of all being cheaters and said that it doesn’t make “mathematical, biological or physiological sense to anyone.” He went on to say he’d be leaving the sport but he realizes that his “involvement or exit from the industry means nothing in the grand scheme of things.”

I took some time to explain to him some FACTS about the use of Lasix, and why its use more often than not does make sense. I also told him that his involvement - and that of hundreds of other ‘small guys’ like him - does matter. After a half-dozen or so emails he genuinely thanked me for my time, and for explaining to him, among other things, why his trainer may have chosen not to use Lasix - I just hope that I got through to him. I wish his own trainer (I have no idea who that person was) would have explained all of this, but to each their own I suppose.

The license of the owner in question expires in three weeks. I hope that he’s reading this and that he stays involved, and I hope that he knows he matters to our industry just as much as anyone else does - as does everyone reading this.

Dan Fisher - [email protected]