The Meadowlands Racetrack, home of harness racing’s crown jewel, The Hambletonian, and a venue for Thoroughbred racing, is moving to follow the trend set in Thoroughbred racing in phasing out the use of Lasix. The track has released the following statement:
“In light of the recent circumstances in Thoroughbred racing surrounding the welfare of the horses, all of horse racing has come under increased scrutiny. While the rate of catastrophic breakdowns in Standardbred racing is but a fraction of what it is with the Thoroughbreds, the public does not make that distinction.
The health and welfare of our horses has been a top priority throughout President and CEO Jeff Gural’s tenure at The Meadowlands and a great deal of time and money has been spent in efforts to eradicate Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) from Standardbred racing.
Over the past few months in response to questions on the use of the diuretic Lasix as a PED, a consortium of Thoroughbred tracks are taking steps to reduce or eliminate the use of Lasix on race day.
It is the intention of The Meadowlands as the flagship track of the Standardbred industry to join that movement and proceed in such a way as to insure the best interests of our equine athletes.
A proposal to address the use of Lasix as a race day medication at The Meadowlands has been submitted to the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC).
The submitted proposal states that beginning in 2020, no 2-year-old Standardbred will be permitted to use Lasix when racing at The Meadowlands. Further, in 2021 the track’s signature stakes race, The Meadowlands Pace, will become Lasix free. It is noteworthy that the marquee stake in all of Standardbred racing, the Hambletonian at The Meadowlands, has not permitted the use of Lasix throughout its 93 year history.
In discussion with several Standardbred trainers, the consensus was that 2-year-old horses should not race with Lasix and should instead be given time away from the track to recover if they are indeed diagnosed with Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH). Over the entire 2018 season at The Meadowlands, only seven 2-year-olds raced with Lasix .
At the end of the 2021 racing season we will review these changes, consider any revisions to the practice in Thoroughbred racing and adjust as necessary.
While we recognize the therapeutic benefits of Lasix, our concern is with the optics and feel it is important to show that we take the health and safety of our horses very seriously. We believe this is the best approach while we observe how even stricter measures work for the Thoroughbred industry.”