By Bill Finley
The Jockey Club, the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association have filed Amicus Curiae briefs supporting the rights of Churchill Downs and Keeneland to prohibit Lasix in races for 2-year-olds. The two Kentucky tracks are being sued by the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which is seeking a temporary injunction that would stop the tracks from instituting so-called house rules that cover the Lasix ban. The three groups have asked the court to deny the injunction.
The news of the filing of the briefs by the industry groups was first reported by the Blood-Horse.
On Tuesday, a hearing regarding the Lasix matter was held before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate. Wingate said he would have a ruling shortly.
Four Lasix-free races for 2-year-olds have already been run so far at Churchill. Keeneland has been approved to run a summer meet from July 8 to 12 and may have some 2-year-old races during the five days of racing. Both tracks are also set to eliminate the use of Lasix in stakes races in 2021.
“The United States is the only major racing jurisdiction within the world that continues to permit the use of furosemide on race day,” read the Breeders’ Cup’s brief. “Fortunately, other major racing jurisdictions within the United States have taken proactive measures to eliminate the use of furosemide on race day, including California, Florida, and New York (in Florida and New York solely through actions by the tracks). Breeders’ Cup anticipates that many other States will also shortly participate in this initiative as the leading racing associations announced in April of 2019 the commitment to prohibit the use of furosemide in 2020 in two-year-old races. If Kentucky wants to remain a leader in thoroughbred racing, Kentucky must unite to protect our horses, protect the sport, and protect most of the racing and breeding operations in the United States. Keeneland and Churchill certainly have the legal right to take such action.”
The KTA brief contended that the HBPA does not speak for the racing industry and went on to say that denying the temporary injunction “will promote the integrity ans safety of the horseracing industy and allow members of the KTA and the KHPBA alike to race their horses on equal competitive terms.”
The Jockey Club made many of the same points, arguing that “Thoroughbred horses compete Lasix-free in every major racing country around the world (including England, Ireland, France, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan) without harm to the horses, their connections, or the integrity of racing.”
According to the Blood-Horse report, Wednesday’s hearing focused on 2015 regulations enacted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which was also named in the HBPA’s suit, that permitted the tracks to decide whether or not to allow Lasix. Then Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued an opinion that a regulation that permitted tracks to ban Lasix “was an invalid and illegal delegation of the KHRC’s authority to private actors.”
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved a plan that calls for phasing out Lasix, but the new rules have not undergone all the steps that must take place before the regulations can become part of Kentucky’s state code. Because the KHRC’s rules have yet to go into effect, it was left to tracks to take steps to ban Lasix in 2-year-old races.