By Bill Finley
Franklin (Ky) Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate has denied a motion by the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (KHBPA) that sought a temporary injunction that would have kept Churchill Downs and Keeneland from running Lasix-free 2-year-old races.
Wingate also granted a motion from the defendants to dismiss the case for “lack of standing.”
Much of the KHBPA’s case resolved around its assertion that only the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) could make rules regarding Lasix. The ban on the medication at the two Kentucky tracks were house rules, written into the conditions by the tracks themselves. The KHRC’s rules regarding a Lasix ban in 2-year-old races have yet to take effect.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the ruling. We felt that this is the responsibility of the racing commission and not the individual tracks to decide an issue as important as medication,” said KHBPA Executive Director Marty Maline. “That is a key component to what we were trying to argue, not whether you agree with Lasix or don’t agree with Lasix. We didn’t feel like the court necessarily covered the issues we were trying to address.”
The court ruled that under Kentucky racing regulations, a track can select International Medication Protocols as a race condition and use it to bar Lasix in a race.
Wingate did not agree with the HBPA’s stand that its rights had been violated and members will suffer injury due to the Lasix ban, which are conditions for granting a temporary injunction. The court noted that the two tracks announced their intention to ban Lasix in 2-year-old races in April of 2019.
“The Defendants argue that the KHBPA cannot suddenly allege, notably after Churchill has successfully held multiple Lasix-free races, irreparable and immediate harm when, for over a year, its members were aware of Defendants’ plan,” Wingate wrote.
The KHBPA was also asserting that there was a possibility that horses would be harmed if racing without Lasix. To that point, the court noted that an injunction cannot be granted on the grounds of an anticipated danger.
The Court also found that the KHBPA did not have “associational standing” and noted that “…The KHBPA is merely required to show that it represent(s) at least one member with an injury in order to obtain relief, but the Court finds that the KHBPA cannot satisfy this simple requirement.”
In addition, the court filing brought up the question as to whether or not the KHBPA represents the position of the majority of owners and trainers in the state.
“Confusingly, the KHBPA claims to have a membership of 5,150 owners and trainers, yet the KHBPA brings this action without identifying one affected member,” Wingate wrote.
Wingate wrote that he was not passing judgment on the merits of the medication.
“It must be emphasized that the Court is not determining whether Lasix should be provided on race day to horses,” Wingate wrote. “Ethical and medical debates on the administration of Lasix on race day to Thoroughbreds are beyond the scope of this litigation. Instead, the Court is solely focused on its task of interpreting the relevant law to ensure that the actions of Defendants do not exceed the permissible bounds.”
Maline said the KHBPA will consider an appeal of Monday’s ruling.
The Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association filed Amicus Briefs in support of Keeneland and Churchill Downs.