By T. D. Thornton
Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields received unanimous California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) support on Thursday allowing both tracks owned by The Stronach Group (TSG) to implement an in-house rule that will halve the allowable race-day dose of Lasix for the balance of their current meets.
TSG and the Thoroughbred Owners of California had already agreed to the adoption of an in-house rule that cuts the race-day dose of Lasix from 10 cc to 5 cc, but the CHRB's vote made it official.
The medication reforms are part of a sweeping set of welfare changes proposed by TSG in the wake of 22 recent equine deaths at Santa Anita.
CHRB chairman Chuck Winner stressed that the rule change voted upon at the Mar. 28 meeting does not pertain to any future discussions that might arise about an eventual phasing-out of Lasix that TSG has proposed for its California tracks.
Prior to the 5-0 vote, CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur, DVM, reminded stakeholders that “we actually had a maximum dose of 5 cc (250 mg) for Lasix in California for almost a 10 to 12 year period. We allowed it to be increased so we would be uniform with national policy. In my review of handling the Breeders' Cup Lasix for four or five years in California, 90% of the dosages were five [cc] or less…and there were no negative consequences that were apparent.”
A separate rule passage that also advanced by a 5-0 vote will suspend the use of previously allowed race-day steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at the current Santa Anita and Golden Gate meets. This was also an agreed-upon change between TSG and TOC.
Arthur said the use of anti-inflammatory drugs “really make[s] it difficult for not only the examining veterinarians, but the trainers of those horses and the jockeys to know what the real condition of the horse is, and that's why we've been looking to lower these for the last several years. These are certainly reasonable steps. We've met with trainers [and] we've met with veterinarians here at Santa Anita. I think we're as prepared as we can [be] to properly apply the changes we're proposing here.”
A third proposed rule that would have broadened the suspension of those race-day anti-inflammatory drugs to other race meets and for other breeds throughout the state for the balance of the year was removed from the agenda by CHRB chairman Chuck Winner after Greg Avioli, the TOC's president and chief executive, said his organization had yet to discuss the topic with the managements of other racetracks.
“We're not in a position to support the expansion of this rule for the full-year period,” Avioli said. “One of the reasons that we were able to get up and support [the anti-inflammatory ban through the current Santa Anita and Golden Gate meets] is that we had detailed conversations with [TSG management] and we were in agreement. I haven't had the first conversations about this with Los Alamitos, with CARF [California Authority of Racing Fairs] or Del Mar.”
So that agenda item will be moved to the CHRB's Apr. 18 meeting, Winner said.