California conditioner Dan Blacker is the latest to support the Water Hay Oats Alliance. In a statement to WHOA, Blacker said:
“Drugs.” Unfortunately, around the world this is the word most commonly associated with American racing.
America is where a person can start a training career with one horse. Where a horseplayer can win a million from a two dollar bet. Where racing on turf and dirt share equal limelight and generations of dirt lineage are ingrained into the stud book. Thoroughbred racing in the USA is unique and regardless of background, if you possess passion and commitment, you can be successful here. I was drawn to the vibrance and competitiveness of training on the American racetrack. I love American racing, but it can be better.
There are two issues that need to be addressed; medication abuse and the penalties for breaking the rules.
I do not believe Lasix is the foremost problem. As a trainer, eliminating it will likely make it tougher for me in the short term to limit EIPH on raceday. However I understand that in order to create a clean racing state it must be abolished. In reality, Lasix is the tip of the iceberg. There is a mentality that has evolved which encourages treating every runner with a shopping list of prerace medications. This has unfortunately become accepted as part of the game and it contradicts everything we associate with modern sport. Trainers are not perceived to be competitive unless they are pushing the medication boundaries and many owners are complicit as long as the wins are coming. If America is to align with the rest of the world this practice has to change. The penalties must be strengthened to initiate the change… I support the WHOA movement as I envisage America as the global leader in thoroughbred racing. We need a national body governing the sport and setting strict uniform medication guidelines. If we come together as an industry it can be a reality.