By Debbie Arrington
Horses competing in the upcoming Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park will form a test sample of the potential effects of running without anti-bleeding medications, but it will be up to their owners whether to participate.
At its Aug. 22 meeting at the Del Mar satellite wagering facility, the California Horse Racing Board approved two conditions requested by the Breeders' Cup similar to the Lasix ban for juveniles instituted last year:
— No horse on the state's authorized bleeder medication list will be allowed to enter or start in the Breeders' Cup's five juvenile races.
— For older horses, only "third-party" veterinarians will be allowed to administer the medication. These vets must be licensed by the CHRB and approved by the Breeders' Cup but are otherwise not connected to or attending any other Breeders' Cup participants. Lasix, also known as Salix or furosemide, would be the only authorized anti-bleeding medication.
In addition, the CHRB added a check-off box to the entry form to allow owners to voluntarily allow their horses to be "scoped" after competing in any Breeders' Cup race. That could provide information on how withholding Lasix affects their health as well as what happens when a horse does receive such medication.
"At the entry box, there will be a voluntary check-off for every owner and trainer to offer their horse for scope examination," chairman David Israel said.
The board approved the voluntary program, 6-0; commissioner George Krikorian abstained.
For the second year in a row, Santa Anita will host the Breeders' Cup, to be held Nov. 1-2. Four Juvenile championship races will be run on Breeders' Cup Friday; although not a championship race, the Juvenile Turf Sprint will be run Breeders' Cup Saturday and subject to the same rules.
Although anti-bleeding medication was not allowed for 2-year-olds in the 2012 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, there was no uniform follow-up examination of those horses.
That represented a missed opportunity, said commissioners. But according to Dr. Rick Arthur, the board's equine medical director, the state could not mandate post-race scoping of horses.
"Under current rules, we can't force a horse to be scoped," Arthur said.
"We already pull blood and urine (samples)," noted Israel. "This actually is a more noble cause—how a drug helps or hurts the health of a horse."
"We need to know the effect on horses not running on Lasix," added Krikorian. "If they're forced to run without Lasix, they should be forced to be tested."
The Breeders' Cup actually would like all horses to be scoped regardless of age, said director Tom Ludt, the Cup's former chairman. "We're going to ask everyone entering the Breeders' Cup starting in 2013 to submit to post-race scoping."
The results could add to what's already known about Lasix and its effects, but the pool of horses involved is too small to draw many conclusions, Arthur said.
"It's not a perfect situation, but why not (scope)?" Arthur said. "It's a small sample in such unique circumstances, it's hard to translate to the general population. This is a more complex issue than people think."
But these are the horses that most likely will pass on their genes, Israel said. "These are the kind of horses used in breeding. They really are the future of horse racing."
To comply with the bleeders list mandate, owners will be allowed to request a horse be removed from that list prior to the Breeders' Cup, Arthur noted.