By Frank Angst and Ron Mitchell
With Breeders' Cup at least slowing implementation of its race-day Salix prohibition, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission could revisit its plans to ban use of the diuretic on race day.
In June 2012, the KHRC approved by a 7-5 vote an administrative regulation that would phase in a ban of race-day Salix (furosemide) in graded and listed stakes. The policy would prohibit use of race-day Salix in 2-year-old listed and graded stakes in 2014 in Kentucky and expand to all listed and graded stakes in the state by 2016.
When the rule was passed, several KHRC members noted they would like to see other states come on board and reserved the right to reexamine the policy if other major states didn't follow. As racing is regulated at the state level, commissioners were concerned Kentucky would be at a competitive disadvantage in attracting horses if other states did not put similar policies in place.
To date, no other state has taken action. Kentucky and Breeders' Cup have been the most progressive on the move to prohibit race-day medication—a policy supported by The Jockey Club—but this month the Breeders' Cup blinked. Its board voted not to expand a ban on race-day Salix to all of its championship races this year, as had been planned. Instead, Breeders' Cup will continue last year's policy of prohibiting race-day Salix only in its races for 2-year-olds.
Horsemen favor current rules that allow Salix because they see it as the best way to prevent or reduce the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Horsemen have favored rule changes that require regulatory vets to administer the diuretic but they have staunchly supported its continued use.
Last year supporters of Salix prohibitons could reasonably picture a U.S. racing landscape where the diuretic would be prohibited in the Breeders' Cup World Championships and the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), but that vision was blurred following the Breeders' Cup decision. Now Kentucky may revisit its policy.
KHRC chairman Robert Beck did not know how other states would view the Breeders' Cup's decision but said the commission should consider its impact with regard to the planned Kentucky rule.
"I think it is something we (KHRC) need to consider in further deliberations about the regulation that we passed last year," Beck said. "I think the Breeders' Cup decision is a subject worthy of discussion."
Commissioner Tom Conway, who opposed Kentucky's Salix prohibitions, noted that the rule has not received approval from lawmakers. While legislators typically approve recommendations of the KHRC, horsemen are fighting the new Salix policy in Frankfort.
Conway, who also is a Thoroughbred owner, believes the Breeders' Cup decision signals the end of the movement to put prohibitions in place on race-day Salix.
"I see it as the death knell. I do," Conway said. "I think it's the death knell of the Salix restrictions at Breeders' Cup. I think they'll have it in place with the 2-year-olds one more year and they'll probably again see less than full fields."
Conway doesn't think the Kentucky restrictions will ever become reality and the Breeders' Cup decision will only create more concerns that the state could become an island, competing with other states that allow race-day Salix in their stakes races.
"I don't think they ever intend to move forward on this legislation in Kentucky. Certainly the governor wouldn't sign such a thing," Conway said. "I just don't think they intend to move forward on it."