KY Approves Race-Day Salix Ban; Battle Looms

KY Approves Race-Day Salix Ban; Battle Looms
Photo: Tom LaMarra
Chairman Robert Beck Jr. (second from left) addresses Salix issue.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, by a 7-5 vote with one abstention June 13, approved an administrative regulation that would ban the use of furosemide on race-day in graded and listed stakes over a three-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Whether it is enacted remains to be seen. Horsemen after the vote said they intend to lobby lawmakers to oppose the regulation, and there were indications from the KHRC that if other major racing states don’t follow suit by next year, the regulation could be re-examined.

Under the regulation—which now must make its way through a lengthy legislative review process—furosemide, an anti-bleeding medication also known as Salix or Lasix, would not be permitted in graded or listed stakes for 2-year-olds in 2014. The prohibition would expand until it includes all horses in graded or listed stakes in Kentucky by 2016.

The regulation includes a penalty schedule for horses found to have Salix in their systems on race day.

The KHRC originally proposed to begin the phase-out of race-day Salix use in graded and listed stakes Jan. 1, 2013. Officials said the start date was pushed back a year because of the legislative approval process.

After the vote, Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association officials said the regulation will require support from the General Assembly.

“It’s exactly where we’re heading,” Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline said when asked if horsemen plan to fight the Salix ban. “Even some racing commissioners may come and join us. We’ll talk about the economic effects (on the horse industry) and the science (behind Salix). I think they’ll be more willing to listen to what we have to present.”

Votes for approval were cast by KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr., vice chairman Tracy Farmer, Ned Bonnie, Wayne Houston, Betsy Lavin, Alan Leavitt, and John Phillips. Tom Conway, Frank Jones Jr., Frank Kling, Dr. Foster Northrop, and Burr Travis opposed the motion.

Tom Ludt abstained. Michael Pitino and Dr. Jerry Yon, chairman of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, were absent.

Ludt after the meeting said the issue isn’t just about Salix. He said the United States needs uniformity in all medication rules, and that he would have preferred having three or four other major racing states on board with a similar phase-out of Salix before Kentucky took the action.

Earlier Ludt said he has “no confidence other states will jump on the bandwagon,” and he asked why the vote was necessary now.

“Is this the right time to lead?” said Ludt, who noted he wasn’t speaking from his position as chairman of the Breeders’ Cup board of directors.

Beck said he doesn’t buy the argument that Kentucky will become “an island” if the Salix ban in graded and listed stakes does take effect in 2014. He said he has spoken with regulators in other states, and “there is strong support out there. Is there any guarantee on the number of states that will follow us? Not at this time.”

When he began the Salix discussion Beck indicated action by other racing states is critical.

“If on Jan. 1, 2014, Kentucky is the only state that has taken action, it will warrant a review of the regulation at that time,” Beck said. “It’s fair to say (Gov. Steve Beshear) would agree with that.”

Beshear, well-supported by Kentucky horsemen when he won re-election last fall, issued a statement late in the afternoon of June 13. 

"Today's action by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is an important step in removing race-day medication at Kentucky tracks, something the public has expressed a desire to see happen," Beshear said. "We must instill a sense of confidence in the betting public's mind that horses running in graded and listed stakes at Kentucky tracks are doing so on their own abilities.

"I am hopeful that other racing jurisdictions across the country will follow suit."

There was widespread belief the regulation pertains to all racing breeds, but early in the meeting KHRC executive director John Ward Jr. said it only affects Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Standardbreds could continue to race with race-day Salix. 

After a few commissioners raised concern, and indicated they weren't aware of the plan, it was decided the Standardbred exemption would be reviewed.

Earlier this year the United States Trotting Association at its annual meeting endorsed continued use of Salix on race day because research shows it is effective at combating exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging. Use of Salix on race day hasn't been a hot-button topic in harness racing.

Download the Revised Furosemide Ban Regulation document.

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