Will the industry place the health and welfare of the horse at the highest level of priority?

Will the industry place the health and welfare of the horse at the highest level of priority?

Wikimedia Commons/Alfredo Borba

Bob Barry: Bless This Horse

Is the welfare of the horse our top priority?

Last week we devoted this space to the potential impact to horseplayers and betting handle were race-day Lasix banned from the American racing scene. Coincidently, on that same day the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation announced it had commissioned two studies to examine the relative efficacy of Lasix administered the day before race day versus the current standard of four hours out.

This week, in addition to welcoming Pope Francis on his maiden voyage to the United States (welcome, Francis!) we dig a little deeper into the complex issue of Lasix and other medications.

To be clear, I am generally in favor of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 (also known as the Barr-Tonko bill). An independent authority to ensure effective, uniform testing is necessary if we are to rid this sport of the "wild west" culture that permeates too many racing jurisdictions.

My gripe with the current laser-like focus on Lasix and getting to "medication-free race days" is that this approach seems to be addressing an overly broad perception rather than focusing on the testing and medication issues that imperil both equine safety and bettors' confidence.

Dr. Larry Bramlage has said: "I believe furosemide is valuable to the horse when racing, but there are too many reasons we can't keep it." The estimable Dr. Bramlage believes that because Joe and Jane Sixpack can't differentiate between cocaine and Lasix, the diuretic must therefore go.

Are we looking to soothe the ill-founded concerns of know-nothing civilians? Or are we truly seeking to "place the health and welfare of the horse at the highest level of priority?"

I would hate to see the mere elimination of race-day Lasix become a false synonym for living up to those lofty words from the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015. As owner Maggi Moss suggested this summer, speaking before the New York Gaming Commission: Stop worrying about Lasix and turn your attention to medication problems that could be linked to catastrophic injuries.

"People," Moss said as quoted by Blood-Horse correspondent Teresa Genaro, "get upset when horses are dying."

On Sunday, Oct. 4, the remarkable Treve will strive to become the first three-time winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Oct. 4 also happens to be the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis (the papal namesake of Saint Francis) will almost certainly honor the patron saint of animals by way of the traditional blessing of dogs and goats and horses and the rest. The best kind of blessing we can bestow on our horses would be to honor the lofty language of the Barr-Tonko bill, and forget about the people who can't tell the difference between a therapeutic diuretic and cocaine.