Salix Errors Frustrate Kentucky Horsemen

Kentucky equine medical director Mary Scollay has updated protocol to prevent errors.

Kentucky horsemen are losing patience with a new policy that requires regulatory veterinarians to administer furosemide (Salix, also commonly called Lasix) on race day after mistakes have led to horses being scratched on consecutive race days at Churchill Downs in November.

On Nov. 11 stewards scratched Booby Prize from the 10th race at Churchill after the 3-year-old gelding mistakenly was given two pre-race Salix shots instead of one. On Nov. 14, the same problem occurred with 4-year-old gelding Outofsiteoutofmind, again necessitating a scratch. Booby Prize is trained by Michael Laurer for Penny Laurer. Outofsiteoutofmind is trained by Phil Simms for Nelson McMakin.

The two scratches at Churchill follow two mistakes at the Keeneland fall meeting, although those horses were allowed to race after an update to their Salix status was announced. Exothermic mistakenly received Salix when he was supposed to race without the diuretic and Infrattini was not administered pre-race Salix when he was supposed to receive it.
Following those errors, Kentucky equine medical director Mary Scollay updated protocol, but errors have continued at the Churchill meeting.
"The horsemen are really concerned that this continues to happen," said Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Marty Maline. "It seems like every day there's a new situation occurring. It just doesn't seem like it's getting resolved.”
Beginning with the Keeneland fall meet, regulatory veterinarians in Kentucky began to administer Salix, which is used to prevent or lessen the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Previously, track veterinarians had administered Salix but the rule change was seen as an improvement in race integrity.

Horsemen initially saw the rule change as an acceptable compromise but with Salix opponents continuing to pursue a race-day ban of the diuretic in graded and listed stakes in Kentucky, horsemen withdrew their support. They voiced that opposition to the Kentucky Legislature's Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations, which voted 19-1 last year against the reformed Salix administration policy. But Gov. Steve Beshear issued an executive order to override the panel's vote.

Maline noted that with horses being scratched because of mistakes by KHRC veterinarians, people are losing money. He said when a scratch occurs, a smaller field results in less handle for the track; and owners count on running on a given day.

"At the end of the day, the guy who is really out is the poor owner. You have a limited amount of opportunities to run in the fall," Maline said. "You're trying to get that last race in at Churchill, and you pay to ship in, and then you don't get to run."
Maline noted that less experienced veterinarians have been involved in many of the mistakes. He suggested the KHRC look into employing more experienced track veterinarians to carry out the Salix administration. He noted that the mistakes are eroding the faith of any supporters of the policy.
"Something serious is going to happen here if you don't step in and get this resolved," Maline said. "I don't think anyone considered at that time that there would be this level of incompetence handling this thing."