Mark Casse at Santa Anita.

Mark Casse at Santa Anita.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Trainers Pletcher, Casse Criticize Salix Ban

Breeders' Cup prohibiting the use of anti-bleeder medication in 2012 juvenile races.

Two top North American trainers took issue Nov. 1 with the Breeders' Cup decision banning the anti-bleeding medication furosemide in this year's five juvenile races during the World Thoroughbred Championships, including Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher, five-time Eclipse Award winner, and Mark Casse, the Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top trainer on four occasions, were asked to respond to the Breeders' Cup decision during a press conference held at Santa Anita Park.

For the first time, the Breeders' Cup will prohibit the use of Salix, also known as Lasix, in this year's event Nov. 2-3. Breeders' Cup plans to extend the ban to all horses in the 2013 Cup.

The anti-bleeder medication is considered the most effective means available to combat exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

"Horses tend to bleed and Lasix counteracts that," said Pletcher, who described himself as "pro-Lasix."

"It's an experiment and we'll see how it goes," he said, adding it's a decision "we'll have to live with."

Pletcher also noted that the juvenile championship races on dirt had lower than usual entry numbers this year. "I have no idea if that (the ban) was a factor," he quickly added.

Casse was more direct, saying he was "disappointed" in the Breeders' Cup decision and said he hoped it change course before implementing a full ban. He said it was a "political" decision made by a board that's under public pressure to get drugs out of racing without considering the best interest of horses.

"I find it hard to believe they (the horses in juvenile races) are going to run the biggest races of their careers without it," said Casse, who is based at Woodbine near Toronto.

"I'm all in favor of a level playing field," Casse said. But he complained the ban will have the opposite effect. Trainers are going to try different methods to approximate the diuretic effects of Salix, such as denying their horses food and water for perhaps as long as 48 hours, he said.

"Different trainers will try different things," he said, in an attempt to prevent EIPH. "As a gambler, how do you know?" Casse asked.

After 34 years in the training business, he said, he knows how effective Salix is.

"We've done it. We use it. It works. How do you compare that to Lance Armstrong?" Casse said.

"Once a horse starts bleeding, it continues," he added. "It breaks their blood vessels and it kind of snowballs from there."

Asked for his opinion on perhaps establishing Santa Anita as a permanent Breeders' Cup site, he said he understands the desire to move it around the country, "but I love it here."

"I'll tell you how much I love it. I came out her for last year's Breeders' Cup and I started looking for houses. To walk out and see the mountains ... does it get any better than this?"

"I remember that Breeders' Cup at Monmouth (in 2007). It was terrible to have to run horses over that (sloppy track). But we had to do it."

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who is based in New York, also weighed in on the question.

"I've always been a big advocate of moving the Breeders' Cup around," he said. "But the longer I've been around it ... I'm beginning to wonder if it might not be better to have it in one place.

"The weather, the location, the star power, this is hard to beat."

He added: "I don't know what would have happened if we'd had the Breeders' Cup at Belmont this year. Whatever you've heard about the destruction back there from Hurricane Sandy, I can tell you it's actually worse."

Pletcher, while appreciating the warm weather in Southern California, said he cannot go along with any move to establish a permanent home for the Cup.

"It is my understanding that the spirit of the Breeders' Cup was to rotate the event around to showcase racing around the country," he said. "I would hope that the spirit would be honored (in the future). But obviously, we couldn't have run it at Belmont this year."