Anne M. Eberhardt

Split Over Race-Day Salix Continues in KY

The racing commission will hold a town hall meeting in June to get more input.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission May 16 kept alive a proposed regulation to phase out over three years race-day furosemide for graded and listed stakes, but not before the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council voted to reject the measure.

The debate will continue in early June when the KHRC holds a town hall meeting on the topic. Few, however, expect anything other than what has been said in recent months to be addressed.

One member of the KEDRC, Dr. Andy Roberts, said it comes down to perception versus science.

The KHRC voted 7-4 to kill a motion by member Tom Conway to shelve any discussion on furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, for 12 months. Conway, a Thoroughbred owner, noted a proposal had been rejected on a tie vote in April, and that the issue should die for now.

“You can hold as many public meetings as you want,” Conway said. “You’re not going to change the science. This is an exercise in futility. We will never get it approved by the House of Representatives in Kentucky.”

Any regulation must clear the legislative process, which includes hearings by the Legislative Research Commission.

KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr., who voted against Conway’s motion, said Kentucky should be an industry leader, and that he hopes to have “information” in June showing that other states plan to adopt some sort of race-day Salix ban.

“I don’t believe we’ll be an island,” Beck said. “We have an obligation to the industry to address this issue. Saying we can’t talk about it is counterproductive. (Approving) this motion would make us look very bad.”

Commissioners Conway, Burr Travis, Dr. Foster Northrop, and Frank Jones Jr. voted to halt consideration of a Salix ban for 12 months. Four KHRC members—Tracy Farmer, Wade Houston, Tom Ludt, and Michael Pitino—were absent.

The proposed regulation, which KHRC executive director John Ward Jr. called workable, would ban Salix less than 24 hours before a race for all 2-year-olds in graded or listed stakes in 2013. The ban would extend to 3-year-olds in such races in 2014, and all horses in those races in 2015.

Ward said some stakes conditions would have to change to keep non-Salix users from racing against Salix users in 2014.

As for penalties, a Salix positive would bring revocation of purse winnings, which would be substantial in many stakes in Kentucky. It would pertain to any horse that qualifies for purse money. There also would be fines and suspensions under the regulation.

Ward said the withdrawal guideline for 24-hour administration of Salix would be 500 milligrams. The regulation calls it “voluntary and advisory only.”

At the KEDRC meeting earlier in the day, the proposal died on a 4-3 vote. Drs. Roberts, Frank Marcum, and Hollie Swanson, along with horsemen’s representative trainer Rick Hiles, voted against the race-day Salix ban.

The motion to approve the measure was made by Sen. Damon Thayer, who said the regulation doesn’t go far enough. Thayer supports an all-out ban on the therapeutic drug, which is used on race day in roughly 95% of the racehorse population.

“The horse industry has a significant perception problem that is starting to reach a critical mass,” Thayer said. “If we don’t do it at the state level, the federal government is going to take this sport over.”

Thayer's motion died after receiving no second. However, about 20 minutes later, Roberts seconded the motion, saying he wanted his opinion on the record with the KHRC.

Roberts, a veterinarian and racehorse owner, said he prefers not to use Salix but will do so if a horse indicates a need for it. He said the KEDRC voted to ban use of adjunct bleeder medications on race day because their efficacy couldn’t be proved, but that’s not the case with Salix.

“If there is something better (than Salix) that has the research behind it, bring it to the table,” Roberts said.

Also at the KHRC meeting, the contract of equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay was renewed for two years.