In accordance with the national movement that was initiated by the Thoroughbred horse industries in California, Florida, Kentucky and New York, the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) has informed the Maryland Racing Commission (MRC) of its plans to restrict races for two-year-old horses to those whose connections elect not to administer the drug Lasix on race day.
“The time has come to phase out Lasix beginning with two-year-old horses,” said Belinda Stronach, chairman and president, The Stronach Group and 1/ST. “We are following through on 1/ST Racing’s commitment to put horse and rider safety and welfare at the forefront. We believe in the principle that horses should only be racing free of medication. By taking this important step together, the Maryland racing community will become stronger and provide the right foundation for our sport to progress into the future.”
Permitted use of Lasix was first allowed by the MRC more than 40 years ago on a limited basis and only upon a veterinarian’s examination and confirmation that the horse was a “bleeder” and had a medical need that required the administration of Lasix. Since, however, Lasix became a commonly used drug, administered to a large percentage of the horse population to enhance performance rather than as a medical therapeutic.
“The clear weight of evidence shows that what began decades ago as a limited therapeutic to assist the few horses that were problem bleeders has become a crutch for those looking for a competitive edge,” said Craig Fravel, CEO, 1/ST Racing. “The time is now to address this matter and to do so without delay.”
In April 2019, the phasing out of Lasix in two-year-old horses was announced by a coalition of the country’s major Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations, which include:
- The Stronach Group’s Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields (California) and Gulfstream Park (Florida)
- Del Mar and Los Alamitos (California)
- Churchill Downs Inc. and Keeneland (Kentucky)
- New York Racing Association (New York)
- Lone Star Park (Texas)
- Oaklawn Park (Oklahoma)
- Breeders’ Cup Limited
- Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association (TOBA)
- American Graded Stakes Committee of TOBA
- Kentucky Thoroughbred Association
Under this program, which began on Jan. 1, two-year-old horses are not permitted to be treated with Lasix within 24 hours of a race. Beginning in 2021, the same prohibition will extend to all horses participating in any stakes race at coalition tracks listed above.
In addition, the state of Maryland, in the context of the Racing and Community Redevelopment Act of 2020, recognized the important issue of horse safety and established and Equine Health, Safety & Welfare Advisory Committee to ensure that equine safety becomes paramount to the industry.