New York to survey stakeholders on Lasix proposal

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: April 30, 2019

The New York State Gaming Commission April 29 said it will consult with racing stakeholders and solicit input on a plan by a national coalition of Thoroughbred racetracks to ban the use of race-day Lasix in all 2-year-old races in 2020 and in all stakes in 2021.

Though one of the coalition members is the New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, based on commission discussion any regulatory change in New York would pertain to Finger Lakes Gaming and Racing and seven Standardbred tracks.

NYSGC Executive Director Robert Williams said he would survey all groups involved in both breeds. Major horsemen’s organizations in North America, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, state regulatory agencies and veterinary representatives have said they weren’t consulted on the coalition’s Lasix proposal.

NYSGC member John Crotty said the regulatory agency shouldn’t “divest authority” to the racetracks on changes in Lasix policy, and that it “should take up (a regulation) at the proper time when we have the total facts. It’s difficult to solicit responses in the abstract. Particulars will be very important. It’s hard to react to a generality.”

“It’s important to get veterinary input on this,” NYSGC Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer said. “There is a lot of misconception about what this drug does. Medical concerns have not be taken into consideration by the racetracks.”

The Lasix ban was announced after a series of catastrophic breakdowns during a three-month period at The Stronach Group-owned Santa Anita Park in California. TSG announced its plans to phase out use of race-day Lasix in all Thoroughbreds by foal crop at its two California tracks, and the coalition—the TSG is a member—followed with a different proposal that apparently would amount to a partial ban.

The timing of the announcement ended up linking Lasix use with catastrophic injuries, but ARCI and other groups noted there have been no scientific studies that document such a link.

In regard to other equine safety and medication policies put forth in California, Williams said New York already has most of them in place. The California Horse Racing Board, for instance, reduced the maximum permitted dose of Lasix from 10 ccs to 5 ccs; the maximum in New York is 10 ccs but Williams said a typical dose is only 3 ccs.

In a related equine safety matter, Williams updated the NYSGC on a waiver in a regulation regarding the purse-to-claiming price ratio, which states that no purse can be more than twice the claiming price. NYRA was permitted to increase purses in some races in conjunction with heightened pre-race examination of racehorses.

Williams said that from March 9-31 at Aqueduct, there were 11 such races with a total of 80 horses. Seven were scratched after veterinary exams and there were no catastrophic injuries.

Palmer noted the fatality rate in races during the Aqueduct meet was 0.88 per 1,000 starters, well below the national average. Implementation of recommendations in the 2012 New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety report has played a key role in the reduction in recent years.

“We’ve made terrific progress in that area as well,” Palmer said. “I’m pleased with the performance of the NYRA veterinary group. The fact they scratched some horses means they were doing their due diligence.”

In other business, the NYSGC approved the latest version of the Multiple Medication Violation Penalty System, which is part of the National Uniform Medication Program. ARCI in December 2016 approved model rule revisions to the document, and New York was one of three states that had not yet adopted them. NYRA and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association had signed off on the updates.