So the conference on race day medication ended yesterday and what was the decided out of that meeting? Punt. Instead of coming to an agreement that race day medication, primarily Lasix, but also Bute in some states is going to be phased out, or even a decision that they were not going to change the policy, California, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York officials are going to gather in July for further discussion. Are they going to come to any decision there, or are they trying to run out the clock on the public's attention of the issue or hope to outlast any momentum that the Whitfield-Udall legislation banning race day medication may have? To often, when an industry is threatened with federal regulation, they cry is "We will regulate ourselves" in hopes of staving of any federal action. Typically, the industry comes up with the most minimal standard that the legislators will accept and set up a 'committee' to enforce the voluntary standard. Usually little changes.
Well the time for action is now and we need to get serious. Bill Finley, in an article for ESPN calls for racing to 'just do it'. At first blush, I agree with Bill Finley, but then I realize such a ban being implemented immediately, would be disastrous for standardbred racing due to our breeding practices. Before we can implement such a ban, we need to get our breeding house back in order.
Let me offer my proposal for banning race day medication.
1. Ban Bute
Some racing jurisdictions allow horses to race with bute. Among those states
are California, Indiana, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. Bute is a therapeutic
medication which has its place as therapeutic medication, but has no place in
racing. If a horse needs to race on bute, it belongs in the barn or retired. One
of the biggest problems with the medication is it allows a horse to race
through the pain, to the point it he horse breaks down, it will continue to
race, causing a hazard to horse and driver a like. It is also abused. Last year
I saw an East Coast stakes horse ship to Indiana for a race and it added bute
for the start there and after that race, it returned to the East Coast and did
not race with bute. Clearly, the horse raced on bute because it could and was
likely added to level the playing field. Starting January 1, 2012, no state
should allow a horse to race on bute.
2. Phase in Ban of
Lasix (Salix) and other Bleeding Medications
These medications are being used to treat EIPH, a problem which most foreign
countries do not have. This problem is related to the fact breeders did not
consider bleeding a serious defect. Due to our breeding problems, an outright
ban of lasix day one would be disastrous. I talk later about gradually
implementing a ban on these medications.
3. Breed for stamina,
not speed (again).
Pre-Meadowlands, the standardbred was bred for stamina instead of speed. As a
result, there were less horses with bleeding difficulties. Even now, with the
number of racing accidents we are seeing, it is apparent that we are pushing
our horses past their natural ability forcing them to race blistering miles.
Whether that is just the breeding, the equipment being used, medication, or
combination of these things, we are contributing to the problem of
I have said it before and I say it again, the average horseplayer could care
less how fast a horse races; they are concerned with winning wagers. If they
win a Trifecta in a race that goes 2:00 minutes or a race that goes in 1:48,
they don't care. Most horse owners don't care how fast their horse goes; they
are primarily concerned with making money in the forms of purses. Now of
course, to make money, your horse needs to race faster than the other, but as
with the horseplayer, do they care how fast the horse has to go to pick up a
check? They need ultra-fast horses because that is what is needed to make
money. The only group which is obsessed with speed are the breeders. Breeders
need to be responsible to realize we need to slow down the breed as breeding
for speed brings out undesirable traits.
4. Phase Out Race Day
To be fair to those who have purchased yearlings this year (realizing most
yearlings are not purchased until the fall), starting with the foals of 2011,
pre-race medication will not be allowed. This means in the year 2013, 2yos will
not be allowed race day medication; in 2014, two and three year olds will not
be allowed race day medication; in 2015, two, three and four year olds will not
be allowed race day medication. Starting in 2016, all horses will not be
permitted race day medication.
5. Ban bleeders from
Now this is not something we can do overnight. We need to give breeders the
opportunity to slow down the breed. I would propose starting in the year 2020,
any stallion or mare which suffers from a severe bleed based on the four levels
of scoring a bleed, will not be allowed to be used for breeding purposes once
their racing career ends; the USTA will not register any foals from a certified
bleeder. Any horse which enters stallion or broodmare service prior to 2020
would be exempt from this restriction.. While this would be the drop dead date
for eliminating bleeders from the breeding ranks, realistically, they will
begin to be removed from breeding as the demand for off-spring of known bleeders
will not be in demand.
Sadly, we need the specter of federal regulation to keep our house in order.
The two sponsors of the bill need to be educated their ban for the reasons
outlined above can't be implemented overnight. However, the provisions of the
law make sense over a graduated implementation to allow the industry to make
the changes necessary to make the law more sensible yet add teeth to the
enforcement of medication bans.
A New Page Added to VFTRG. Starting this week, there is another page to my blog called Cal Expo Pick 4 Selections. I will be putting my Thursday and Saturday Pick 4 (when guarantees are offered) Cal Expo Selections on this page, so look for my selections there. At times, other featured wagers will be listed there as well. So check it out.