The controversial medication Salix (also referred to as Lasix) will begin to be phased out in Kentucky stakes races as early as 2014. The plan comes after a 7-5 vote by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Wednesday.
"I think it is important for Kentucky to take the lead on this. There are a number of other regulators that I've talked to who have indicated they were waiting to see what Kentucky does," said KHRC Chairman Bob Beck in an interview with Thoroughbred Times.
Salix is the name given to a race-day furosemide that is given to horses in order to prevent and reduce effects of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Trainers and horsemen are, more often than not, advocates of the drug while regulatory organizations, such as the Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, are the opposition.
The decision will mandate that race-day furosemide not be used in stakes races for two-year-olds in 2014. Beginning in 2015, that mandate will take effect in all stakes races in which three-year-old thoroughbreds are eligible. The supposed last step of the plan will come in 2016 when race-day furosemide will be prohibited in all Kentucky stakes races.
In April, a similar vote was taken by the KHRC to ban race-day furosemide in all races, but was deadlocked at 7-7.
High-profile trainer Dale Romans, who trained Kentucky Derby and Belmont contender Dullahan, was the most visible opponent of the decision. Earlier this spring at a meeting to discuss the vote Romans warned the commission that a measure to ban furosemide use would be (from the New York Times) “the most drastic change to American racing ever.”
One consensus that seems to have been reached is that this is a victory for horse racing fans. In recent decades, fans of the sport have voiced their displeasure of what many see as the tarnishing of races by widespread use of drugs like Salix. Kentucky Governor Steve Bashear said in a statement to Thoroughbred Times:
“Today’s action by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is an important step in removing race-day medication at Kentucky tracks, something the public has expressed a desire to see happen.”
The measure still needs the approval of Kentucky lawmakers in order to go into effect.