Owners of world-class Thoroughbreds and their trainers now have one more rule to comply with and will face liability for non-compliance. The Breeder’s Cup has announced that the administration of Lasix will be prohibited for 2 year-olds at Breeder’s Cup races in 2012, and all race-day drugs will be banned for all Breeder’s Cup races in 2013.

Breeder’s Cup has not yet named the host site for the 2012 Breeder’s Cup, but the organization is considering Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Santa Anita Park.

Lasix is a drug used to treat bleeding in the lungs. Some people believe the drug enhances performance because studies have shown that horses who are administered Lasix on race day outperform horses who do not receive the drug.

More than 90% of all North American race horses receive a race-day injection of Lasix, and it is exceedingly rare here to see a horse taken off the drug while racing. However, no other racing jurisdiction outside of North America allows the use of race day drugs.

Most horses who come from overseas jurisdictions to run the Breeder’s Cup are administered Lasix on race day, which is believed to “level the playing field” in races where North American horses are also entered.

Some believe that the move by Breeder’s Cup will spur other racing jurisdictions to implement similar race day drug bans. U.S. Rep. Tom Udall of New Mexico issued a statement praising the move.

One thing is clear…unless other North American tracks and events also ban Lasix on race day for the 2012 season, the new Breeder’s Cup Lasix ban might present complications for handicappers who will have to take into consideration the impact of taking a horse off Lasix after a horse has been racing and training on the drug.

Get the full story from the Blood-Horse here, and from ESPN here.

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Several people have asked me if I thought there would be  litigation over the death of Eight Belles after her second place finish at the 2008 Kentucky Derby on May 3.  Although animal rights activists staged a protest at the office of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority after the filly’s death, I don’t think there will be any litigation.  

The filly’s death did not seem to be caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of any person or entity.

What did cause Eight Belles to break both front ankles?  According to the Wall Street Journal, Eight Belles’ breakdown may have arisen from a variety of factors such as genetics, track surface, training methods, or medications.  Interestingly, Eight Belles and 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro were both descendants of Northern Dancer, a 1950s Thoroughbred whose racing career was cut short by leg injuries.

What is being done in the horse racing industry to prevent future breakdowns?  The Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, which first convened in 2006 after Barbaro’s breakdown in the Preakness, met again in Lexington March 17-18, 2008.  The Summit promulgated its recommendations to improve racehorse welfare, and those recommendations addressed the following issues:

  1. Track Surfaces–including research and development of synthetic (Polytrack) surfaces
  2. Catastrophic injuries
  3. Racing Medication & Drug Testing Laboratories
  4. Education–focusing on training methods
  5. Regulation–to establish uniform regulation of medication and integrity issues
  6. Solutions for unwanted Thoroughbreds
  7. Promote genetic diversity of the Thoroughbred

If the Summit’s recommendations are implemented, huge positive changes in the Thoroughbred racing industry could be realized.  However, according to Dan Metzger, the President of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, "miracles will not happen overnight."

 

"Absolute insurer rules" and "trainer liability rules," common in horse racing and other equine sports, presume that trainers are responsible when their horses test positive for illegal substances.  In effect, the rules make trainers guilty unless proven innocent.

The effect of this presumption is to shift the burden of proof from the governing body to the trainer, who must prove innocence by showing  that he or she did not negligently administer a prohibited substance to the horse or did not negligently allow someone else to interfere with the horse.  These rules can result in the imposition of a penalty against the trainer and/or the horse’s owner without actual proof of guilt.

Courts have uniformly upheld the absolute insurer rules, despite the fact that they appear to violate the due process of law.

Continue Reading Race Horse Trainers “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”