OZONE PARK, N.Y.-- The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will prohibit the use of Furosemide (Lasix) within 48 hours of racing for all 2-year-olds with the start of juvenile racing in April at Aqueduct Racetrack, ushering in a new era in medication reform.
Last April, NYRA joined a coalition of leading racing organizations committed to phasing out the use of Lasix.
The initiative will begin this year, with NYRA prohibiting Lasix in all 2-year-old races at all three NYRA tracks across Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.
Beginning in 2021, the same prohibition will extend to all horses participating in stakes races at NYRA tracks.
Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred), Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
The coalition tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018.
FOLLOWING the launch of this program in 2-year-old maiden special weight races in April at Aqueduct, the first juvenile stakes race contested under these new conditions are slated to come at Belmont with the $150,000 Astoria for filly sprinters on June 4 on Opening Day of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
The first juvenile stakes event at Saratoga will be the G3, $150,000 Schuylerville for filly sprinters on Opening Day, July 16.
Trainer Graham Motion, altough based at Fair Hill Training Track, is a major player in NYRA stakes races, registering wins in prestigious races such as the G1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan and Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. He said the removal of race day Lasix is an important initiative for multiple reasons, not the least of which is public perception.
"I've had a few clients over the last few years that have asked me not to run the 2-year-olds on Lasix, and I do think that's a good thing," Motion said. "I think if our 2-year-olds need to run on Lasix at that stage of [their careers], I don't think you should be running them, quite frankly. I am not anti-Lasix, per se, but I do think this is a good place to start. Any continuity and any policy towards having less medication in our sport is a positive thing.
"It's something we tried before in 2-year-old races [at the Breeders' Cup in 2012-13] and now we're revisiting it again," he added. "When they tried this at the Breeders' Cup, everybody complained, and we stopped. I think at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we stick with it because there is a public perception with horse racing that if we're running on medication it's not a good thing. It's hard to justify that [perception] is not right. It's hard to stand up for our sport if we're running on medication."
NYRA-based trainer Christophe Clement, who for a second consecutive year is among the nominees to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, said he embraces the prohibition of Lasix in 2-year-old racing, as well as its expansion in 2021 to include all stakes races.
Clement, who said he does not usually administer Lasix to his 2-year-olds, started his training career in New York in 1991, four years before Lasix became a permissible race-day medication in the Empire State.
On the NYRA circuit in 2019, Clement won 13 races with 2-year-olds, and all but one of those winners raced without Lasix.
Those 12 wins without Lasix included stakes victories with Speaktomeofsummer (Chelsey Flower) and City Man (Funny Cide).
Previous to the Clement-trained Decorated Invader winning the G1 Summer at Woodbine without Lasix, the 2-year-old colt posted a maiden-special-weight victory at Saratoga Race Course without the medication.
"I think this is the right thing to do in 2-year-old races and next year in black-type races," Clement said. "My percentage of winners with 2-year-olds has been as good as ever. I think you have an edge of running without Lasix because I think the horses will take their races better, especially when you're running short distances and early in the year, because they will lose less weight and it's easier on them, physically and mentally.
"Instead of losing 20 to 25 to 30 pounds with a race while using Lasix, the horses will lose five to 10 pounds without Lasix," he said. "I am convinced that horses will bounce out of their races in a much faster and quicker way without Lasix. This is something I know because I do weigh my horses the day before their races and the day after their races."
Clement, who is closing in on 2,000 career wins and has conditioned 18 graded winners who have become millionaires during their racing careers, is equally pleased that stakes races will be run Lasix-free beginning next year. He said the new practice will result in positive ramifications for both the level of competition in stakes and the breed as a whole.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, a winner of more than 30 individual meet titles on the NYRA circuit and a seven-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner, generally races his 2-year-olds on Lasix, and uses it as needed when he breezes horses.
He said the gradual phasing-out of Lasix in 2-year-olds is a constructive and practical way to achieve what he said would be the end of race-day medication in the United States.