In the latest in what has become a sad joke at the expense of our equine athletes and the entire Thoroughbred Racing Industry, Santa Anita has now backed off their Lasix ban for a possible phase out of the drug. Let us be clear, this is not about Lasix right now, that is a discussion for another day. This is about a knee jerk reaction to 22 fatalities since the current meet opened, and the inept manner in which the entire situation has been mismanaged.
Phasing out Lasix might actually be a better and safer alternative than an immediate ban. That is not really the issue. I am not sure any truly knowledgeable horsemen thought Lasix in and of itself was the cause of the 22 breakdowns. The ban as I understood it, was part of a much needed overhaul to improve the sport and level the playing field and get back to breeding stronger and healthier horses. Silly me.
In the wake of the 22 equine fatalities, Belinda Stronach, on behalf of the Stronach Group, issued a press release announcing a ban of Lasix at Santa Anita and Golden Gate. She left out their other tracks, Gulfstream Park and Laurel. Nobody I know knew why and it was not publicly addressed. That was at the least odd and inconsistent. To further display a serious disconnect from reality and the sport, it turns out the Stronach Group and Santa Anita probably did not have the authority under California law to implement the ban without agreement from the California Horsemen’s Association, which was the biggest bet against in the history of horse racing. Tim Ritvo has stated, at least in part, the reversal of the ban in favor of a phase out program beginning in 2020 and starting with two year olds was the result of many people telling Belinda Lasix was not the cause of the breakdowns. Does this mean she was not so advised, or aware of this herself prior to the press release?
What about the statements that the Stronach Group and PETA came up with this new policy including the outright ban of Lasix together? Does this reversal mean PETA is on board? What of the fatalities? Do we know the cause? Are we now going with inherent to the sport or coincidence?
There are a lot of people patting themselves on the back about this great compromise that was reached as if it saved racing. Well maybe it did for today but if you keep going to the well, one day the bottom of the bucket will fall out. It would appear the only thing reached was a continuation of a status quo that is clearly not working in the best interest of the game but continuing to generate money for some.
The other issue of the new normal as it has been called, is to include transparency in Vet records and also the transfer of Vet records when a horse changes hands. Will this transparency include the bettors who fuel the game and provide the financial support it needs to survive even one more day? If that answer is no, transparency is the wrong word isn’t it?
The most dire matter here is the horses. How do you bring one over to train or race without a concrete understanding of what caused this rash of breakdowns? That I would think that is a gamble even our gambling based industry would not want to take. Silly me.