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Lasix, Handle, Fast Horses and Politics

Good day everyone.

Dr. Larry Bramlage's comments caused a bit of a stir on social media last evening.

He said:

“Let there be no doubt about what I am saying,” Bramlage said. “I believe furosemide is valuable to the horse when racing. But there are too many reasons we can’t keep it. The general public can’t understand it and the continual drumbeat of journalists, most of whom truly have no idea what they are talking about, will become a death knell if we don’t stop it. The connotation that has been created is unsavory to the general public because they can’t discriminate between furosemide and cocaine, they just read the headline ‘race-day medication’ and feel racing is proving itself ‘unsavory,’ if not ‘dishonest’ again."

There's a lot right and a lot wrong with that quote, in my opinion. The lasix narrative that it's a performing enhancing drug, allowing racehorses to compete which should not compete in the first place, is probably true. The incendiary prose that it's "like cocaine" is probably over the top, but I get his point, as well.

The problem pro-lasix folks have with their arguments is that other places do not use it, and things are just fine. It's like many of our problems in horse racing. A bogeyman is painted, sometimes made of straw, but in this interconnected, increasingly aware world, it's a bogeyman that's easily torn down. "Well, horses are not dying in the streets in Europe", is a stab in the heart.

I believe both (the fervent, and dogmatic) pro-lasix and anti-lasix foes are using bumper sticker arguments, when the policy that's needed is much more nuanced. If lasix is banned, other means will be used to achieve the same medicinal effects, but they will be done in the background, with everyone unaware. If lasix is not banned, purse strings - increasingly held by politicians - will be held back in subsequent rounds of slot subsidies and other help from statehouses. "We're not supporting this "drug culture" any longer, while our kids need better schools," says the bumper sticker politician.

As much as people want to seem to make it, it's not a my way or the highway argument. There are no off-ramps to some sort of lasix or no lasix promised land. 

Maybe horse racing is becoming more nuanced as time goes on. Maybe the trainers signed up to the no lasix use on two year olds, or the drum beat of graded stakes one day being lasix free is evidence of that.  Maybe we are moving at a slow but steady pace to some sort of resolution.  But in a world of dogma and demagoguery, politics, one side against the other, and wanting things done not over time, but yesterday, maybe that's simply not enough.

Notes:

Speaking of nuanced, Dan Needham looks at the breakdown statistics and writes a heady piece about them. Dan usually looks at things dispassionately and we need more people like that in horse racing.

Greg got his hands on the Churchill Downs handle numbers and they aren't good, down 16%. Churchill raised the juice this spring and has had a tough time gaining handle in the wake of it. The Churchill Downs press release did not mention the numbers, but because it read like an excuse book from a member of congress, we could probably figure out on our own they got walloped.

In HRU today, a look at some fast horses and other items at the Red Mile (pdf page 4)

The Espinoza suspension.  Politics? Backbiting? Fair or unfair? I don't know, but I suspect it was not done to "protect bettors". Bettor protection is about priority 1,100 on a list of 1,104 things in this sport.

Yesterday the US lost the Ryder Cup by five points, which is tantamount to getting slaughtered. Phil Mickelson, in a cringe-worthy moment (especially for a gentleman's game like golf) threw team Captain Tom Watson under the bus. I was stuck with a horse racing reference at that point. Just like drivers get too much credit when a horse wins, and take too much blame when a horse loses, it's usually about the horse, and when your team gets beaten that badly, it usually about the players. Daniel Dube might be captaining your horse and you didn't like the way he did it, but since you backed up by 12 off a pocket trip, it doesn't matter if another captain loses by only 9 3/4; your horse still needs to go to the scope barn.  The Euro's out-birdied the Americans 117-72.

There's a brouhaha about the new whipping rules in Pennsylvania, with some thinking this policy is new. It's not. Arguments made before were made in Ontario and Indiana. Consultation and public and participant discourse has occurred. It's old news, and I suspect every major harness racing jurisdiction will have the same policy within two years.

Have a great day everyone.



Comments

Anonymous said…
Larry is not on the racetrack, and will be the first to admit so. If there is a difference between barns that can do without Lasix and barns where Lasix is imperative, I truly believe he couldn't figure it out. That's not his gig, so to speak.
Also, his comments were addressed to the TCA, which anybody could tell you is a decidedly pro medication group. It appears that they are worried about the #1 priority in Lexington, which is to sell horses. MHO