Whips and Lasix, Two Peas in Different Pods

There have been some fascinating discussions within the business itself, post-Derby, with the whipping of American Pharoah. This was not really outside led, there were no stories like this on activist websites, it's all come mostly internally.

Lasix, another favorite topic for the business, has been hotly debated. But it's hugely different. Lasix use, or the banning of it, has a number of pros and cons, as a pure business case. If Lasix is eliminated, field size may go down, some small tracks where our less than blue-blooded animals race could suffer. From a horse welfare perspective, no one denies that lasix works well in terms of what it is supposed to do - stop bleeding. From a pro-business case, if lasix is eliminated the horses may be healthier (less weight loss race to race), it brings the breed into line with everyone else, and from a PR perspective - certainly important for government support and purse strings - it's the right thing to do. Race day meds are about as popular with the betting or general public as an overdue tax bill.

Like any proposal with a business case, a business weighs the good versus the bad, and makes a decision. This is why lasix is a very difficult topic: There are some good business case, cost-benefit points on both sides.

Whipping is completely different. There are a number of business case reasons to pare back its use, as many jurisdictions both in the US and Canada (and the rest of the world) already have with no negative issues whatsoever. On the flip side, for "pro-whipping", we mostly hear anecdotes, stories, or the dreaded "this is the way we do things" from insiders that plagues racing and has for decades. This side can't hold up a study, or business case that says people will watch racing more on TV, buy more horses, come to the track more often, or increase their bet,  if only the horses were whipped more.

I wrote a column about similar to the above recently (that should be up soon). It's about governing a sport by extrapolating our personal feelings and letting those "feelings" lead us in decision making. There's no room for that in a big business like horse racing. The sport needs to be governed by a strong business case, with real cost-benefit analysis, not whims or feel. Unlike Lasix, when it comes to whipping it's a no-brainer. Although some might "feel" horses who are whipped 32 times in a stretch drive is no big deal, the facts say there is no business benefit to it, and an anti-business detriment to it. I am certain, maybe not this month or next year, but sometime, the whip rules in Kentucky will fall into line like most everywhere else. We likely won't be having this conversation too much longer, in Kentucky, or anywhere in the world for that matter. It's mostly just common sense.

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