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National HBPA Opposes Senate Introduction of the Horseracing Integrity Act (S. 1820)

The National Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) announces its opposition to the Senate version of the Horseracing Integrity Act (S. 1820), introduced last week by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ). On behalf of Thoroughbred race horse owners and trainers, the HBPA has been steadfast in its opposition to the House companion measure introduced earlier this year by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Andy Barr (R-KY-06) (H.R. 1754).

“Senator Gillibrand and Senator McSally have clearly been misguided. Banning race day Lasix will cause more equine deaths, and additional regulations will cause jobs to be lost,” stated Eric Hamelback, CEO of the HBPA.

The HBPA fully supports the veterinary community and the science on which they base their opinions. Under S. 1820, owners, trainers, and veterinarians would no longer have the choice to utilize the therapeutic, legal medication furosemide, more commonly known as Lasix. Lasix is used in horses to control or prevent Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhages (EIPH), or “bleeding” and has been used safely and humanely for the last 40 years in American horse racing. Horses often experience EIPH episodes during intense exercise, such as during races. Current industry policy endorses and strictly regulates the use of this medication on race day because it is in the best interests of the health and welfare of the horse.

“If Lasix is completely banned the number of fatalities on race tracks throughout the country will increase. While we are committed to finding answers that will prevent, reduce, and solve the occurrence of any fatality for our thoroughbred athletes, this bill is NOT the answer.” said Hamelback.

Also, the HBPA has deep concerns about the additional fees and costs that S. 1820 would place on those in the horse racing industry. For the smaller industry folks, these new fees will be the tipping point that pushes them out of the business. While wealthy owners may not feel the pinch, rural and agrarian jobs will be lost, and lives will be devastated. This loss of income will have a rippling effect on state and local economies that depend on the industry.

Hamelback believes the introduction of this legislation is a misguided attempt to address the recent equine deaths in California: “S. 1820 would not have prevented one single death. My members are as concerned as any about the recent tragedies in California, and we agree more independent research needs to be done to discover the cause of these deaths. However, implying that the racing industry is rampant with doping and that this legislation is the solution is completely wrongheaded.”

The HBPA strongly opposes the Horseracing Integrity Act and encourages industry participants to voice their opposition by contacting their representatives in Congress.

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Thoroughbred Idea Foundation: Calling for a Racing Industry Compromise

The sport which brings us together is at a turning point. We have been divided for far too long on a variety of issues that impact our business. Most notably, the “Lasix debate” has been a debilitating one, inhibiting our collective ability to move ahead. The time has come for the industry to compromise – working together with all major constituencies to establish a mutually-agreed, new way forward.

The recent announcement from a coalition of racetracks to introduce changes to their house Lasix policies was met with a series of statements from certain stakeholder groups restating their long-held positions. Compromise is essential. Absent a compromise, binding mediation should be considered.

In my many years in this great sport, I have never seen racing more at risk than it is right now,” says B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Spendthrift Farm. “We have far too much at stake to continue being tied down in separate bunkers and not finding a way forward. The time for a compromise is now.

As major stakeholders, we believe the only way to grow revenue for the industry’s obligations – among them, aftercare and backstretch programs, equine research, jockey insurance and prize money – is through the growth of the sport’s overall “pie.” If our industry can collectively agree to compromise, we can finally move ahead together and address other meaningful issues that have inhibited growth in the sport for far too long.

While racing has some long-standing traditions which have shaped our collective experience, nothing is set in stone. Let’s embrace that freedom to redefine the future.

Our sport has recently been challenged in a manner that requires bold, serious and innovative action. But the longer-term reality should not be ignored, either. Foal crops are at 50-year lows. Handle is down close to 50%, adjusted for inflation, over just 15 years. Though tougher to measure, the social license racing enjoys is also questioned now more than at any point in recorded history. We must adapt to this, better exhibiting to the world – not just ourselves – the outstanding care our horses receive, and their majestic, innate desire to compete.

We must unite and emerge stronger – for the horses, for our passion, for the future.

Since our organization’s launch last summer, we’ve presented four substantive white papers tackling topics related to improving our sport’s approach to pricing, transparency, product development and access to information. Now is the time to present a fresh approach to racing. We have enlisted five industry leaders to present their take on improving different segments of racing through new approaches to long-stagnant “offices.” Their ideas will be released over the next two days.

Wagering and Innovation: Marshall Gramm (chair of Rhodes College economics department, co-founder of Ten Strike Racing)

Racing Administration and Planning: Rick Hammerle (long-time racing official, including 20 years at Santa Anita as racing secretary and vice president of racing).

Integrity and Welfare: Maggi Moss (attorney, major horse owner, leading aftercare advocate)

Communications and Marketing: John Sikura (president of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm)

Owners’ Services and Recruitment: Brad Weisbord (founder of BSW Bloodstock, ELiTE Sales)

Presented with an opportunity to re-shape our industry and mindful of our precarious position, these suggestions should be met with open minds. Our interest in a healthy thoroughbred industry is shared. The process to achieve these much-needed improvements remains rooted in compromise, with all stakeholders understanding that once-entrenched opinions must be loosened in order to establish a modern sport.

In the recently-published words of billionaire investor and philanthropist Ray Dalio, “collective decision making works much better than fragmented individual decision making so I urge you to understand it and employ it. If you don’t, you will be left behind.” Our future, as projected by five industry leaders, could be so much brighter than our past if we can collectively move beyond that which has divided us for so long and work together. Join us in this quest!

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Industry Reaction To Racetrack Coalition’s Proposed Partial Phase-Out Of Lasix

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Reaction was mixed to the announcement on Thursday by a coalition of U.S. racetracks to partially phase out race-day administration of the anti-bleeding diuretic furosemide (Lasix), beginning with 2-year-olds racing in 2020 and in stakes races beginning in 2021.

Those supporting the initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbreds), Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs. Breeders’ Cup Limited, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association (TOBA) and its American Graded Stakes Committee and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association also signed on in support of the proposal.

 

To Read Paulick Report Article

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Racetrack Coalition Moves Toward Lasix Ban in Stakes

Fair Grounds among Twenty Racetracks Committed to Ending Race-day Lasix in stakes in 2021.

 

A coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations announced April 18 a new initiative committed to phasing out the use of the medication furosemide (Salix, commonly called Lasix) beginning in 2020 and eliminating the use of Lasix in stakes races at their tracks beginning in 2021.

Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Inc., the New York Racing Association and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred meets), Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs. Taken together these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018. The coalition tracks will work diligently with their respective horsemen’s associations and racing commissions toward implementing this effort.

To Read BloodHorse Article

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Lasix Study Backs Four-Hour Administration Time

Pair of Lasix studies of interest outline results.

A study that has some potential to reshape the timing of Salix administration ahead of racing determined that the current four-hour timeframe is more effective than administering 24 hours out in reducing the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

The study, led by Dr. Heather Knych, was one of two studies on Salix (furosemide, commonly referred to as Lasix) with results outlined at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in late November. The other study, led by Dr. Warwick Bayly, found some potential for a low dosage of Salix 24 hours out combined with controlled access to water in reducing EIPH in racing.

The Paulick Report first posted a story on the results of both studies Jan. 30.

According to the AAEP’s 2017 Convention Proceedings document, the study by Dr. Knych of the Ken L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory looked at the efficacy of administering Lasix 24 hours out, instead of the current four hours out called for in racing’s model rules. The study concluded that administering furosemide four hours before a race was more effective in reducing the severity of EIPH than going to 24 hours out.

The Knych study saw 15 Thoroughbreds administered furosemide either four or 24 hours prior to a five-furlong simulated race. Blood samples were collected before and after the simulated race for determination of furosemide, lactate, hemoglobin, and electrolyte concentrations.

One hour after the race, an endoscopic exam and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed. Horses were assigned an EIPH score based on previously published criteria. The number of red blood cells in in BAL fluid was also determined.

“There was a statistically significant difference in EIPH scores between the four-hour and 24-hour furosemide administrations,” the study determined. The study noted that none of the treatments prevented EIPH in the horses but that reducted red blood cell counts in bronchoalveolar fluid post-race indicated that administering furesomide four hours before a race was the most effective.

According to its introduction, the study came together following anecdotal reports that suggested furosemide administration 24 hours prior to strenuous exercise could be equally effective at decreasing EIPH.

The United States is one of the few countries that allows the raceday administration of Lasix. A study showing efficacy in preventing EIPH at 24 hours or beyond had potential to reshape current raceday policy of administration four hours before the race.

In the study led by Bayly, it was determined that a 0.5 mg/kg administration of furosemide 24 hours before strenuous exercise combined with controlled access to water shows potential for reducing the severity of EIPH.

The study used six horses who underwent treadmill exercise to fatigue after seven different protocols that adjusted the dosage amount of the Lasix and timing of the administration. The study concluded that, “Furosemide, 0.5 mg/kg, combined with controlled access to water, significantly reduced the severity of EIPH,” adding that, “No ill effects were detected in the horses.”

In its AAEP presentation outline, the study noted that “Although the findings were promising, the number of horses used was small. The effects of furosemide on water and ion excretion were evident for 24 hours but did not adversely affect the horses, likely because of increased absorption of wager and ions from the colon.”

In September 2015, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation announced it had launched funding of the two projects. The AAEP also played a prominent role in funding the projects, along with a number of racetracks.

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