Raceday medications banned by Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup will prohibit all raceday drugs as from 2013.  

North America officials were urged to abandon the widespread use of raceday medication by administrators from Britain and Ireland at an industry conference in New York last month.

In a significant move for the entire North America racing industry, Lasix and Salix will be banned for the five juvenile contests at the 2012 Breeders’ Cup.

The Breeders’ Cup board of directors made the decision to set a timetable for the phasing out of Lasix and other raceday medications on Wednesday.  Lasix is banned on racedays in all major racing jurisdictions outside North America owing to its alleged performance-enhancing qualities.

“Given the high level of international participation in our championships, Breeders’ Cup feels strongly that the time has come to modify our medication policies to be consistent with international practices,” BC Board chairman Tom Ludt said in a statement on Friday.

“Breeders’ Cup has a long-standing reputation for setting high standards of safety, security, and integrity for the participants in our championships, and this measure continues that tradition.”

USA industry organizations are, for the most part, supportive of the plan.  The Jockey Club commended Breeders’ Cup and called for the reform of medication policies and stronger penalties for those who violate them.

“The integrity of horse racing and the health and safety of our human and equine athletes requires horses to compete free from the influence of medication,” Jockey Club President James Gagliano said.  “Our policies should mirror those in the rest of the racing world and prevent chronic offenders from having a continued place in our sport.”

Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Dan Metzger agreed with the Jockey Club.  “The Breeders’ Cup is uniquely situated to create policies and structure.  This should resonate not only in USA racing but around the world.”

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association acknowledged the action by Breeders’ Cup but didn’t state support.  The NTRA board, which is comprised of racetracks and horsemen’s groups, hasn’t reached a consensus.

Trainers have largely resisted moves towards outlawing Lasix and various Horsemen’s Associations have questioned the push to ban Salix citing research that suggests the medication is beneficial to racehorses.

The Breeders’ Cup development was welcomed by leading English trainer Mark Johnston who is an outspoken critic of drug regimes in certain authorities outside Europe.  “There is a still a long way to go,” Johnston said.  “But every move is a step in the right direction.”

Beside running a very successful stable in North Yorkshire, Johnston is also a British Horseracing Authority director.  “I’m not as concerned as some that these drugs are particularly sinister.  But I always like to see a level playing field.”