My most recent article for the Daily Racing Form Weekend section examined Lasix, the most commonly used drug in horse racing; the science, the history, and methods of training without it. Ostensibly used to treat hemorrhaging in the lungs, Lasix was the first drug legalized for raceday use, but it has come under attack from racing organizations that represent breeders and owners. I attempted to push past the vitriolic debate between horsemen and these groups, as well as the Us vs. Them mentality of American racing against the world. As I wrote:
Why Lasix, and why now? Given its universality and its visibility as the first raceday medication, it’s a symbol for the ways in which North American racing stands apart. In Europe, Asia, and much of the racing world, it’s illegal on raceday and barred from training in some of these places. The worst bleeders in Hong Kong and Germany are even forced to retire and are excluded from breeding.
Lasix has been scientifically validated, but these groups see the original rationale coined four decades ago by horsemen and racetrack operators and veterinarians – that Lasix would help horses withstand the rigors of additional racing – as unsupported by the evidence today. They see sour notes everywhere, an orchestra of declines in foal crops, bloodstock prices, field sizes, starts per year, and, most damningly, public perception and integrity. Federal regulations knock on the door. Lasix is only one factor, but it is seen as the key that unlocks the door into a drug-free sport.
The article can be read here.
I learned yesterday that it received a honorable mention in the Eclipse Awards news/enterprise writing category, alongside the Times’ Joe Drape’s excellent story on the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s failure to care for its retired horses. The award went to Jennie Rees of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the third of her career, for her story on the unique dynamics of the jockeys’ room. Congratulations go to her.