The thoroughbred board of the Maryland Racing Commission took no action today on a request that wider use of the diuretic drug Lasix be permitted, but said it would try to resolve the issue shortly.
A group of local horse trainers had asked that the Lasix and bleeders rule be revised after two horses died at this summer's meeting at Timonium Race Course because of bleeding.
Lasix, the only medication horses may be given on race day, generally is considered the best way to control internal bleeding. The commission has opposed expanding its use because it felt Lasix could be abused. The option for the trainers is not to run horses who have problems with bleeding.
"This is the first time we ever had a productive hearing on this," Robert Banning, chairman of the thoroughbred board, said after the three-hour meeting in which several veterinarians, trainers and Ed Flint, national president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, testified.
Fendall Claggett, president of the Maryland chapter of the HBPA, called the restraint of Lasix "unnecessarily dangerous to horses and jockeys" and said the drug is permitted in neighboring states.
"We just want to bring the Maryland rule in line with regulations already in effect in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware," he said. "Seventy percent of all horses bleed when involved in strenuous exercise."
Flint said he wanted merely to see uniformity in the rule in fairness to horsemen and fans. He said 28 percent of the horses raced in Kentucky run on Lasix.
Banning was concerned by reports that horses on Lasix earned 50 percent more money. If unlimited use of the drug were permitted, he said, perhaps it would be administered to all horses. He said his concern was credibility and protecting the public.
The veterinarians said that the drug doesn't cure internal bleeding; it gives only temporary relief. This helps horses breathe without congestion and, therefore, run better. But Lasix doesn't stimulate horses, they said.