After learning this afternoon that he may not treat Desert Wine with the drug Lasix, trainer Jerry Fanning said he would recommend to the colt's owners that they not run him in the Preakness.
Desert Wine ran with the aid of the antibleeding medication when he finished second in the Kentucky Derby. He was permitted to use it because he was already certified as a "bleeder" in his home state of California. But because Maryland's rules governing the use of Lasix are more stringent than those of other states, state veterinarian David G. Zipf ruled today that neither Desert Wine nor Marfa can use it here.
Trainer Wayne Lukas said Marfa would start in the Preakness, anyway.
Under Maryland rules, Paris Prince will be allowed to run on Lasix, and Flag Admiral probably will be, although his status is still uncertain.
In the Santa Anita Derby last month, Desert Wine gave the one dismal performance of his career. "Because he'd never run like that before," Fanning said, "my vet scoped him 45 minutes after the race." This means that he performed an endoscopic examination, using a sophisticated device that peers into the animal's throat and lungs. "He found quite a bit of blood in the throat," Fanning said.
In California, that discovery was enough to make Desert Wine eligible to be treated with Lasix, a diuretic that arrests bleeding. But in Maryland, a horse may get the drug only if the state veterinarian has observed him bleeding from the nostrils on the track after a race, or in the detention barn within an hour after the race. Bleeding detected by an endoscopic examination doesn't qualify.
"I think Maryland is about 20 years behind the times," Fanning said. "What's the point in investing in all this new equipment and then not being able to use it?"
He recognized that "it's up to Maryland to have their own rules" but had assumed when he came here that the state would honor California's certification of his colt as a bleeder.
If Desert Wine were to run without the drug, Fanning knows he would be taking a risk. "What if he bled through the nose, choked up and fell?" the trainer asked.
There are other possible consequences that are less dire but still serious. Marfa's trainer pointed out that whenever a horse bleeds, the capillaries in his nose become weaker and make it more likely that he will bleed again.
Fanning had not yet spoken to Desert Wine's owners, Dan Agnew and Fred Sahadi, to arrive at a final decision about the colt's status. But Agnew told The Washington Post that he would be inclined to agree with Fanning's negative recommendation.
"It could set the horse back, and it would cheat the horse and the public," Agnew said. "He's too nice a horse to knock out."