Judge Robert I. Hammerman of the Circuit Court of Baltimore today ruled that Desert Wine can use the diuretic Lasix in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. The ruling will also allow Marfa to be treated with Lasix for the race.
Judge Hammerman said that the Maryland Racing Commission was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" in denying Lasix, a medication effective in preventing hemorrhaging, to Desert Wine because bleeding had been detected only internally, not through the nostrils. Desert Wine was second in the Kentucky Derby, Marfa fifth.
"I'm elated and relieved," said Desert Wine's co-owner, Dan Agnew. "The judge's decision is all the things we were saying."
"It was a just decision," said Fred Sahadi, the other owner. "The position of the stewards and racing commission was just plain unreasonable and nonsensical."
J. William Furey, a member of the racing commission, said "understanding the Lasix problem requires a depth of experience I believe that the court did not have. However, he has made his decision, and we have to live with it."
The dispute centered on Maryland's regulations that only permit Lasix being used for horses observed by a state veterinarian as having bled while on the race track after a workout or a race. They also may be observed in a detention barn within an hour after the race.
Today's ruling will, in effect, liberalize the current stringent rules in Maryland regarding Lasix. It will allow horses onto the bleeders list who have been examined by an endoscope placed into the windpipe.
The decision to allow Desert Wine the diuretic came after an appeal by Sahadi of a ruling made by the Thoroughbred Board of the Maryland Racing Commission earlier in the day during an emergency meeting at Pimlico.
Sahadi was represented in circuit court by Washington attorney Robert Higgins, who argued that the findings of the stewards and the racing commission regarding which horses can be deemed eligible for Lasix were based on faulty examination measures.
Assistant state's attorney John Cooper argued that the commission had the necessary information and experience regarding rules involving bleeders.
The ruling by Judge Hammerman cannot be appealed by the racing commission because it is a regulatory agency and Hammerman is the judge of a court superior to its status. The commission is expected to meet Saturday morning to discuss the implications of the judge's ruling.
The commission is expected to hear expert testimony that will help it decide whether to allow a more sophisticated method of determining whether a horse bleeds after exercise or a race.
Of today's ruling, Sahadi said, "I believe the public, the horse and the race will benefit by this ruling. It makes for a truer, safer race. A horse has only one chance at the Preakness."