TIMONIUM, MD., FEB. 13 -- Thoroughbred horsemen and veterinarians today defended existing Lasix guidelines at Maryland racetracks in response to a plan that would place new restrictions on the anti-bleeding medication.
The Maryland Racing Commission's monthly meeting evoked a larger-than-average turnout as more than 20 trainers, owners and private veterinarians assembled in a show of resistance to several changes recommended by the commission's medication committee.
Alan Foreman, lawyer for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said his group opposes elements of the plan that would limit dosage and restrict the means and time in which Lasix (furosemide) is administered. The medication, a diuretic, is used to control respiratory hemorrhaging that afflicts about 80 percent of the older horses who race on the Laurel-Pimlico circuit.
The proposed changes followed months of discussion with racing states, particularly New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. However, commission chairman Ernest Colvin said today the current recommendations were not made to comply with rules of other states but rather to improve the existing program in Maryland.
Allan Levey, chairman of the medication committee, said his panel will renew discussions with horsemen before the next commission meeting in mid-March.
The medication committee advocates that confirmed bleeders be limited to 2 to 10 ccs of Lasix before they race; there currently is no ceiling on dosage. Moreover, dosage would not deviate by more than 2 ccs from one race to the next.
Horses would be administered medication four hours before a race as opposed to three, and only by intravenous injection unless otherwise authorized by a state veterinarian.
The MTHA, predictably, did not object to facets of the plan that would allow 2-year-olds to race with Lasix -- horses now must be 3 -- nor to revisions in penalties for repeated bleeders. But Foreman, and particularly private veterinarian Jim Stewart, were adamant in stating that Maryland's Lasix program otherwise has proven effective and should not be altered.
Stewart and veterinarians Randy Brandon and Lee Malone told the commission that 25 to 50 percent of the Lasix they administer is done both intramuscularly and intravenously. Stewart said some horses could have a reaction to intravenous-only administration, in which the drug is absorbed faster.
The veterinarians supported the current three-hour rule by saying Lasix probably begins to lose effectiveness after that time, and that the amount of drug given should depend on the horse being treated.
"To be legislating how much you're going to give and the route is not the providence of the commission," Malone said.
Regarding other action, the racing commission approved specifics of the Pimlico meeting March 14 through July 3.
The Baltimore track, which will conduct mostly five-day racing weeks throughout the 86-day meet, received clearance to raise certain box seat prices from $10 to $20 for Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days. Infield admission on Preakness Day will increase from $10 to $12.
The commission also allowed Laurel and Pimlico to run up to 12 races on weekends and holidays through July 3, providing enough horses are available.