To the objective and reasonable among us, the almost universal use (95% of starters) of raceday Lasix in America is bad for horses. So, it would appear that The Jockey Club’s opposition to Lasix – indeed, to all raceday medication – is a pro-horse stance. But some things aren’t as simple as they appear.
To bolster the case against, The Jockey Club’s Matt Iuliano (in the Paulick Report) cites a recent study (of horses running without Lasix) that shows “a lack of significant association between EIPH [exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage] and a productive racing career, except in the most severe cases. …The lifetime racing performances of horses with EIPH that continued to race indicate these horses were successfully managed over a productive racing career…”
In short, no need to get too hung up on a little blood in the lungs, for it’s “manageable” and long-term “productivity” should remain sound. Equine suffering? Doesn’t appear part of the equation. Racing’s moral bankruptcy laid bare, yet again.
While preparing my 6-month update on the December casualties, I came across a 3-year-old gelding named Rockinpop. Rockinpop has run a total of three races, all under Jared Cheeks. In his second race, a maiden claiming on December 21st at Gulfstream, Rockinpop, two at the time, was a “bled”/DNF. Three months later – a recuperation period, I suppose – he again ran in a claiming at Gulfstream – and again he was a “bled”/DNF. He has not been heard from since.
And then there is 7-year-old Costly. On June 12th at Churchill Downs, Costly was vanned off after having bled. In her very next race, last night at Mountaineer, Costly was again vanned off for bleeding. Her current trainer (and trainer for both of these races) is Kevin Fletcher. Perhaps, Mr. Fletcher, this 57-start veteran has earned a cease-and-desist from the whip. But, then again, perhaps not.
In Monday’s Paulick Report, apologist Ray Paulick relays Malcolm Gladwell’s contention that performance-enhancing drugs and reconstructive surgeries for athletes should be seen in the same light. Gladwell, according to Paulick, “thinks human athletes should be permitted to use any type of drug they wish, provided it is FDA approved and is disclosed by the athlete.” But being a horseracing publication, Paulick ends with this:
“The late Charles Harris, a New York-based horse owner who for years fought for clean sport, once suggested the same thing as Gladwell, that all drugs should be permitted in racing, so long as they are disclosed. At least that would level the playing field, he said.
As athletics, horse racing and veterinary and genetic science move forward, will Gladwell be proven right? Will that bright moral line separating doping from science or surgery become less defined?”
While Gladwell’s thesis has merit, to even suggest that that same thinking could be applied to racing – as Paulick does by referencing Harris – is repellent. Mr. Paulick, ultimately what separates horseracing from every true sport on the planet is informed consent: Professional human athletes are the autonomous final arbiters on what goes into their bodies; professional racehorses are – forgive the emotionally charged word, but it is what it is – common slaves, with zero control over their lives.
Furthermore, when a juiced ballplayer breaks down, he goes on the disabled list, rehabs, and returns to his trade; when a drugged/doped racehorse breaks down, he dies. So you see, Mr. Paulick, we’re not even remotely in the same neighborhood.