A study in the American state of Maryland will explore the effects of Lasix-free racing among two-year-old Thoroughbreds.
The race-day use of Lasix, the original brand name for a diuretic called furosemide, is controversial.
It is used by horse owners and trainers to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH) — the bleeding in the lungs that can occur while horses are racing.
However, animals given the drug shed a large amount of water and can race up to 25 pounds lighter, which some believe confers an advantage.
The research in Maryland is set to begin on August 7, at Laurel Park.
The Maryland Equine Safety, Health and Welfare Advisory Committee, which falls under the Maryland Racing Commission, approved the plan last week for post-race video endoscopies to be undertaken on all starters in two-year-old races.
Under an emergency regulation approved on August 2, all two-year-old races until the end of the year will be run Lasix-free, with a 48-hour cut-off of the therapeutic medication.
The survey study is part of a broader agreement between the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and The Stronach Group for the Lasix-free pilot program that runs through 2023 for two-year-old races and graded stakes only. Graded stakes in 2020 are not part of the pilot program.
Private veterinarians who practice at Laurel Park will conduct the video endoscopies and complete information forms for each horse that will include the horse’s name, the assessment of any lung bleeding, any related comments, and whether the horse trains on Lasix.
Additional useful data from each race and race day will be added to the information forms, which will be transferred to an online database.
The racing commission will maintain all records from the survey study, and only a horse’s owner and trainer will be given the individual results of the endoscopies. Otherwise, anonymity will be maintained for individual results, but the data will be used in the study analysis.
Horses will be scored using a range from 0 to 3 — none, mild, moderate or severe bleeding — for the purpose of simplification.
Dr John Sivick, a Laurel-based veterinarian who is a member of the Equine Safety, Health and Welfare Advisory Committee, said endoscopies are usually performed 30 minutes to 90 minutes after a race, but the goal will be a window of 40 minutes to 70 minutes post-race to keep the scores as consistent as possible.
All horsemen who enter two-year-olds in Maryland for the rest of this year can expect the horses to be scoped.
The Maryland Jockey Club Racing office will notify horsemen when entries are made and also the morning of the race. Grooms must wait with a horse until it is scoped.
Owners and trainers do not have to pay for the video endoscopies.