The summer meet at Saratoga Race Course has a long and illustrious history of showcasing top-of-the-line 2-year-old racing. Indeed, many gifted racehorses debuted at Saratoga over its 149 years in upstate New York.
During the 2012 Saratoga season, 89 races for 2-year-olds were carded and they had 683 starters (some horses ran more than once). Even though many of the juveniles were making just their first or second career start, 544 of the 683, or 79.7%, ran with the aid of furosemide (brand name Lasix or Salix). The medical reason for furosemide is ostensibly to alleviate exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhaging–EIPH.
Particularly intriguing is that the putatively best juvenile colts and fillies, those capable of competing in graded stakes, had an even greater frequency of furosemide use. In Saratoga’s seven graded stakes for 2-year-olds, 43 of 48 starters, or 89.6%, ran on furosemide. Every filly in the Grade 1 Spinaway was given the drug.
The nearly 90% of starters in 2-year-old graded stakes races at Saratoga that ran on furosemide is not appreciably lower than the approximately 92% of all Thoroughbreds in the United States receiving the drug on race-day.
Seventy nine of the 89 races for 2-year-olds at Saratoga, or 88.8%, were won by a colt or filly that had been administered furosemide. In the graded stakes races, 100% of the winners raced on the drug.
This year’s meet was of particular interest given the fact more than 60 owners around the country pledged to race their 2-year-olds furosemide-free. The number of 2-year-olds that didn’t race on the drug was considerably higher than it was in the summer of 2011 at Saratoga.
The pervasive reliance on furosemide for 2-year-old starters at the 2012 Saratoga meet points persuasively to one of two inferences. Either the preponderance of lightly raced 2-year-olds, with enough talent to compete at a premier racetrack like Saratoga, are apt to experience EIPH acute enough to warrant the use of furosemide, or their trainers believe the drug is a performance enhancer.
Copyright © 2012 The Blood-Horse and originally published therein. Used with permission.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas (on a segment taped for Clean Horse Racing) provided his insight on EIPH and furosemide in world-class 2-year-old racing. He cited as a case-in-point the use of the drug on 2-year-olds during April meets at Keeneland. Ever since Kentucky regulators decreed that furosemide was a legal medication for race-day, Lukas says, “Almost every 2-year-old that ran at Keeneland, going 4 ½ furlongs, first start of his life, ran on Lasix. It is ludicrous to believe that every one of those horses bled. Chances are probably none of them bled going 4 ½ furlongs that early in their career.”