A Chinese proverb counsels: “If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up where we’re headed.”

Some of the most prominent racehorse owners apparently feel this way about the current path of U. S. racing because they have taken the first step in a different direction by openly pledging to run their 2-year-olds in 2012 sans race-day furosemide.

About 92 percent of starters in Thoroughbred races in the United States are administered furosemide, known by the brand names Lasix and Salix, to reduce the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH or bleeding). There is debate whether the drug weakens the breed.

Australian trainer John O’Shea told the Blood-Horse, “I would say the American breeding industry has lost ground whereas before it was the pinnacle. (Australians) continued to breed a tougher horse and medication could be one of the contributing factors.”

American trainer Ben Cecil concurred: “…horses on Lasix go off to stud or become broodmares, and you have to wonder if they are passing it on. That is why the (U. S.) breed has become very fragile.”

Others vigorously disagree with these views. Several generations of relatively furosemide-free breeding stock would be needed to determine whether the proponents or opponents have a better case.

Assume that in the near future furosemide is banned from all graded stakes in the United States. Further, for sake of analysis, presuppose that after several generations of mating relatively furosemide-free stakes-quality racehorses, progeny become less and less susceptible to EIPH.

This outcome would have a discriminating effect on bloodstock values by sorting out the stallions in particular that are most prone to sire bleeders. It would not take long for trainers to find out which stallions produce offspring that are most and least susceptible to bleeding, and this information would quickly disseminate among breeders and buyers. Mares that had short careers–and mares that produced foals with abbreviated careers–would tend to cause suspicion and hesitation among most potential buyers.

Owners voluntarily forgoing race-day medication for their 2-year-olds have taken a bold and selfless course of action because it is fraught with personal financial risk. Top-flight racehorses whose careers are truncated by bleeding are unlikely to command premium prices as bloodstock, and auction buyers are apt to demand discounts on the progeny of stallions and mares with a reputation for reproducing bleeders.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Reproduced with permission.