The New York Racing Association on Wednesday became the latest Thoroughbred racing organization to ban raceday Lasix for stakes races next year.
Use of the diuretic drug, which is administered to quell exercise-induced bleeding in a horse’s lungs, will not be permitted within 48 hours of post time of a horse’s race. The new rule eliminates the last remaining allowable raceday medication at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
NYRA’s announcement came a day after the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act aimed at clamping down on and standardizing drug regulations and safety measures.
It also follows a trend that gained traction last year targeting raceday Lasix, which has been at the center of debate and dispute between various interests in horse racing for decades. Generally, those opposed to it want racing to be 100% drug-free on race days, and those in favor point to it as a therapeutic remedy that allows horses whose airways tend to accumulate blood to race unencumbered by that.
“NYRA is pleased to honor the commitment we made to our coalition partners by greatly expanding the ban on race day medication to all stakes races in 2021,” NYRA senior vice president of racing operations Martin Panza said in a news release.
“We look forward to working with racetracks around the country who share our desire to achieve uniform and consistent rules that advance safety and integrity. As evidenced by the passage of The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, there is significant appetite for positive change that will benefit the sport.”
NYRA was a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition last year, joining forces with the other two most powerful racetrack entities, Churchill Downs Inc. and Stronach Group, along with the Breeders’ Cup Limited, Del Mar and Keeneland.
In 2020, NYRA began a ban on raceday Lasix for all races restricted to 2-year-olds, as did the Stronach Group, which operates Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in California, Gulfstream Park in Florida and Pimlico and Laurel Park in Maryland.
In March, the Stronach Group went a step further by banning raceday Lasix entirely at its two California tracks, as well as implementing several other measures aimed at safety, after Santa Anita became a hot spot for equine fatalities last winter.
Last Friday, the organization announced that it would ban raceday Lasix in all stakes races for 2021, and NYRA followed suit Wednesday.
The first NYRA stakes to be affected will be the Jerome on New Year’s Day at Aqueduct, which offers qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
Current New York State Gaming Commission rules require a waiver to race with Lasix administered within 48 hours of a race, based on documented exercise-induced pulmonary bleeding. No such waivers will be granted for 2-year-olds or horses entered in stakes in 2021.
According to NYRA, a total of 127 stakes races were conducted at its three tracks in 2020, not counting New York-bred and New York Stallion Series, accounting for 25% of all stakes run in the United States.
Of those, 95 were graded, representing 25% of all graded stakes run in the U.S.
NYRA hosted 33 Grade I stakes (18 at Saratoga) in 2020, or 35% of all Grade I races run in the U.S.