Godolphin Racing's Fortify, who has raced without Lasix in all three of his career starts, could be the only horse in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) who won't be racing "Lasix off" on championship day.
The Breeders' Cup will not allow any two-year-olds to race on the anti-bleeding medication at this year's event, which will take place November 2-3 at Santa Anita. Of the horses I know to be pointing to the Juvenile, Fortify is the only one who has never raced on Lasix.
It's tough to say how handicappers should factor Lasix into their betting. It used to be that a horse had to bleed to receive Lasix, and Lasix off or on could have a powerful effect on performance. But use of the drug has become so prevalent in America that many horses that do not bleed are now administered Lasix everytime they run, either preventively or for other benefits.
Some horses will do fine in the Breeders' Cup without Lasix, but some bleeders also could emerge. Dramatic form reversals are possible.
The Breeders' Cup is making a statement in favor of medication reform in America, the most permissive major racing country in the world when it comes to raceday drugs. But if a horse bleeds badly at the Breeders' Cup, it could provide fodder for those who say the Lasix ban is misguided -- that it is cruel not to allow bleeders to run on Lasix.
Last year, Fortify's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin asked his owners permission to run their two-year-olds without Lasix unless they actually bled.
"We did our own little study," McLaughlin said. "Because of what is likely to happen -- more and more races are going to be run without Lasix -- I thought it would be a good idea to run them without it, and see what's going on. The most significant thing we discovered is that not many of our horses bled."
This year, Fortify's owners Godolphin Racing signed a pledge to not use Lasix on their two-year-olds.
"Both Darley/Godolphin and Shadwell signed the no-Lasix agreement," McLaughlin said. "We've had one bleeder out of all the horses we've run without Lasix this year. Fortify has not needed it. Even if I was operating on my system from last year, Fortify wouldn't have had Lasix yet. He has scoped clean every time."
Godolphin Racing's Travers' Stakes (G1) winner Alpha, who will race in the Breeders' Cap Classic this year, raced without Lasix during his two-year-old campaign in 2011. Alpha ran well twice -- winning his debut by six lengths, then second in the Champagne Stakes (G1) -- but he finished 11th , beaten 19 lengths in the Breeders' Cup. McLAughlin said Alpha "did bleed a little" in the Breeders' Cup. Alpha has raced on Lasix throughout his three-year-old campaign.
McLaughlin said Fortify is ready for the Breeders' Cup and training well.
"He's a really nice horse, and everything is going well. Obviously Shanghai Bobby has been impressive, but Fortify has been running well, and I hope he keeps improving through his two-year-old season and on to three," McLaughlin said. "Maybe we’re a step ahead on the Lasix issue. We’ll see. It makes me sleep a little better knowing we haven't used Lasix on Fortify and no [2yo] can use it at the Breeders' Cup this year. We don’t have that question mark."