Following Up on the Pledge - by Eric Mitchell

Nearly two months have passed since a coalition of more than 60 owners launched an experiment into Salix-free racing, pledging to run their 2-year-olds without the controversial anti-bleeder medication (also known as Lasix) on race day.

Several trainers managing the medication-free horses say not enough time has gone by to ascertain any significant differences between the Salix and non-Salix runners in their barns, but they noted that none of the Salix-free horses have shown any signs of bleeding after their races so far.

"We scope every other time they work and every time they race," said trainer Graham Motion, whose barn had 25 juvenile starts between July 20 and Sept. 5 with 16 starts made without Salix. "I have been pleasantly surprised that we have not had more that have bled after a race."

The encouraging news has a caveat.

"I don't see this as any real form of information," said trainer Tony Dutrow, who had 27 juvenile starts during the same period, with 14 of the starts made without Salix. "Most first-time starters are limited in what is expected of them in their first race. A great deal of them are not putting into their first race what they will put into their subsequent races."

Motion, Dutrow, and a couple of other trainers all said they have not noticed an appreciable difference in the well-being of horses that have not been running on Salix versus the ones that have. In addition, none of them said they had reservations about not using the medication.

"I'm totally comfortable with running horses without Lasix," said Al Stall Jr., who won the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes with Maybe So for owner Adele Dilschneider without Salix. "I am not doing anything different with them, just leading them to the paddock. If a horse bleeds, then we'll probably just give him some time off."

A chart on this page shows how the non-Salix horses have been performing. Between July 20 and Sept. 5, a total of 749 2-year-old races were run in the U.S. and Canada. Among the winners of those races, 660 (88.1%) ran on Salix and 89 (11.9%) did not.

Among horses that finished in the money, 87.4% raced on Salix and 12.6% ran without the medication.

Looking just at this year's Saratoga meet, the number of runners that were not given Salix the same day they raced rose to 121 from 49 during the 2011 meet. Ten horses without Salix became winners compared with four last year. The Blood-Horse compiled the statistics for 2012, while the 2011 statistics were provided by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who has been racing 2-year-olds without Salix for a couple of years, agreed that not too much should be read into the early race records of juveniles.

"I just don't win first time out," McLaughlin said. "They always need a race. It has nothing to do with whether they are on Lasix or not."

Godolphin's grade I winner Alpha, a 3-year-old son of Bernardini that McLaughlin trains, didn't race on Salix as a juvenile. He did happen to win his first time out by six lengths, then came back to finish second behind Union Rags in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I). After Alpha turned 3, he began racing on Salix.

McLaughlin, however, added the juveniles that do not run on Salix have maintained their weight better and seem to recover more quickly after a race than the horses that do race on Salix. As for any bleeding?

"So far we have been very fortunate," he said. "We scope after every race and so far we have had only one that showed a tiny bit of blood. Other than that we have not seen any that have bled."

A couple of months of racing is certainly not enough to draw any conclusion, but the early results seem encouraging, even to the trainers.

"The way I see it, you would rather not take a pill in the morning than take a pill," said Stall. "It is good when a horse goes without Lasix and doesn't bleed. It feels good as the trainer when they are clean."

It feels good for the rest of the sport, too.


Leave a Comment:

an ole railbird

in all of my observations, i never saw but 2 , 2 year olds that bleed anyway.

2 year olds seldom put forth the effort, it takes to excert themselves enough to bleed.

its nice to know that there are trainers, who are willing to not use lasix. but then there were always ,some of us that didnt use lasix, until it was needed, anyway.

im glad to see the results of this expermint, is being monortered. i look forward to reading the results in a year.

please ,keep us informed.

"an ole railbird".

19 Sep 2012 7:57 AM
Old Old Cat

It's great that we are getting somewhat scientific about this issue.  It's better than an ill-informed witch hunt.

19 Sep 2012 3:32 PM

Lets' try this again-

Bleeding from the lungs (as a result of EIPH) has a cumulative effect. The more often the tissue hemorrhages, the greater the liklihood for subsequent and more severe hemorrhaging/scarring/"damage". This may be why those trainers aren't noticing much blood-yet- when doing endoscopic exams. The fact that they may not be "putting into their first race what they will put into their subsequent races" may also factor into this, but it's enough to start the "cascade". I'd bet that they'd find some bleeding in all of them if they were to do tracheal washings...Wouldn't it have been a bit more balanced, and educational, had you run this by a few Vets before penning this piece?

19 Sep 2012 6:04 PM
Barry Irwin

Nice job Eric. I am sure that this story will be disappointing to those pro medication stalwarts that were hoping to utter those feel good words "I told you so." I am happy to report that Team Valor has not had a single bleeding episode with its 2-year-olds this season. I want to wish continued good luck to the others that have decided to support this initiative.

20 Sep 2012 9:40 AM

2 yr olds also weigh less and produce thus less concussion.

EIPH is a myth, of course. doesn't exist.

20 Sep 2012 5:59 PM

Some 2yos  do  put out.

About Applauding:

“A 2-year-old filly making her first career start smashed the Polytrack record for six furlongs at Keeneland on Friday when winning by nine lengths, after which the ontrack timer said several methods of clocking the race substantiated its validity”.Drf 10/14/2011

Her name was Applauding.

About the Nunthorpe Stakes, UK:

“The event is one of a limited number of races in which two-year-old horses can compete against their elders. The first juvenile to win was High Treason in 1953, and the most recent was Kingsgate Native in 2007.” Wikipedia.

20 Sep 2012 6:26 PM

Sceptre, vets aren't the ones making the decision to run horses on Salix. If they are and not the trainers, then that is another issue.

21 Sep 2012 12:47 PM

Where to begin? :

fb0252- I love your posts. Always right to the point.

JerseyBoy- I agree, some 2 yr. olds do "put out", right from the start. But, as said, whether they do or don't, running without Lasix puts them at risk for EIPH's later consequences. And by the way, you'll notice that Applauding ran WITH LASIX in both her starts at 2.

Lsstly, Mr. Mitchell- The fact that the trainers (actually here it's probably more the owners) make (made) the decision to withhold lasix from those 2 yr. olds doesn't negate my point. You chose to report only on THEIR observations and opinions, and also included some stats which appear to support their anecdotal findings. In so doing, you no doubt left many readers to conclude that this brand of testimony and data was solid evidence in support of the notion that lasix (salix) is unnecessary for 2 yr. olds and, perhaps, all others. You did not go to any lengths whatsoever to discuss the less than subtle counter scientific side-one that would surely debunk the meaningfulness of the testimony and data you offered. Let's face it, the Vets are in a better position (than the trainers or owners-or yourself-or a Barry Irwin) to assess the implications from that supplied in your piece. You know full well that simply tossing out raw data without also offering a balanced informed critique can often result in misunderstanding (to say the least).    

21 Sep 2012 3:03 PM

Just read the NYT piece: "At the Track, Racing Economics Collide With Veterinarians’ Oath." It certainly concurs with what many have been thinking for years.

Hopefully, the positive momentum will continue and grow. Seeing two year olds being assisted with medications in their initial race is simply absurd.

22 Sep 2012 8:46 AM

Sceptre is at it again, thought I might find him here.  Try asking any vet or any other trainer / owner / breeder in THE REST OF THE WORLD who all race WITHOUT LASIX.  The USA is the lone raceday drug using racing jurisdiction and it is no coincidence that horses in USA cannot complete long campaigns and that the top horses in the world are European and/or Far East, Australia. It is quite extraordinary.  Quite simple.  If a horse is bleeding so much it needs drugs to keep it on the track on raceday than it shouldnt be racing. I somewhat doubt that these two year olds have even had a chance to bleed before they are whacked on it. The world's top racehorses are clean.  You race and breed clean you get Frankel, Dandedream, Black Caviar etc etc.  The list goes on and on.  This is a great piece by Eric Mitchell at long last the penny is beginning to drop.  Sceptre I am guessing you would rather fabricate than accept some rather painful facts that lasix is not essential on raceday.

25 Sep 2012 8:09 AM

Oh and another thing Sceptre.  In the UK, there are minimal incidences of severe hemorrhaging/scarring/"damage.  If they are likely to bleed that badly, they dont race.  Its not really an issue in the UK, either the horse is fit to race drug free or it doesnt race.  It's quite a simple concept.  The horses are are clean winded and non bleeders in the vast majority of cases and if they bleed that much they are out of racing.  Its amazing, no one is asking America to jump off the bridge first, you are playing catch up to the rest of the world, America is the last one standing on drugs.  It is the Iran of the horse racing world, the purveyor of the chemical horse.  I applaud  Eric Mitchell for getting the message out there so that American racing can take its place again on the world stage.

25 Sep 2012 8:15 AM

It should be noted that Charlotte Weber chooses not to withhold race-day Salix from her 2-year-olds because she does not want to compete with "one hand tied behind her back."

Some of her horses do race without race-day Salix, however. She leaves the decision up to her trainers.

26 Sep 2012 3:08 PM

Dooquila, et al:

Re-"The rest of the world":

It's been stated, time and again, that many, if not most of the overseas horses train on lasix (salix). Why should they do this unless they too believe that this medication is efficacious against the damage of EIPH? It's quite possible, if not likely, that the foreign superstars you mentioned also train on lasix. Re-your basic point; I see little difference between training and racing on lasix. Also, while a Frankel, etc. may not be racing on lasix, who really knows for sure what he's given (and/or what is withheld) prior to a race...Why not take a look at Dale Roman's 9/13/12 article on the Paulick Report.

For all those who blame lasix for our recent lack of Triple Crown winners.-There was no Triple Crown winner between the years 1948-1973. During those years it could arguably be said that America produced their finest racehorses (at a time WELL BEFORE the advent of lasix use). And by the way, Northern Dancer was administered lasix.  

26 Sep 2012 4:21 PM

Sceptre - I am afraid you are wrong again.  Overseas horses do not train on Lasix.  Recent testing in the UK on horses in training and I do not have the exact percentages was something in the region of 0.5% and France was even less at 0.2%.  Please stop making things up.

02 Oct 2012 7:07 AM


You are losing the forest for the trees/consciously or unconsciously lost in the (unsubstantiated) details...I have read those stats-offered, I might add, from an anti-lasix website. Fact is, trainers abroad do use lasix in training-even that site admits to this. Yes, can't be sure of the actual %, but it's somewhat beside the point. For one, it's rather likely that there would be similar stats for US trainees, aside from that found post-race. Lasix is far from administered on a daily basis. Why should any over there use it (in training) unless they believed it would be helpful to the horse-they can't be using it or its perceived performance enhancing properties. More importantly, the pristine S. African study, performed on previous non-lasix users-all were turf horses- clearly demonstrated that an extremely vast majority of those horses bled (without lasix), and that lasix helped in their management of EIPH. Why should S. African horses differ from those in other foreign jurisdictions? The has been no resonable study to refute the findings of the S. African study.    

03 Oct 2012 3:58 PM

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