STUPID: The US Should Ban Lasix Because Europe Does


Whether or not the US continues to allow pre-race Lasix is an ongoing argument, but the oft-cited reason for doing so ‘because everyone else does’ is preposterously short sighted for 2 major reasons: opening race fractions, and the racing surface itself.

I’ve been watching a lot of racing in Dubai this winter, and am struck by the vastly different pace scenarios over in the desert. So I decided to look at the last two runnings of our American classic and the Dubai World Cup, a now $10 million headliner event running its next iteration this coming Saturday, March 30th.

Race                                      ¼             ½             ¾             mile       finish                     surface

2012 KY Derby                   22:32     45:39     1:09.8    1:35.2    2:01.83                  dirt
2012 Dubai World Cup    25.72     49.94     1:13.6    1:37.8    2:02.67                  Tapeta

Yes, Bodemeister’s Derby pace was historically faster than average, but plenty others have set aggressive opening fractions, plus Monterosso’s win in Dubai was similarly quicker than the norm over the Tapeta, as 2011’s winner Transcend cantered through 26.7, 53.1 opening marks. I am too lazy to do further research, but I think these are representative scenarios. Plus, before Trakus I’m not sure too many fractional times are available in Dubai or elsewhere overseas. You really want to compare apples to apples (or dirt to dirt)? Go back to the final World Cup won on dirt by Well Armed – who loafed through openers of 25.29, 48.67, and 1:12.58. So even when dirt was the racing surface in Dubai, the race was run in a turf-like fashion where closers often rule.

Thus, for the sake of this post I am going to assume the 2012 versions of these two races are roughly equal in their historical standings, plus the less than 1sec difference in the final time is helpful as well. I could try to Google fractions from classic races at 10F in Australia, England, and other countries – but I’m not sure it would be easy to find and many of those courses aren’t flat – but I believe most will concede those pace scenarios (over turf) are similar to Dubai’s, slower.

Point 1: The faster (and further) horses travel, the more likely they are to bleed.

By ‘faster’ in this case, I really mean early speed. Everyone knows it’s physiologically easier to run 10 consecutive 12sec furlongs for a final time of 2:00 flat than it is to run the first 4 of those furlongs in 11.25sec each. In the latter case, lactic acid accumulates quickly and you are so tired heading home the final eights are typically as slow as 13sec. Leg turnover is slowed and stride length is shortened. The lungs are working harder and trauma to the pulmonary capillaries is more likely. Horses suffer EIPH more at 11.25sec furlongs than they do at 12sec paces is my (unsupported) conclusion.

Point 2: The more forgiving the racing surface, the less severe the instances of EIPH.

“Horses working on the Tapeta surface will experience one-half the impact as compared to horse’s working on a conventional surface.”

Granted the MIT study focused on concussive forces to the skeletal system, but it stands to reason if these forces are lessened, so too are the forces slamming the lungs back and forth within the abdomen – which many researchers believe contribute to EIPH. Taking 50% of the concussive forces from the bones sounds great, but that is not a free lunch – as many of those forces have to be absorbed somewhere, which in the case of synthetics seems to manifest itself in hind end soft tissue problems, according to many trainers and vets.

In Conclusion

Sit in front of your TV on Saturday morning and watch some great racing in Dubai. My favorite trainer over there is Mike de Kock, and here is when his horses run:

His $10 million main event entrant may not be top notch, but many on the undercard are serious threats despite very restrictive quarantine practices. His entire string is only 3 months removed from a 6 month quarantine regimen from SA to Mauritius to Newmarket to Dubai.

Americans over there include Little Mike, Dullahan, Animal Kingdom, Trinniberg, Royal Delta, and a few others. The fractions will be glacial compared to our big Classic days over dirt here in the States. Closers like AK, Dullahan, and Royal Delta will find themselves amid 6-8 others when it’s time to make a move, vs the 2-3 they often have to get through in the stretch in America. I hate hearing the ‘poor trip’ excuse after cantering through 6F in 1:14 over the Tapeta Trampoline, but it’s likely coming from more than one losing trainer’s camp.

Since the World Cup has been contested over Tapeta at Meydan, the US has done nothing. Prior to this surface change, we did quite well over the dirt in the desert with 5 wins by US-trained horses in the last 6 attempts:

I believe a Bodemeister, able to lead through fast fractions, having no benefit of drafting in another horse’s slipstream, and only losing a 10F event by a head to a closer is a superior physiological animal compared to any closing winner off of a slower pace. I also believe Lasix should only be allowed in the US for races over dirt, and only for non-graded stakes events. Whatever the hell Europe or the rest of the world does is immaterial, as their racing styles and surfaces are much, much friendlier to the pulmonary capillaries of an exercising thoroughbred.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on March 26, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. 1992 breeders cup classic Jolypha 3rd opening fractions 22 2/5 43 4/5 1-10. 1993 breeders cup classic Arcangues 1st opening fractions 23 1/5 46 4/5 1-11 1/5 Neither had medication What secret method does Andre Fabre have

    • And neither bled, I would wager. I would assume his secret weapon was conditioning his horses with more than daily 1.25 gallops in 2:20 pace and weekly 4-5F breezes.

  2. Nice post Bill. Posts like this hopefully help focus debate over legit Qs. Might consider temp/humidity variations also. For reasons unknown my experience is that EIPH occurs much more easily or is aggravated by high humidity/low pressure weather conditions.

    My personal view is that if USA considers anti-lasix this should be a medical/scientific debate. For old timers as myself all this has been discussed before–see NY around 1992–and in favor of lasix. Now, the other way it seems.

  3. The fact that “everyone else” does not use pre race lasix is not the reason I and I think many others would like to see the practice banned. I believe that nature should be the deciding factor as to if a horse should be running in a race. I honestly believe that these wonderful animals should not be force fed chemicals just because some owner wants to race. There is plenty of information that says there are natural ways to train horses to keep them from bleeding as well as giving them proper rest and entering them in correct distance. My feeling is that if a horse needs medication it should not be racing. Anything less is cruelty.

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