Quest to Ban Race-Day Furosemide Called 'Insanity'

During a June 29 meeting that showed the battle over race-day furosemide is escalating, supporters ripped their opponents and vowed to take their case--that the medication is good for the racehorse--to the public.

Speakers at the "Truth About Lasix" forum hosted by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) supported the anti-bleeding drug also known as Salix, but their comments clearly took the argument to a new level. They pulled no punches in their characterization of those trying to phase out or ban Salix.

The forum was held during the National HBPA convention at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Iowa.

"One word comes to mind when I think about this, and it's insanity," said Maggi Moss, a prominent horse owner and attorney. "I'm begging you all to get people to come forward and knock some sense into this insanity. "

Moss, who called herself an "emotional owner," said she has seen and heard of many cases of horse abuse. She indicated the anti-Salix campaign is portraying many owners and trainers as cheats and abusers.

"I feel like we're living in an insane time," Moss said. "I've charted a path of speaking the next three months because I think (the Salix issue) is important."

Also, Stephen Selway, DVM, a practicing equine veterinarian and surgeon, outlined his argument about why Salix is humane for racehorses. He said the health and welfare of the horse must be the focus of the racing industry, and the public--fans and non-fans alike--must be educated on why Salix is good for the racehorse.

"You need to organize and put these people who are anti-Lasix on the defensive," Selway said. "This isn't that hard. Other groups are poisoning public opinion. If you do it, I believe The Jockey Club and politicians will run and hide, because the state regulators want to hang on to the power they have.

"All of these groups do not like to be in the public eye on the wrong side of an issue," he continued. "This nit-picking crap and our own anemic response to it is not helping the horse. "

Selway called the anti-Salix campaign a "sham."

The National HBPA Medication Committee decided to form a group to develop a comprehensive plan to the make the case for owners, trainers, breeders, and veterinarians that support use of Salix on race-day for the benefit of the horse. The anti-Salix group led by The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association created the website, which includes testimonials from those who want the drug banned.

Tom Conway, a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and a Thoroughbred owner, said an anti-Salix e-mail supposedly signed by him was one of about 600 received by the KHRC through He is pro-Salix and voted against the KHRC proposal to phase out race-day Salix over three years.

The measure passed and is headed through the legislative approval process.

"That's what we're dealing with here," Conway said. "They will do anything. This vote in Kentucky was rigged, but I can tell you, will be shot down. It will not become law in Kentucky."

Conway said there are four Jockey Club members and the wife of a fifth member on the KHRC. He said before the KHRC voted in early June on its Salix proposal, he received a telephone call from someone who told him Kentucky would ban Salix, and that he shouldn't contest it.

"It was predetermined that we'd lose on the issue," Conway said. "We're in a war with The Jockey Club and breeders who want to tell us what we can do with our private property. Kentucky is a battleground state, and they're counting on other states to follow suit. I can tell you this regulation will be found deficient."

Conway, as he stated before, said he would leave the horse business if the industry somehow ends up phasing out Salix. In a surprise, Moss followed suit.

"I haven't said this before, but I, too, will be getting out of the business," Moss said, "and I know other people who will be doing the same."

Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas HBPA and a Thoroughbred owner, said a declining number of racehorses was an issue before the strong anti-Salix push began. He said that in Arkansas, the number of licensed owners has dropped 23% in recent years.

"If we lose Lasix we'll see another 25% go away, and I'll be one of them," Walmsley said.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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