Commentary: Thoroughbred Owner Sounds Off on Salix

The anti-bleeder medication Salix is at the center of a heated debate in the Thoroughbred racing industry.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse's Jason Shandler caught up with Mike Repole, owner of such well-known race horses as Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, to get his opinion on the current race-day medication debate taking place in the Thoroughbred racing industry. Share your thoughts on the issue at the original blog post.

On the surface, it seems that Mike Repole should be a happy man.

Mike Repole

Thoroughbred owner Mike Repole

On Tuesday (Aug. 9), champion Uncle Mo turned in his fourth consecutive encouraging work at Saratoga (Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) and seems on his way to making a comeback in the Aug. 27 King's Bishop.

Repole is also only a couple weeks removed from winning the Jim Dandy with Stay Thirsty, who could be the favorite for the Travers and is all of a sudden in the hunt for championship honors.

Oh by the way, Repole has the top-ranked 2-year-old in the country for the second straight year with Sanford winner Overdriven, and he is tied atop the Saratoga owners' standings.

But if you think Repole is humming a cheery tune, think again. The outspoken owner wanted to make sure he got a couple of things off his chest. Specifically, about the soon-to-be announced location of the 2012 Breeders' Cup and the hotbed subject of Lasix (furosemide, sold under the trade name Salix or Lasix), which won't be permitted on race day in the 2012 Breeders' Cup and in 2013 it won't be allowed in any horses at the World Championships.

"From the experts I've talked to, vets and trainers, and from what I have read, Lasix is probably the one drug that we need to have on race day," he said. "I'm all for banning every other race-day medication, except for Lasix. I think racing has enough image and marketing issues right now and if they ban Lasix it will only make things worse.

"I see where the Breeders' Cup already made the decision to ban Lasix for 2-year-olds next year and for all horses in 2013," Repole continued. "To do that on a huge weekend when millions are watching on a national stage, it could not be a bigger mistake. Here is a weekend when our sport is being showcased to the whole country and all of a sudden they want to ban Lasix? It just doesn't make sense and was not thought out well enough.

"What if a 2-year-old has made the first three or four starts of his career with Lasix and all of a sudden he is being asked to run without it in the Breeders' Cup," he suggested. "It's not fair to the horse, the owners, or the gamblers. Worst case scenario, what if a horse is 40 lengths behind bleeding from both nostrils? Is this the stage they want to experiment on? On racing's biggest weekend? I don't think they thought about the consequences. I think the racing industry should be more concerned about the horse, the fan, and the sport. It seems like everyone is more concerned with their own vested interests.

"As an owner who regularly spends up to $4 million on horses per year, what am I supposed to do if one of these horses bleeds after his first start and I get a call from (trainer ) Todd (Pletcher) telling me 'Sorry Mike, he bled and we have to send him to the farm for four months or possibly retire him'? Is that fair to the owners who spend all these millions at sales? What happens to our investment? From what I've been told, almost every horse will bleed at some point in their life. Lasix is a necessary drug that helps horses.

"I really hope the Breeders' Cup reconsiders its decision on this. If not, I may join forces with NYRA and start my own Empire State Games. I'll fund it for NYRA and we'll compete against the Breeders' Cup."

Whether or not you agree with him, it is refreshing to have an outspoken owner like Repole give his opinions on these important subjects. At the very least, it will spark lively debate.

About the Author

Jason Shandler

Jason Shandler is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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