Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar: Lasix Prohibited in Prep Races

del mar delmar paddock sceneLEXINGTON, KY (February, 2021) – As 2021 kicks off with stakes races being run without Lasix at the leading racetracks and Thoroughbred racing events across the country, including the 2021 World Championships, Breeders’ Cup is pleased to announce that this year’s “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races will be run without Lasix.

Additionally, Graded Stakes points for the purpose of selection into a Breeders’ Cup World Championships race will only be awarded in Lasix-free graded stakes races. As an operator of world-class racing with the highest safety and integrity measures in place, these initiatives are in keeping with Breeders’ Cup’s efforts to lead by example to move towards elimination of race day medications and to better align the industry with the rest of the world. Breeders’ Cup welcomes others to join these efforts to bring the U.S. further in line with international standards.

2020 saw a successful year of two-year-olds running Lasix-free, including on Future Stars Friday at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland. In addition, the groundbreaking passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, has provided a critical framework for the industry going forward. Under HISA, Lasix-free racing will be the general standard as of July 1, 2022.

“Even before HISA was signed into law, running the World Championships Lasix-free was a goal of Breeders’ Cup,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “Extending this standard to all races associated with the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will hopefully set an example for other racetracks and stakeholders to embrace forthcoming safety and integrity measures, including the elimination of race day medication, as a new, safer era for our storied sport approaches.”

Aligning Breeders’ Cup’s year-round “Win and You’re In” program with the World Championships by modifying the Field Selection Process and allocation of Challenge Race designations to races that prohibit Lasix further strengthens Breeders’ Cup commitment to this effort. The safety of human and equine athletes and the integrity of our sport must always come first, which is why Breeders’ Cup, like so many others around the world, supports eliminating Lasix in racing.


The Breeders’ Cup administers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred horse racing’s year-end Championships, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying series, which provides automatic starting positions into the Championships races. The Breeders’ Cup is also a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, an organization composed of industry leaders committed to advancing safety measures in Thoroughbred racing and improving the well-being of equine and human athletes.

The 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 14 Championship races, is scheduled to be held on November 5-6 at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California. The event will be televised live by the NBC Sports Group. Breeders’ Cup press releases appear on the Breeders’ Cup website, You can also follow the Breeders’ Cup on social media.

Lasix: A Comparison of a Horseplayer’s Experience Betting on Horse Racing

Synopsis:   Kelzenberg takes a look at the North American use of race day Lasix as compared to the Australian model of banning all race day medications.

By Anthony Kelzenberg for

Every year or two there is a large debate over the administration of Lasix to North American race horses.  Since I am not a veterinarian or a trainer (and after publishing this document I am sure some trolls will point out ‘what do you know, you aren’t a veterinarian or a trainer’), I will just post my experience as a horse bettor, playing races in America vs. playing the Australian product.

North American Racing (quick summary):

(1)         Expensive bloodstock largely from coming from commercial breeders

(2)         Race distances vary from 4.5 furlongs to a mile and a half (12 furlongs)

(3)         Typical high-end allowance purse (NYRA/So. Cal) is approx. $80,000

(4)         Surfaces are dirt (primarily), grass, and all-weather/artificial

(5)          95% of horses are on Lasix.

Australian Racing (quick summary):

(1)            Expensive bloodstock largely from coming from commercial breeders

(2)            Race distances vary from 4.5 furlongs to two miles (16 furlongs)

(3)            Typical high-end allowance purse (Melbourne/Sydney) is approx. $75,000

(4)            Surfaces are grass and all-weather/artificial

(5)            100% of horses are NOT on Lasix

Note that the racing and economic conditions for USA racing and Australian racing, from a sourcing, distances raced, and surfaces are largely the same.  The two significant differences are North Americans race largely on dirt, while Australians do not (instead, they rotate their race meetings daily to minimize wear and tear on their grass courses), and the North Americans run on Lasix, and the Australians do not.   I am going to use this essay to investigate why the Australians choose not to use Lasix.

The North American perspective:  All horses are potential bleeders, and they all need Lasix to prevent bleeding.

 The Australian reality:  Very few Australian runners bleed.

Bleeding is so rare in Australia that, when it does happen, it is usually reported between live race coverage on Australia’s version of TVG, TVN.  In other words, it is considered “news” when an Australian horse bleeds through the nostrils.  The typical Aussie race meeting (racing day) has 95 to 100 entrants, and, most likely, the number of excessive bleeders per race meeting are only one to three horses, so the amount of bleeders are roughly 1 to 3 percent of runners.  Again, these horses are untreated by vets because race day medication is prohibited in Australia (as it is in most of the leading racing areas), and the incidence of bleeding is very low.  I am ‘not a vet,’ but it might be quite possible that the number of excessive bleeders that show further pulmonary bleeding in North America after getting treated with Lasix probably is higher than 3%.  So what is this Lasix protocol of giving everybody Lasix accomplishing?

The North American perspective:  We produce the fastest horses, and we all know fast horses try hard and can potentially bleed.  So they need Lasix. 

The Australian reality:  The fastest grass sprinters in the world were bred and raced in Australia and our runners can campaign for five to seven years without ever getting Lasix.

Melbourne_Australian racingWhile the Melbourne Cup gets the headlines that go along with a $5 million dollar purse, Australia’s main contribution to the world’s genetic pool is unadulterated speed.  In fact, Australia is internationally known as “The Home of The Sprinter.”  Genetic studies have shown Aussie bloodstock to have a “double copy” of the speed gene that traits back to the Shetlands from Ireland.  In practice champions Choisir, Takeover Target, Scenic Blast and the never defeated and incredibly brilliant Black Caviar were able to have careers that spanned years and were able to win Group 1 after Group 1, in Australia and internationally.  Fans may recall that before Frankel won at 4 years old, Black Caviar was the number one horse in the World Rankings.  All this was accomplished with speed and without Lasix.

What about pace?  Ranking races on their typical half mile split, I would rate the stress on a racehorse in this order (highest stress to lowest stress):

Dirt sprint//Turf sprint//Dirt route//Turf route//Turf marathon

This is where some more data could be helpful because, without a doubt, dirt sprints are more stressful of any race type on the planet.  But they represent roughly 50% of total North American races run.  The experience in Australia shows that racing stress for other types of races can probably be managed without Lasix.

The North American perspective:  Our game is so tough we have to give Lasix to every horse, because the game is so tough.  Races take a lot of a horse too.  Let’s give “Billy Max” 8 weeks off:  look at him, he’s beat! 

The Australian reality:  Because of wet winters and super-hot summers, we give most of our race horses two eight-week breaks during the year to freshen them up.  But when we come to race in the spring and the fall, we are going to plan on running 5 or 6 times over a 10 to 12 week period – every two weeks – with no race day medications.

The Aussie horses are just tougher horses than current North American horses.  It’s that simple.    They are so tough the Aussies have a phrase for when a horse runs on 7 days rest (usually as a stakes prep):  “Backing up.”

The greatest example of Aussie thoroughbred toughness I have seen was the hulk of equine granite named DESERT WAR.  At seven years old, Desert War was in Gai Waterhoue’s barn and really showed the racing world what toughness is:

Here was his racing schedule (note the 4th place finish was at too far a distance for his best, racing every 14 days like clockwork):

Feb 17, 2007 – Group 2 win (1st of 8)

March 3, 2007 – Group 1 (2nd of 10)

March 31, 2007 – Group1 (4th of 14)

April 14, 2007 – Group1 1(1st of 10)

Wouldn’t every trainer or owner want to be involved with a horse like this?  We in the States get excited if the Kentucky Derby winner makes a racecourse appearance once a summer.  At least circumstantially it appears that race day medications are not helping, and compared to Australia they appear to be are hurting our game.

It may be partially genetic, or maybe racing almost exclusively over grass courses has therapeutic benefits, or maybe the application of race day meds like Lasix has an effect on toughness.  Every time Lasix is applied it forces the patient racehorse to urinate.  A LOT.  Generally speaking, mammals do not respond well to dehydration.  And there is also something in the study of medicine called the “kindling effect.”  One time there is a cause applied to a patient, there will also be affect.  When that cause (say Lasix) is applied, over time the effects on the animal’s body can become more and more noticed.

The North American perspective:  Yeah we have small field sizes, but everyone knows the foal crops are decreasing as well. 

The Australian reality:  We have more horses per race than the North Americans do, which leads to better betting opportunities:

As I write this essay (9/26/2014) I looked at the entries per race for Rosehill, Doomben and Sandown-Hillside, the three best Australian tracks on the day.

Track                       Entries        Entries per race

Rosehill                    83                               10.4

Doomben                80                               10.0

Sandown                 112                              14.0

Now contrast the above data with my beloved SARATOGA, which offers the largest purses in North America (taken from the Daily Racing Form website):

For the 401 flat races, there were 3,290 starters, for an average field size of 8.2. Last year, in 411 flat races, there were 3,417 starters, for an average field size of 8.3.

Again, we have not addressed foal crop size, which is the largest factor for field size.  But notice that tonight the three Aussie tracks I will handicap for my Friday night recreation have larger potential field sizes than our most popular track, Saratoga!

Saratoga Racecourse has everything – tradition, history, and the largest purse structure for an extended race meeting anywhere on the planet.  What main component does Saratoga allow that the Australian tracks do not?  Race day medication.  As they say in the social sciences “correlation does not imply causality,” or, in other words, just because a factor is present or not it does not mean that factor is relevant.  But we can definitely make the argument that race day medication probably does not improve field size.

And now a trainer’s perspective (From  Full disclosure – Kiaran McLaughlin has been my favorite trainer for a very long time.

Rather than lean towards genetics to explain the marked drop in starts, New York based trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, one of the 25 signatories on the latest proposal to phase out Lasix, believes horses are simply taking longer to recover from the diuretic effects of Lasix.

“I don’t think like a lot of people do that [banning Lasix] will kill starts per horse – it might do the opposite actually,” said McLaughlin, who in 2011 had rallied in support of Lasix.

I think people would be surprised how few horses actually bleed out the nostrils – it’s really not that many. And even if some of them bleed a little bit, they’re still going to perform and perform well.

For the past two years, McLaughlin has cut considerably the number of two-year-olds he runs on Lasix. “Once we know they bleed,” he says, “we do obviously work them on Lasix, however, and we will sign them up for Lasix on race-day.”

Only a small percentage of those which ran without Lasix bled, he said.

“It’s very interesting. For those two years, we scoped every horse after they ran and most horses after they worked to see where they stood, and I have to say that less than 5% of the horses we ran without Lasix bled at all,” explained McLaughlin, who believes his simplified Lasix program over the past two years proves that trainers mistakenly use Lasix as a wholesale preventative rather than an imperative.

“I think it’s abused in America to the point where 90% of two-year-olds are on it right away, so you don’t know if they’re bleeders or not and you don’t know if they need it or not,” said McLaughlin.

A ban on Lasix would certainly necessitate an adjustment in the way horses are trained and raced, he said.

Maybe they shouldn’t be running so often or as far or in as tough races. And if they are bad bleeders, maybe they need to be stopped on or retired.

This leads to another frequently raised comparison: that climate, training facilities and racing programs make Lasix more necessary in the US than elsewhere.

Unlike the US, where the majority of horses are trained during a short window of time in the morning within the tighter confines of the racetrack, racehorses trained in Europe are, by and large, exercised for longer and in quieter surroundings more conducive to keeping horses that bleed settled and calm.

But McLaughlin counters that the facilities used by the majority of American trainers are no different to some jurisdictions that implement a race-day medication ban.

“I trained in Dubai for ten years and their facilities are very, very similar to America,” he said. “We trained on dirt in the heat and we went left-handed. I just don’t agree with that.”

He said that with a known bleeder, he would try to replicate the diuretic effect of Lasix by limiting the amount of water that horse was given before a race – a practice known as drawing.

“We will obviously pull their water early in the morning, try to draw them a little bit,” he said. “And at the end of the day, there are vitamins out there you can try that are legal.”


(1)            In Australia world class horses successfully compete on aggressive schedules over many years of competition in the spring and the fall without use of Lasix and other race day medications.

(2)            95% to 99% of all race horses do not bleed through the nostrils.

(3)            There is significant anecdotal evidence that Lasix is given to horses to nearly all North American race horses in a preemptive manner for the 1% to 5% that do bleed.

(4)            This overuse of “preemptive Lasix” may introduce destructive effects to the horse over time.

 Did You Miss this Article?

Art Parker’s perspective on Lasix

Is Lasix Really the Problem in the Sport of Kings?

Topic: Horse Racing and Lasix

If our leaders are looking to Washington to solve our problems then we need new leaders.

by Art Parker,

Most states, if not all, require high school football players to have their ankles taped before a game. This precautionary exercise supposedly reduces the probability of ankle injuries in what is a very violent sport. Many horses are given Lasix (Salix) so that the probability of Exercised Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) is reduced, or it plain terms, so that a horse may not experience respiratory bleeding during a contest.

The taping of boy’s ankles and the use of Lasix in a horse is, in my opinion, a precautionary measure that reduces the probability of physical problems during athletic competition and allows for the athlete to compete at their normal level of capability.

Like tape on an ankle, Lasix is not a performance enhancer, even though some disagree.

Lasix for racehorses

Lasix is given to both horses and humans

I believe the Lasix argument is much ado about nothing because we are not focusing on the real problem with thoroughbred racing as it relates to medication. None of us in our right mind wish for our sport to be tainted with performance-enhancing drugs or PED, as has been the case in baseball and other sports. I am convinced Lasix is not a PED and, therefore, I do not know why the constant hullabaloo about the stuff. I take Lasix because I’m a cardiac patient. I’ve had a heart attack and bypass surgery and all of that fun stuff. If I have a big fluid buildup, I will not be able to breathe and I will not be able to work, and I’ll probably be found dead in my stall (office). If a horse can’t breathe because of fluid buildup or EIPH then he can’t do his job. What’s the problem? If Lasix was a performance enhancer then my physical capabilities would be far greater than they are now.

The problem is that we have confused Lasix with other drugs that people wish to expel from our sport. Lasix is not a problem but PEDs are. Giving a horse a drug so that he will perform beyond his capabilities is bad. Giving a horse a drug so that he can perform normally is fine.

Let me give you a case where, if Lasix is prohibited, we will regret it. In the past we have seen a horse or two break down at the Kentucky Derby or at The Breeder’s Cup while broadcast on national television. And horses that bleed externally will pull up and this is bound to happen in nationally-broadcast major races.

Of course, when that happens, PETA and all other people seeking to complain about something start to scream about illicit drugs, performance enhancers and poor treatment. If we ban Lasix and we have a horse go down, and die because of EIPH, what are we going to hear? We will hear what a shame it is because the horse wasn’t given medication to avoid the problem. We will hear that all was required to protect the horse was an injection of a simple diuretic. We will hear people scream and say, “Hell they give that to humans. They could have given a little bit of Lasix to that poor horse.”

That’s what we will hear. And it will make racing appear to be a bad sport with bad people because we failed to give a shot of Lasix to a horse. Racing will look like it neglected to do something simple and inexpensive…like taping an ankle.

But on the other hand, what if I’m wrong? One of the things that is unclear in the minds of many is the real impact of Lasix on a horse. What if Lasix is bad for a horse? As I mentioned, I’m a cardiac patient and I take Lasix. I remember one night I was taken to the hospital and the medical folks loaded me up with Lasix to get the fluid out of me. I remember I couldn’t sleep at all, not just because I felt bad but, because I was having to stay in the bathroom all night. Once the Lasix started to work and I began to discharge fluid I could breathe much, much better. I understand it does the same for horses and also minimizes the probability of EIPH, and that is good.

The most important question is what risks come along with Lasix use? Does a thoroughbred lose too much weight and does the disposal of fluid pose a risk? If risks exist, are they short term or long term risks, or both? Can the use of Lasix cause problems with the breeding of thoroughbreds? The questions are almost limitless and they need to be answered.

The number one concern about Lasix should be centered on the health of the horse. These beautiful creatures are a special gift from God and they use their best talent to provide us with a huge industry and entertainment. The first questions we must answer concern the health of our equine athletes. If it is not good for them then we need to stop using the medication.

What if Lasix doesn’t pose real danger to horse health? Do we still want to ban it because giving a drug to a horse doesn’t look good? Back to the question of enhancement. If it is not a danger and if it is not an enhancement to athletic ability, then why ban it? If we worry about perception then it is our job to educate the public. I hope we are not in such a hurry to have these so-called “uniform medication rules” that we actually harm horses that should be getting Lasix.

The other thing that needs to be discussed before banning this medication is the impact on the thoroughbred inventory at our race tracks. We have already seen a reduction in the average size field and it will probably get worse since the size of the foal crops has been diminishing. We already have a problem with keeping customers because of field size but what happens if the banning of Lasix cause a further inventory reduction. I have read where our older horses may be the ones that need Lasix the most. If that is true we will face an even larger reduction of inventory because the old guys are the ones that make sure we have enough runners in all of the claiming races carded every day. If we do something that forces many of the geldings into retirement then we will be retiring mutual tellers and hot dog vendors, and consequently fewer jockeys and trainers will be making a living.

What I find most disturbing about the entire Lasix issue is that many of the leaders in the Thoroughbred industry want to get the federal government involved. The states will not get together so I guess we need to get the federal government involved to make them “do right.” I have one question for any of you that believe we need to get the federal government involved in this and other issues.

Have you lost your mind?

If our leaders are looking to Washington to solve our problems then we need new leaders. An invitation for the federal government to be involved is an invitation for ongoing disasters, tyranny, stupidity, corruption and the certain regret we will eventually have by expecting government to solve our problems. Government at any level solves nothing, it only makes things worse, and the last thing we need is for anything to get worse.


Art Parker is the author of the bi-annual horse racing guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.”  The new book, due out in a few weeks, will offer a new feature for handicappers looking to tackle the popular Keeneland meet.

Feuds Horse Racing doesn’t need – Part I

by Art Parker

Perhaps the best crop of three year olds that I can remember came in 1987. Alysheba eventually won the top honors in a division that included Bet Twice, Java Gold, Cryptoclearance, Gulch, Gone West, Polish Navy, Capote, and a late bloomer named Lost Code. The argument over Lasix elevated in that year initially because Alysheba was known to be a “bleeder” and was forced to race without Lasix (also known as Furosemide) in New York; the only state that disallowed the use of the anti-bleeder medication. Alysheba won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and when his date with destiny arrived at Belmont in June for the Belmont Stakes the chatter was as much about Lasix as it was a possible Triple Crown winner. For those of you around on that unfortunate day you should easily recall Alysheba running a terrible race as his arch enemy, Bet Twice, crushed the field to win by double digits.

Lasix for horses

Lasix is given to both horses and humans

The argument continued until Saratoga held its biggest day. Missing from the truly magnificent Travers field at the Spa was the red hot Lost Code and as one news commentator explained, “Lost Code just can’t run without his Lasix.” The focus turned on Alysheba once again when he failed miserably as Java Gold captured the Travers Stakes. The reason most people wanted to use for his poor performance was that he couldn’t run without Lasix, even though the downpour from Heaven and the quagmire of mud of a race track were not to his liking. It wasn’t all that long afterwards that New York allowed Lasix.

Today the Lasix argument is back. A pair of influential thoroughbred organizations is in the center of the Lasix dispute: The Breeders’ Cup and the American Graded Stakes Committee. To say the 2011 Lasix issue is a mild disagreement would be untrue. The issue is heated and it will probably get much hotter.     

Let’s look at what all is going on. First, The Breeders’ Cup organization announced it is disallowing Lasix in 2012 for the Two Year Old Races on Breeders’ Cup Day, and, in 2013 it will disallow Lasix for all Breeders’ Cup races.  Then the Graded Stakes Committee announced it would ban Lasix for all two year races for all of 2012. Slightly less than 50 juvenile races have graded status. The committee said the new policy would be assessed at the end of 2012 and that a determination would be made to continue the policy or expand it.

Whenever I hear someone argue against using Lasix I usually hear that the diuretic can turn a horse into a super horse. I always like to argue that I take Lasix (I am a cardiac patient) and that it doesn’t turn me into a super horse or a super human for that matter. Almost all horses bleed some in the respiratory system when racing and using Lasix is a safety measure that helps the horse perform to its capability. That’s the argument you hear from those that are in favor of using Lasix. Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) is treated with Lasix because it allows the horse to breathe better while racing (some refer to EIPH as Equine Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage).

Why the revival of this argument? Thus far I cannot find a specific reason for the timing. I have to go beyond my role as a horseplayer and use my senses as a newspaper editor to formulate an answer, at least to satisfy my own wonderment. First I go back to a time many years after New York allowed Lasix, but just before the turn of the century. The Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in Major League Baseball eventually led to a debate about performance enhancing drugs. A few years after that epic battle in baseball, Congress got involved and forced a bunch of sluggers to come to Washington and tell them about steroids, performance enhancing drugs, etc. For a couple of years the focus was on Barry Bonds and his quest to become baseball’s all time home run king. The Bonds home run quest fueled performance enhancing drug arguments. When Bonds was indicted for behavior related to the use of such drugs the issue grew even more.

To make things worse Roger Clemens put on a very poor performance in front of Congress. That’s when members of Congress started spewing suspicions about anyone or anything that took an aspirin. And that’s when the words horse racing started to surface, and unfortunately for our sport, its name started receiving frowns. Many people assumed that Lasix, or anything else a trainer may give his horse other than water, are bad, terrible, unlawful and performance enhancing.

So, for what it’s worth, it is the same old culprit that ruins things when it gets involved-politics. I may be wrong but I sense that the Breeders’ Cup and the Graded Stakes Committee want to make it look like they are policing the industry. I believe all they will do is invite more involvement by those who really don’t care about racing, but just want to find the way to get votes and money for their next election.              

What I do not understand is why they are banning Lasix for two year olds only in 2012. Why is the Breeders’ Cup disallowing Lasix use for juvenile races on the same day it will allow it for all others? That makes no sense at all. If the Breeders’ Cup is convinced that the use of Lasix must be terminated why not stop it for all races at the same time?

What is most interesting about these two groups “flexing” their muscles is the simple fact that they lack enforcement power. The Graded Stakes Committee has no enforcement power and the Breeders’ Cup can only enforce a ban that involves its name, its money, its trademark, etc.  I am really curious to know the reaction of the 99% or more of trainers and owners that race every day and never come close to participating in a graded stakes. The horses in their stables are certainly of cheaper stock, usually, than graded stakes competitors and probably need Lasix much more than do graded stakes horses.

If politics gets to the point where states disallow Lasix use there will be a great injustice done to the heart and soul of horse racing. Those that will truly suffer will be the everyday guy that just wants to win a decent purse so he can feed a barn of claimers and take a couple of bucks home. And, it may be detrimental to the huge number of horses that run at tracks everyday for non-stakes purses.

The feud doesn’t start and stop with Lasix…PART II coming this week.

— ART PARKER is the author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns” and a regular contributor to A Game of Skill.