In a surprise announcement on Thursday, The Stronach Group (TSG) officials announced plans to ban the use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide (more commonly known as Lasix) at their California racetracks Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields.
In an open letter signed by Stronach Group Chairman and President Belinda Stronach and published on the Santa Anita website Thursday, TSG declared a “zero tolerance” for race-day medication with Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields becoming the first racetracks in North America to adhere to the strict International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) guidelines. The only race-day medication permitted in California is Lasix.
It was unclear in the letter when the ban would be implemented at the two tracks. There is a California Horse Racing Board meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 21 where many of the current problems causing the current cessation of racing at Santa Anita and suggested new protocols will be discussed.
Racing is scheduled to resume at Santa Anita on Friday March 22.
In addition to the race-day medication ban, the open letter cited the following revisions as well:
- Increasing the ban of legal therapeutic NSAIDS, joint injections, shockwave therapy, and anabolic steroids.
- Complete transparency of veterinary records.
- Significantly increasing out-of-competition testing.
- Increasing the time required for horses to be on-site prior to a race.
- A substantial investment by The Stronach Group in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.
Another topic addressed in the open letter was the use of riding crops. TSG stated the riding crops should only be used as a corrective safety measure and will look to make changes in the rules accordingly.
The announcement on Thursday was made hours after the 22nd equine fatality since the start of the Santa Anita meet started December 26 occurred during training Thursday morning over the Santa Anita main track.
The fallout from the revisions could be many. The current horse population at Santa Anita and Golden Gate surely includes many horses who have controllable bleeding problems. Those horses may be forced to leave the state.
It has also been said many times that racing in California is “on an island,” without access to other nearby horse populations such as the Atlantic region and Florida in the winter.
With a different set of medication rules in California from the rest of North America, that island may be even further away than ever.
Look for more in-depth coverage as to how the suggested TSG revisions could impact California racing in next week’s print edition of Gaming Today.
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