Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Opinion: Lasix and the Breeders' Cup

Hansen wins the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

In an era where the Lasix battle of “to use or not to use” is a daily occurrence, it isn’t surprising that trainers continue to give it to their 2-year-olds even though it is banned for 2-year-olds at one of the biggest racing events of the year. However, it is surprising that the trainers are choosing to go into the races with no idea what to expect.

Last week, the Daily Racing Form talked to trainer Todd Pletcher about Breeders’ Cup plans for his group of 2-year-olds with the Lasix ban in effect.

While Pletcher did have an interesting quote about his 2-year-olds and the Lasix situation, the last part of his quote drew more attention than his first.

“If we had a problematic bleeder, it might mean that you wouldn’t go,” Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form. “Right now, the 2-year-olds that we’re dealing with, none of them I would classify as problematic bleeders. I think we will continue to manage them the way that we normally do and then on race day we hope they run well without Lasix.”

The question could be asked why the horses are on Lasix if they don’t need it. But that argument has been talked to death and is something that isn’t going to change anytime soon. To this reader, the more interesting part of the quote is the end, “I think we will continue to manage them the way that we normally do and then on race day we hope they run well without Lasix.”

Interestingly, Pletcher (and many others prepping for the 2-year-old Breeders' Cup races) won't run his horse without Lasix until Breeders’ Cup day.

This fact was even more evident when Breeders' Cup bound Kauai Katie won her race on Sunday with Lasix. Sure, running with Lasix is normal but farther into the DRF article, Pletcher talks about how important the Breeders’ Cup is.

“What are your choices? If you have Shanghai Bobby or Archwarrior or somebody that wins the Champagne, by deciding not to go to California you’re giving up the opportunity to run in a $2 million race, you’re giving up the opportunity to be champion 2-year-old to run in the Remsen for $200,000? It’s the way it’s set up, it’s not great, but it is what it is. Play or don’t play,” Pletcher said.

In light of that quote, one has to wonder why trainers don’t pull their prospective Breeders’ Cup juveniles off the Lasix for at least one prep race to see how the 2-year-old does without the medication.  In a way, leaving 2-year-olds on Lasix makes sense from the angle that many feel that running without the medication is a disadvantage. But at the same time, wouldn’t it be better to learn if your horse will have a chance to be competitive in the race before you enter and ship?

Wasting a prep race instead of the target race makes more sense in both the money spent and the money earned. For example, Overdrive’s Futurity Stakes win won the horse $120,000. Last year, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen won over $1 million. In fact the top three horses won more than $120,000 with the fourth place horse equaling that amount.

On that note alone, one would think that it would be worth it to pull the horse off of the Lasix for one prep race just to see what happens. Who knows, the horse could run even better without the Lasix.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that more goes into racing and using Lasix than just pulling a horse off medication and calling it good. But I also realize from a monetary standpoint that it would be better to lose a $120,000 paycheck than pay the entry fees for the Breeders' Cup and knock your horse out of the race (and possibly others) because you didn’t know they needed Lasix.

Maybe there’s some magical idea that I am missing when it comes to Lasix, which is a possibility. But no matter what side of the argument one is on when it comes to Lasix, the idea of not knowing what a horse will do when you pull it off the drug and enter it into the biggest race of its 2-year-old season has to be a scary thought.

This is exactly why, in this writer’s opinion, that the connections of all potential starters should attempt the change earlier so they know if they need to find a different route with the horse. Not only is it a better move for the horse, it is also a better move for the pocketbook of all involved.

[Disclaimer: While Pletcher is featured prominently in this post, it is only due to his quotes in the article and his horses being good examples of my ramblings.]

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