CHRB avoiding 'unworkable regulations' with upcoming Lasix ban

CHRB avoiding 'unworkable regulations' with upcoming Lasix ban
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday approved and sent out for 15-day public notice changes to rules regarding the use of furosemide in the state and also the definition of “time of entry” with regards to the administration of permitted medications and other treatments.

In a meeting held via teleconference, the CHRB voted to align its rule for the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, also known as Lasix, with that proposed by the recently created Safety & Integrity Alliance composed of racetracks and other industry stakeholders throughout North America. Under the alliance’s proposed rule, furosemide would be banned for all 2-year-old racing beginning this year. 

In the CHRB’s previously proposed rule, furosemide was to be banned in California “for the foal crop of 2018 and thereafter.” However, concerns were raised that when horses from this year’s 2-year-old crop turned 3-years-old in 2021, they would be competing against older horses still permitted to use the medication.

Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director of the CHRB, noted employing different rules for horses in the same race would present an untenable situation. 

“I think this is a reasonable step forward,” Arthur said. “We talked earlier about unworkable regulations. When foals of 2018 were going to be running against older horses that were going to be allowed to use Lasix, it was going to be an absolute mess. This allows us an opportunity to conduct racing for 2-year-olds, who arguably have a less need for furosemide than any other age of horse, without getting into the complications of having two horses in the same race running with different rules.”

Josh Rubinstein, president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, noted this proposed rule would “put us on par with the rest of the country with no 2-year-olds receiving Lasix beginning this year.”

Added CHRB Chairman Greg Ferraro: “If we adopt the rule as I see it, we have plenty of time to think about what happens when those horses turn 3-year-olds and what’s going to happen to next year’s 2-year-olds. We have plenty of time to see how this works out and adopt a rule that would be applicable based on the data we get from the 2-year-olds racing without lasix [this year].”

The rule would also cut in half the maximum the amount of furosemide allowed from 500 mg to 250 mg.

The CHRB also moved to rectify the fallout of a rule passed during the February meeting. Last month, horsemen in California were up in arms when an amended rule took effect that changed the official time of entry from 48 hours before a race to midnight the day entries close. However, concerns were raised as entries in California are taken sometimes up to five days in advance. By rule, horsemen could not administer nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or other permitted treatments during that extended time frame.

Ferraro acknowledged the rule as adopted was flawed.

“How this original bill that we passed last month got through the process without anybody raising objections is surprising to me. None of us were probably paying sufficient attention,” Ferraro said. “The rule we passed is basically unworkable.”

Under the amended rule, the time of entry and it’s accompanying medication rules would revert back to 48 hours prior to a race. 

“I certainly agree the variation in entry time causes too much confusion and too much opportunity for people to make mistakes and not understand what is allowed and what isn’t,” Arthur said. “I’m in favor of returning to the 48-hour definition of entry.”

The proposed change back to the earlier policy of a 48-hour entry time for permitted medications now proceeds to a 15-day public comment period. CHRB officials expect the rule to be implemented by mid-May. 

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