Romans: Pegasus World Cup 'too small of a study' on Lasix

By Tom Pedulla/Special to HRN
January 24, 2020 11:15am

Trainer Dale Romans, an outspoken proponent of Lasix as a deterrent to bleeding, believes The Stronach Group’s decision to run the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the $1 million Pegasus Turf (G1) without medication “doesn’t make any sense.”

Romans suggests the action may work against the runners in the two races.

“I think it’s much more humane to have Lasix,” he said. “But we’ll see.”

Romans envisions “zero” benefit to designating two of Gulfstream Park’s signature races medication-free and does not believe anything can be learned from the initiative, saying, “It’s too small of a study group.”

Romans nonetheless entered longshot Mr Freeze in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile dirt race, hoping the absence of Lasix does not adversely affect his horse or his horse’s performance.

“I think it’s just guesswork right now. Nobody knows whether their horses will perform differently without Lasix,” he said.

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, however, struck a very different tone.

“I’ve always made the statement that whatever the rules are, I’m happy to play with them,” Mandella said, speaking before the decision was made to scratch his race favorite, Omaha Beach, due to light swelling in one of his legs.

Before defecting from the Pegasus, Mandella was cautiously optimistic that newly turned 4-year-old Omaha Beach would run another strong race in what was supposed to be his career finale.

Unlike Romans, he does not view Lasix as a key component in helping Thoroughbreds meet the demands of the sport.

“I think horse racing would be just fine without it,” he said. “I think it’s a decision owners need to make. The reason I say that is they own the horses and it could change the value of some of the horses. Obviously, a real bleeder is going to be worth a lot less than he was with Lasix and one that is not a bleeder is probably going to be worth a lot more.

“They might have a horse for $100,000 that might end up being worth a million dollars. They also might have a million-dollar horse that might end up being worth $100,000 or $50,000 if it bled that bad.”

Mandella noted that the removal of Lasix for the first two major races of the year for older horses has much more to do with reacting to public scrutiny and is hardly rooted in scientific data.

“Everybody in racing knows Lasix is not a problem. It’s not making horses break down or anything like that,” he said. “But it is a drug and it is given on race day and that, in the perception of the public, is a concern. There is reason to think maybe we should try it without it.”

Dean Reeves, owner of Pegasus dirt contender Tax, applauded The Stronach Group’s action.

“I’m all for it,” he said. “I think we have got to get a grip on medication and the best way to do it is exactly what The Stronach Group is doing.

“It levels the playing field. We owe it to the fans, we owe it to bettors, that our horses are going out there free of any performance-enhancing substance.”

Romans has a great deal of company in his strident support of Lasix. The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association issued a letter last September that warned of what it sees as the risks of removing the drug. The letter contained more than 600 signatures of trainers and other stakeholders in the industry.

In part, the letter read: “It is our belief that banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of our horses, as well as the strength of our industry. Research also proves an increased number of our horses will bleed significantly out of their nostrils, or into their lungs, and an increased number will die.”

Jerry Crawford, managing partner of Donegal Racing, committed Arklow to the Pegasus Turf soon after he heard of The Stronach Group’s mandate. The reason was different from what anyone might expect.

A strong effort by Arklow in the Pegasus Turf would likely serve as a springboard to the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on March 28 at Meydan Racecourse.

“Dubai is medication-free and by running Arklow at Gulfstream in a medication-free race, we’re going to see if it impacts his performance. It’s better to find that out in Florida than to fly halfway around the world and find that out,” Crawford said. “The fact that it (Pegasus Turf) was medication free was a tie-breaker for us, prompting us to run there.”

2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1)


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