Horse racing is not great for the horses. I acknowledge I enjoy a sport where 50 percent of the participants really have no way to confirm they want to be involved, and conversely, if there were no horse racing then nobody would breed thoroughbreds, and Meat is Murder. I like hot dogs.
They give the horses drugs, for all kinds of reasons, and just as with human athletes, you have to assume performance can be increased through pharmacology. Citius, Altius, Fortius, Equus!
Today I read in my local newspaper, which I help support by paying to look at its web site, that the horse racing industry in Maryland is preparing to ban a horse drug, Lasix.
In my career as a nickel-and-dime horserace handicapper, one of my persistent delusions—along with the idea that I am lifetime “even” at the track, maybe even a little “up”—is I know a couple of things that give me an edge on the typical putz out there pencil-fucking their racing form, one of those things being: Is this the first time this horse is on the juice, to wit, Lasix. I always look for that modifier in the racing form, the 1 after the L, which means Lasix.
When horses exert themselves and run hard, many of them bleed in their lungs, anywhere from a little to a lot:
Of the 415 horses in the study which developed EIPH, 273 bled to a level of one or less. These horses performed as well as a horse that had no trace of blood in their lungs, and were nearly twice as likely to finish in one of the top three positions compared with horses with an EIPH of grade two, three or four. One hundred and one horses were diagnosed with grade two bleeding, while 25 bled to grade three. Thirteen horses had grade-four EIPH. The more severe the disorder, the further behind the winner a horse was likely to place.
The whole way you make money betting at the track is by taking the other bettors’ dough. It’s called parimutuel wagering. If it’s the horse’s first trip on the juice, also known as “bleeder medication,” rumor has it they are going to perform better than they did before, and lots of schlub bettors ignore this valuable info. If you know what to do with the info, you get an edge.
If the improvement in performance is a consequence of Lasix-induced weight loss, said Dr Richard Sams, director of HFL Sport Science, a laboratory that performs drug testing for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Virginia Racing Commission, a shadow is thrown over whether Lasix is a legitimate medication or a performance enhancer.
“I think the mechanism by which Furosemide allows horses to have superior performances is unclear,” he said. “If the mechanism by which it allows a horse to run to its potential is because horses are running 10kg lighter, then I think the handicapper should comment on whether that’s allowing horses to run to their potential, or whether it’s allowing them to run beyond their potential. When you think about it, 20lbs on a horse is a big handicap.”
Lasix is banned in Europe and within a few years it will be banned here, and I’m for whatever is better for the horse for as long as there’s horse racing, even if it means I lose my inside information. Other parts of my system are still viable, such as jockey silks-color, funny horse names, and betting on the first gray horse I see at the track. Hi ho.