Furosemide, otherwise known as Lasix or Salix, has become a ubiquitous drug in North American racing with some 92% of Thoroughbreds racing on it today. Eclipse Award-winning author Bill Heller set out to educate the fans, the bettors, and hopefully the regulatory powers on the effects of this medication.
Heller's work is an eye-opener to anybody involved in racing. Citing numerous studies published in scientific journals, he presents the findings in concise, non-technical language. So many myths about Lasix are exposed, the most surprising being that it really isn't too effective in preventing exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging, the very condition it was meant to control. What it does accomplish is lowering a horse's weight through dehydration by way of excessive urination. The worst thing about this is, it also serves to flush out some illegal drugs out of a horse's system so that they go undetected in post-race tests.
Taking dead aim at the governments, horsemen, and veterinarians that have perpetuated and expanded the use of Lasix and race-day medications in general, he demonstrates that politics and not science is the reason for widespread drug use. For example, New York, long opposed to race day medications, eventually gave in when trainers threatened to race elsewhere, potentially keeping top horses out of the 1995 Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park. However, racing jurisdictions outside North America remain drug-free to this day.
The rules are not consistent state to state, but Heller conveniently presents an overview of them all in chart form. Most have dose limits, but some don't, most notably Kentucky and California. Worst yet, although Lasix and Bute had been in use for years, it took a long time before the familiar "L" and "B" codes appeared in entries and past performance lines. The horsemen opposed this, enjoying an obvious and unfair insider advantage. And the process of having a horse "scoped" to be put on the bleeder list is shown to be a joke, the trainer merely having to squirt blood into the horse's nostrils before the examination in most states. In others, the trainer simply asks to have his horse on the list and invariably the request is granted, further demonstrating that horses that don't need it are getting it anyway for competitive advantage only.
For the handicappers and bettors, Lasix's effect on performance is well documented and no new insights would be gained from this book. However, racing fans who want to understand the science behind the drug and also get a complete history of the politics that led to its use would get a thorough lesson in Heller's work. The readers can then decide for themselves whether race-day medications are beneficial or necessary, especially given that the rest of the world still prohibits their use.
Run, Baby, Run has a cover price of $29.95 and is available from Amazon.com in hardcover.
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