Earlier today, April 24, 2019, The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc. and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association issued a joint statement in response to the April 18 statement by The Stronach Group which states it has joined a collation to ban the use of race-day Furosemide (Lasix) over the next three years. The statement from MTHA and MHBA is posted here in full below.

(April 24, 2019 – MTHA/MHBA)

The stakeholders in Maryland’s racing industry are parties to a landmark 10-Year Agreement that has facilitated many positive changes to the way our racing is being conducted at every level.  It has truly led to a renaissance for Maryland’s racing industry. Our collective partnership, with the support of the Maryland Racing Commission, has succeeded because we have agreed to speak as one and as a united industry after years of discord.

Moreover, our collective efforts in Maryland, together with our fellow stakeholders and regulators in the Mid-Atlantic region, have resulted in the implementation of industry-leading health, safety and welfare protocols and strategies for our horses.  We are seeing evidence-based results from our efforts.  In Maryland, we put our horses first, which is why we are committed and enthusiastic participants in the recently adopted Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities.

Therefore, and contrary to the manner in which we have been conducting ourselves in Maryland,  it is most disappointing that The Stronach Group at no time has sought to engage or have any discussions with us regarding their recent divisive decision to seek to implement a ban on the use of Furosemide (Lasix) on race day for our horses, the only safe and effective medication scientifically proven to mitigate the adverse effects of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).  The proposed ban, if implemented, is an experiment capable of resulting in irreparable harm to many of our horses; most importantly 2-year-olds, where mitigation and prevention of EIPH is most important and necessary.  Deprivation of a safe and effective medication for our horses is totally contrary to our commitment to the health, safety and welfare of the horse, and veterinary scientific experts and researchers agree.

To be clear, our joint position on the use of Lasix on race day is, and remains, that absent an effective alternative treatment for EIPH in the horse, we support the current strict and uniformly enforced regulatory protocols for the administration of Lasix on race day, consistent with the recommendations of the AAEP and the AVMA.  We do so because we unequivocally believe that the current industry uniform regulatory policy is in the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of the horse and the betting public, and is in the best interest of Maryland’s storied racing industry.  We do not believe a partial ban is consistent with this mandate and will vigorously oppose any change to current regulatory policy in Maryland, absent a regional agreement to do so.  We will always, together with our regional colleagues, place the health, safety and welfare of the horse first and foremost.

We are prepared to continue to support financially any coordinated industry effort to find a more effective treatment alternative for EIPH.  We think this is the best direction for the industry if we are ever going to diverge from the current strict and uniformly regulated protocols for the appropriate treatment of EIPH in the racehorse in the United States.

– Timothy Keefe (President MTHA) & Michael Harrison, DVM (President MHBA)

Maryland Jockeys Will Use Gentle Touch Crops Starting this Thursday
At the same time that the MTHA/MHBA statement was being passed around the internet, the Maryland Jockey Club issued a press release stating that the Laurel Park jockey colony will begin using cushioned riding crops in all races as of Thursday, April 25.

The 360GT (gentle touch) crop was designed by Hall of Fame jockey Ramon Dominguez. The crop has a larger cushioned padding at the end designed to have less impact on the horse. Laurel’s jockeys got the chance to use the new crops during the Easter Monday program.

“It looks almost like a big cat-tail. It’s got a big cushion on the end of it. It’s almost like a very spongy material,” said meet-leading rider Trevor McCarthy, Maryland’s winningest rider in 2014 and 2016.

“To me, it’s different. It’s something new. I like it. I think it’s very good for the horses,” he added. “This is something very important for our game, for the protection of our horses and the jockeys, so I’m pretty excited to start using it.”