Stan Bergstein's Daily Racing Form columns
With permission of Daily Racing Form,
Stan Bergstein’s bi-weekly
columns for that publication will appear
here every other week.
First the facts, then the drugs
The state of Maryland sullied its most historic race when it
introduced an insult to the Triple Crown by allowing "adjunct
medications" in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
Six Preakness trainers chose to use one or more of the adjunct
medications - carbazochrome, transexamic acid, and aminocaproic
acid - which may or may not have any value for horses who bleed
during races. Carbazochrome, also known as Kentucky Red, is used
to treat high blood pressure, and transexamic acid and
aminocaproic acid are blood-clotting agents.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners has studied
these medications and found that there is no scientific proof of
their efficacy or safety, and that until there is, there is no
justification for their race day use.
The AAEP recommends Lasix as the only medication to be used on
Maryland thinks it knows more than the AAEP.
The state of Maryland not only permitted the use of the adjunct
medications, but encouraged it with some bizarre rule-making and
Maryland's rationale, proclaimed proudly, was that while it is
not the only state that allows the use of these medications -
Louisiana is the other - it is the only state that lets the public
know that this nonsense is going on.
But there is no reason to approve the use of the adjunct
medications that were allowed in the Preakness. These substances
may be totally ineffective as treatments for bleeding, and what
they represent is something far more ominous.
Allowing their use in the Preakness is, in effect, sanctioning
experimental pharmacology in one of the sport's classic races.
It is long overdue for major racing states to muster the
courage to prohibit junk treatments and backstretch superstition
in their major races. This is the 21st century, and science - not
hardboot home remedies or feel-good philosophy - should be
enlisted to make rules. The fact that state laboratories do not
test for these substances because they are hard to detect, or
because they think - but don't know for sure - that they are
innocuous is no reason they should be allowed.
Hay, oats, and water are scoffed at in these days of medication
without certification. No one is naive enough to believe or
suggest that horses should be deprived of researched and tested
medications, any more than humans should be deprived of them. But
there is no evidence that compounds like Kentucky Red do anything
for bleeders. The very issue of what constitutes a bleeder has
become so clouded - and so abused - in American racing that in
many jurisdictions the term is not only meaningless, but an
outright joke. In a few states, it means whatever the trainer
chooses it to mean. Bleeder certification is ill-defined and often
There is an antidote to this state-sanctioned laxity, and it
has been used to good effect in New Jersey for harness racing's
Hambletonian Stakes. The Hambletonian Society, for example,
specifies in the conditions that nothing can be used on race day.
By signing the entry, the nominator agrees to the conditions.
There is another solution, of course. That would be for more
time and money to be spent finding out just what all these
medications do or do not do to the horse.
The Maryland-based Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which
has backed the adjunct medication idea and was in significant
measure responsible for its use in Maryland, has urged just such a
program. It calls for "documentation of the administration of
drugs and medications to racing horses, recognition of the
difference between legitimate and non-legitimate therapeutic
treatment, and recognition of tracks that have embraced 'best
practices and standards.' "
Unfortunately, the use of scientifically untested adjuncts that
do no proven good for the horse - and thus have no place in
classic races - fails to meet those lofty standards.