In a special edition of this week’s Race and Pace, we take a "behind-the-stables" look at Standardbred racetrack medicine. Jordan Cook, a DVM with Moore Equine Veterinary Centre who graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph introduced us to an innovative medication that is currently used in equine medicine. Cook has a multitude of certifications, including chiropractic and acupuncture as well as experience with a variety of equine athletes such as Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses, sports horses; hunter/jumpers and dressage. This expertise made Cook the perfect professional to give us the inside details on racetrack medicine.
To better understand the medical substances Standardbred horses are using Cook introduced us to a particularly unique medicine called Lasix. Also known as Furosemide, Lasix is a medication that is used to stop what Cook referred to as “bleeders” in a horse or exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging.
“On race days, trainers and drivers expect a horse to go out and race to the full extent of its lung capacity; however, there are factors that could impact a horse’s ability to compete. Elements such as the dust in the air, how hard the horse was trained during the week or simply its genetic makeup could all affect a horse. If one or any combination of these factors does impact the horse on race day, it could cause very small capillaries to burst in its lungs. If a horse’s capillaries continue to burst, it can cause scar tissue, inflammation or even in severe cases, infection. Lasix helps prevent the chances of these bursts so a horse can continue to race its hardest and have a good, long career,” said Cook.
After a race, if a horse didn’t perform as usual, a trainer or driver can ask a veterinarian such as Cook to scope the horse’s lungs to look for evidence of allergies or bleeding. If a veterinarian finds such evidence, they consult the trainer and the commission veterinarian to determine if the horse will be administered Lasix. If a horse goes on the Lasix program, a veterinarian has a four-hour window plus or minus 15 minutes prior to the horse’s specific post time to administer the medication. The administration of Lasix is done in very controlled fashion in a test-barn at a specific time where multiple parties then also sign off on the witness of administration.
If a horse that is on a Lasix program wins a race, the horse is tested after the race along with its usual drug testing to ensure that the correct amount of Lasix is in the horse's system during or right after the race. This testing also ensures a fair race for other competitors and bettors.
Thanks to Cook, the next time you look at a race day program and spot a Lasix symbol, you will know a little bit more about the horse’s medical history and be able to make a better-informed betting decision. If you have further questions about racetrack medicine that you would like the Race and Pace to feature in the future, please email [email protected] and we will do our best to find the answer for you!