By: Jeremy Balan

Though many local veterinarians again voiced opposition, the California Horse Racing Board approved the third-party administration of race-day furosemide June 16 during a meeting at Santa Anita Park. The final step for the measure to be officially enacted is approval by the California Office of Administrative Law.

The CHRB voted 5-0—with member Steve Beneto absent and Richard Rosenberg abstaining—to approve the proposal after an hour of discussion with mostly veterinarians. It was also of note that the California Veterinary Medical Board supported third-party administration of furosemide, also called Lasix of Salix, after opposing previous language in the regulation.

The aspect that earned the support of the CVMB was that third-party administration of the medication would only be given “after the owner, trainer, or owner’s veterinarian has consulted with the Lasix veterinarian.”

“The issue is that nobody with an interest in the outcome of the race is allowed in the stall with needles and syringes on race day,” CHRB equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur said during the meeting. “That’s the bottom line.”

Some local veterinarians, as they’ve expressed in the past, took exception with the proposal on the grounds that it fixes a non-existent problem and insinuates that private veterinarians are doing something wrong.

“In some of the language I’ve read as to why this is being done, it specifically states it’s to get the private practitioners out of the stalls on race day,” said Dr. Karen Valko. “That’s implying we’re doing something wrong. I take offense to that. Whether that’s exactly what’s meant or not, that’s what is implied.”

CHRB member Madeline Auerbach responded to those concerns.

“This is not a personal attack on the vets or their integrity,” Auerbach said. “I understand, in your shoes, why it may have felt that way. But let me assure you that none of us feel that way. This is not about the level of competence and integrity of our vets. It has nothing to do with this.”

Local veterinarians also said the third-party administration of Lasix would hurt their business and livelihood, but that point was countered by Dr. Robert O’Neill, The Stronach Group’s newly appointed director of equine health and safety, who previously served under the same title at Gulfstream Park.

“This isn’t that complicated. It’s all about integrity. It’s all about putting the horse first,” O’Neill said. “Vets commented to me from Florida, ‘Thank God we’re done with Lasix.’ I can take care of my horses, look at my horses, and treat my horses, and get them where they need to be.

“I’ve talked to vets in New York (who say), ‘We don’t miss it at all. We miss none of this stuff with Lasix. We don’t want to do it any more, and our practice has gotten bigger. We can concentrate on the wellness of the horse and the individual animal, not worrying about giving Lasix shots all day.’”

The CHRB approval ends what has been a nearly four-year process to implement third-party Lasix, which is used to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in horses. The CHRB last shelved a proposal for third-party administration in August 2015.

BALAN: CHRB Delays Any Action on Third-Party Lasix

“It has gone to committee, come back; gone to committee, come back; gone to committee, come back. Every time it comes back, we have these same kinds of conversations with a different issue raised,” CHRB chairman Chuck Winner said before the vote. “We are out of step with the industry, and one of the concerns was the veterinary board. We now have the veterinary board, who is stating they’re in support of this rule, not opposed to it.

“We’ve gone through this and through this and through this with different committees, and we don’t want to see the same arguments.”

With approval by the OAL, the change in Lasix administration would move California into line with the National Uniform Medication Program.

Also decided during the Thursday meeting was a restructuring of Del Mar’s Pick 6 wager. The CHRB approved a change in how the Pick 6 pool will be distributed during Del Mar’s summer meet.

Instead of paying out 70% of the pool to bettors who select all six winners in the sequence, Del Mar will now pay out 85% to six-for-six tickets. Previously, consolation tickets for five out of six got 30% of the pool, and now they’ll receive 15%. Del Mar officials at the meeting said the change will hopefully create  larger carryovers, which increases marketing possibilities and increased pari-mutuel handle overall on carryover days.

Another topic that was ultimately sent back to committee was an idea put forward by the Thoroughbred Owners of California to “geolocate” bettors who are making wagers on-track through advance deposit wagering services on mobile devices. The location detection on the bettors’ cellular devices would in theory, under a potential proposal, count wagers as “on-track wagers” to give the track and horsemen a greater percentage of profits.

Representatives from ADWs TVG, TwinSpires, and BetAmerica spoke out against any proposal regarding geolocation, citing privacy issues and customer inconvenience, among other issues.