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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vet: “Racing Better Served Without Salix”

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, August 24, 2011--Everyone who is tethered to the sport of Thoroughbred racing is aware that the matter of raceday medication, principally Salix, is one issue that could bring the industry to its knees.

As previously stated here, the continued use of raceday medication is an extremely emotional and complex subject with serious considerations and consequences on both sides.

Advocates for the continued use of Furosemide on raceday insist that for all practical purposes the American racing industry would disappear if a ban were enacted.

Proponents calling for its prohibition on raceday argue that the game would virtually disappear if it’s not. In short, it’s a battle of the present against the future.

I received this e-mail from a retired veterinarian who takes a surprisingly anti-Salix position. Those who oppose this will try to discredit the messenger by arguing: “Sure, now that he’s no longer practicing…etc., etc”

Per usual, we will allow our readers to decide for themselves, and we invite Salix proponents to state their case here as counterpoint, which also will be printed without the kind of editing that would alter context in any way.

The following, then, are the words of Rod Cundy, D.V.M., Calgary, Alberta, Canada:

“I am a recently retired racetrack veterinarian who worked as a groom for 10 years in the 60’s before starting practice in 1971.I have been intimately involved in the use of Salix during its evolution from not being used in racing to today’s norm of it being an almost universal treatment. That being said, I feel that racing was better served without Salix.

“I have little doubt that Salix helps “bleeders,” but only because it is a performance enhancer which by definition reduces the chance of bleeding. One of the ways that it enhances performance is that it is tantamount to “soda doping”- a proven performance enhancement that is banned most everywhere. I came to this conclusion when I found out from our local authorities that when they test for bicarbonate (soda) they allow horses running on Salix to have a higher level-presumably because of the dehydration effect.

“Racing did quite well in the pre-Salix days and I think it will do quite well once Salix is totally gone. Not only will the public perception of racing improve but I think all those owners now in favor of Salix will eventually realize that over all the cost of losing the few horses that cannot run without Salix will be outweighed by the money saved (millions of dollars) from not using it.

“I think a lot of the controversy about Furosemide and other bleeder medications use stems from the perception that bleeding is a “disease” that drugs can “fix.” In my humble opinion bleeding is not a “disease” but rather a simple result of horses running out of air late in a race. Let me explain:

“There are only two basic ways for muscles to receive the oxygen they need to continue running late in a race. Either they have to take more air into the lungs, or the heart has to send more blood to the lungs to pick up more oxygen. Given that horses cannot breathe any harder- and indeed many horses have their air intake drastically reduced when they displace their soft palate (choking)- they can/must revert to the heart pumping more blood to the lungs. This in turn causes blood vessels to “pop” and “bleeding” ensues. In other words “bleeding” is a sign of a problem and not the cause of it. I like to tell my clients that, for the most part, horses do not stop because they bleed- they bleed because they stop!”


‘Thanks very much [Dr. Cundy] for contacting me and for anticipating my question. I'm sure HRI readers will appreciate the input, as well as certain segments of the industry. Very interesting, indeed.

Question: Is soda doping the same as milk shaking; it sounds similar? If not, could you briefly explain the difference? That could be very illuminating.

Another element: Testers would allow for more Salix if they knew soda doping was going on? Wouldn't they just prohibit the soda doping, or am I missing something here? Thanks again!’

Dr. Cundy’s response will be printed here tomorrow. All having an opinion are invited to comment, of course. As previously stated, HRI will provide equal time for industry representatives with an opposing view, starting tomorrow.

Written by John Pricci

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