What if you threw a drug-free race and a whole bunch of Thoroughbreds came?
That sounds like a happy prospect to most people but is deeply threatening to some in the industry.
Veterinarians who make their livings medicating Thoroughbreds, trainers and owners who fear change and their allies in Frankfort will be pushing to kill Keeneland's modest plan to offer a few Lasix-free races beginning next year.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission wisely gave the plan its blessing last week, by an 8-4 vote, but not before hearing vociferous opposition from some commissioners.
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Now it must be approved as a state regulation which requires review by legislators. They should also give it a green light.
All that's being proposed, after all, is testing the market to see how much demand there is for Lasix-free races. This information could be valuable to decision-makers going forward.
The race-day use of the powerful diuretic furosomide, better known as Lasix, is banned around the world except in the U.S. and Canada.
Here, nearly every Thoroughbred going to the post has been given the drug, ostensibly to prevent bleeding in the lungs.
As a bonus, Lasix temporarily drops 15 pounds or more from a horse's weight — an advantage anyone who's ever sprinted through an airport dragging a heavy suitcase can appreciate.
Opponents fear that successful Lasix-free races would create momentum for further reforms in medicating racehorses.
Lawmakers should not be swayed by such fears.
For one thing, we don't know whether there will be enough enthusiasm to justify trying more than a few Lasix-free races.
For another, if Lasix-free racing is a hit, everyone who wants a future for the sport should celebrate.
Racing's image and fan base take a beating from the perception that doping horses with all kinds of drugs, to enhance performance or mask the pain of injuries, is integral to the sport. Racing has done quite a bit to curb the equine equivalent of pill mills, but more reform is needed if the sport hopes to attract new and young fans.
Trainers and owners should remember that the purses that keep racing stables in business come from bettors. Without new bettors, purses will shrivel.
Also at risk is the competitiveness of Kentucky-bred Thoroughbreds on the world market. The widespread reliance on race-day Lasix in this country feeds the perception that American horses are inferior and could devalue the winners of U.S. races and their offspring in sales rings and breeding sheds.
Keeneland — which last year auctioned $536 million worth of Thoroughbreds, most bred and raised on Bluegrass farms — has an obvious interest in protecting the reputation of American Thoroughbreds and racing.
So should legislators and anyone in the industry who is thinking beyond the next meet.