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Breeders' Cup may be even more influential after saying no to drugs 18/07/2011
Greg Wood
America's major international meeting will have still greater pulling power when Lasix is outlawed from 2013

The most significant racing news of the last seven days arrived almost out of the blue from the US, where it was announced that the Breeders' Cup will phase out the use of raceday drugs over the next two years. At next year's Cup, all the juvenile events will be clean, while the remainder of the programme will follow suit in 2013.

The key drug that will be missing from all Breeders' Cup events within two years is the anti-bleeding agent furosemide. These days, it goes under the brand name Salix but is still more familiar to punters as Lasix, hence the "L" after a horse's name which is so ubiquitous on American racecards that it would save a small fortune in ink to declare the clean ones instead.

According to its supporters – and there are still plenty of those in the American racing industry - Lasix is a kindness to horses, most of which are prone to bleeding in their lungs when they race, be that in the US or anywhere else. Lasix is proven to reduce the severity of these bleeds and so helps a horse to realise its full potential, while also reducing the physical discomfort it is assumed to experience as a result.

By this reasoning, Lasix acts more to maximise performance than it does to enhance it but the fact remains that horses run better on Lasix and particularly so, in many cases, when they experience its benefits for the first time. American punters look out for horses on first-time Lasix in the way that many British ones take note of first-time blinkers, since the improvement can turn an also-ran into a winner.

It would be wrong to characterise this as an "us against the Americans" issue, since variations in medication rules from country to country cause regular problems whenever horses from different jurisdictions come together to race (which, these days, is all the time). The disqualification of Japan's Deep Impact from third place in the Arc, not to mention the Australian sprinter Takeover Target's local difficulties in Hong Kong five years ago, are evidence of that.

Lasix, though, is the most obvious example of those differences and the argument over its continued use broadly pits trainers and owners, who want to keep their horses running, against administrators, who take a broader view that it will, in the end, be bad for the breed in America and therefore bad for business.

The decision by the Breeders' Cup to take a stand is important because it suggests that the latter view is slowly winning the argument. The effects, assuming that the organisers stick to their guns, are likely to be significant and extensive. Studs standing stallions that raced on Lasix, for instance, will be keen to discover whether the market is quite so strong for yearlings that will not be able to race, at a Breeders' Cup at least, on the same drug as Dad.

Ascot, meanwhile, will have taken note of the new rules too, which follow changes to the Breeders' Cup nomination system last year that were designed to get many more horses from overseas into the Cup's programme.

After a quarter of a century, it might have been assumed that the Breeders' Cup was the finished article but this is evidence that it is still growing and developing. If so, then the sooner Ascot can shift its new Champions Day to a permanent slot in mid-September, the more chance it will stand of making it a success.