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Walmac Owner Calls For Salix Ban

Thursday, 27th September 2007

In the US, Kentucky's Walmac Farm co-owner Bobby Trussell has stirred the pot with a provocative essay in The Bloodhorse magazine which begins: "Fifty years ago, the average number of lifetime starts-per-runner was more than 40. Now, shockingly, it is less than 14. Why? What has changed so much?" Trussel notes: "Conventional wisdom is that the thoroughbred breed had become more fragile as we have emphasised speed & early maturity over soundness & stamina. But on the other hand, we are working with the same basic gene pool we had 30 years ago. Horses like Nashua, Bold Ruler, Damascus, Northern Dancer, Native Dancer & Hail To Reason were tough as nails, but their descendants are soft as butter. However, in Europe & Australia horses are much heartier. Many are American-bred. . . . . . . We can no longer just point to pedigree as the reason our horses are weaker, because our pedigrees in other locations are producing tougher horses." After consulting experts Trussel reports "it's not harder tracks", because "conventional dirt tracks have not changed much over the past 30 years". Rather he concludes today's US horses "are over-medicated to the point they are seriously weakened. . . . . . The drugs not only don't work: they are counter-productive." Emphasising how other countries "medicate less & race more", Trussell declares: "All drugs are toxic & our 2YO & 3YO horses receive dozens of drugs in a given month. My average vet bill here is more than US$800 per month. The trainers are letting the vets run the game. The real problem is not illegal drugs, but the legal ones that they train & race on. Salix & Bute are given out like candy. These drugs have major side effects: just ask the humans who take them. Salix (used for trackwork as well as races by many trainers) is a diuretic that depletes minerals & dehydrates a horse. Bute causes ulcers, a common ailment on the backstretch. Horses need more time to recover from their drug hangover after a race." And Trussell slams the tendency by modern US trainers "to be too aware of their win percentage stats. Trainers don't want to lose. You see 1st-time starters showing 4-5 months of breezes. That's ridiculous! Years ago, trainers & handicappers were acutely aware of form cycles. Horses would run throughout the year, often every 7, 10, or 14 days, and they would go in & out of form. But they would keep running." Trussel concludes: "With the advent of synthetic tracks, there will be no excuse for horses to run as seldom as they do now. But we will need to wean ourselves off the tremendously counter-productive drug culture. Salix should be banned: period."

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