Up until the question was asked, prompting Dogwood Stable manager Cot Campbell to roll his eyes, the L word had been largely forgotten this spring.
And when, in front of a sizable audience at the Pimlico Special breakfast on Thursday, Campbell politely referred to Summer Squall's Lasix dependence,it revealed how different this year's Triple Crown campaign is on the Lasix issue.
Which goes to show that timing is everything. Last year at thi time, and exhaustive Lasix study had been dropped into the collective lap of the racing press, leading to equally exhaustive media reviews of the drug and its effects on internal bleeding.
There were other circumstances to heighten interest in the diuretic, including Summer Squall's bleeding incident on the morning before the Preakness and that the Breeders' Cup championships were to be run later in the year in New York, where Lasix usage is not permitted.
"I don't see us running him in New York," Campbell said when asked whether Summer Squall would continue competing in the American Championship Racing Series when it makes two swings through New York. "There are numerous opportunities to run across the country. I'm not particularly anxious to run him"--and here he paused, the L word imminent--"without Lasix. He's doing well, and I don't want to take any chances."
The Lasix issue had not gone away. It is still there, still being argued, still begging for answers. Although Kentucky Derby winner Strike The Gold never has received it, surely the Lasix issue will be revived when the Triple Crown trail reaches Belmont Park in New York and some contenders will be forced to race witrhout it.
Until then, virtually everyone in racing--fans, horsemen, press, officials--are glad the L word isn't being uttered at every turn.
You couldn't help but feel bad for trainer Charlie Hadry after the Maryland Racing Commission upheld the stewards' decision to suspend him for 15 days after one of his runners tested positive for a trace amount of cocaine. Hadry has enjoyed an impeccable reputation in his nearly 40 years as a trainer.
Evidence and testimony implicating one of Hadry's former employees was overwhelming, but the six voting commission members apparently felt they could not abandon the principle of the absolute insurer rule, which holds a trainer ultimately responsible for his horse's condition. It is a rule that guards against illicit behavior and intentions, even if its catch-all premise penalizes the truly innocent.
Cases in the last year involving some of Maryland's top horsemen --King Leatherbury, Dale Capuano, Carlos Garcia--have yielded expressions of bewilderment, even shock, from those men after they learned their horses had been overtreated. The same goes for reputable men such as D. Wayne Lukas and the late Laz Barrera when their horses were found to have tested positive for cocaine in California.
As guardians of the sport, however, racing commissions arae in tough spots. They must mete out justice with an even hand. And until laws are revised or a legal precedent set, the absolute insurer rule will continue to be the pivotal determinant in Maryland cases.