Five horses were scratched from the seventh race at Pimlico Race Course yesterday when it was discovered a veterinarian treated the animals with the wrong medication.
James Stewart, a veterinarian in private practice, administered the painkiller Butazolidin, commonly known as "Bute," instead of pTC the anti-bleeding agent, furosemide or Lasix, when the horses were sent to the detention barn to receive the prescribed medication.
Lasix, used to prevent horses from bleeding through their
nostrils or internally from exertion during a race, is a legal drug frequently used at Maryland tracks. However, Bute, in small quantities, is only allowed to be given to horses 48 hours before race day.
Stewart said that when he realized "almost immediately" that he had treated the horses with Bute instead of Lasix, he contacted the stewards after the first race, and the horses -- Neolithic, Bronze Plumage, Bella Selene, Adequate Performer and Romantic Summer -- were scratched.
Stewart said both bottles "were almost identical, except the label was up on one and said furosemide and the label on the other was down. I assumed it was also furosemide. But instead it was Bute."
He added that another veterinarian had given him the two bottles of medication earlier in the day and said, " 'Here's a couple of bottles of Lasix for you.' I looked at one bottle which said furosemide and didn't look at the other. I assumed it was Lasix, too."
As a safeguard, a guard at the detention barn inspects each bottle of medication and signs for it when a veterinarian treats a horse.
In this instance, Stewart said, "The guard and I both looked at the bottle and signed for it. We both realized the mistake when I returned the bottle after administering the Bute to the horses."
Stewart said he had contacted the trainers and some of the owners of the animals "and apologized. I'm embarrassed and humiliated by the mistake and as sorry as I can be."
Roy Wallace, the trainer of Adequate Performer, said: "Initially when I found out, it was a relief. I had been watching my horse for about an hour after she was medicated and she had not urinated [an effect of being treated with Lasix]. I was wondering what was wrong. But you can't be hard on Stewart. He's hard enough on himself."
Stewart said none of the horses should have any side effects from being treated with the wrong medication. "I was concerned about one horse I treated intermuscularly," he said. "I told the owner if there are any complications to let me know and I'd treat the horse for free. All of these people are my clients, many long-term, and I'm not charging them for any pre-race medications I gave their horses."
The Pimlico stewards said they are investigating the matter. A similar occurrence happened about five years ago, when a vet treated horses with a drug called Dipyrone instead of Lasix. The medication was not detected until after the horses ran and post-race tests revealed the presence of the prohibited substance.
Pending results of the investigation, Stewart and the track guard
could receive fines or suspensions.