- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Oaklawn Park will become the first track in the country to offer purse bonuses for horses that win without the diuretic furosemide during the 2015 spring meet.

The program announced Thursday will provide a 10 percent bonus to the winner’s share of the purse for all horses that win without the drug, commonly known as Lasix.

The Lasix-free incentives will range from $1,080 for a minimum purse of $18,000 up to $60,000 for the $1 million Arkansas Derby. The total potential bonus program will be $1.4 million.

Charles Cella, president of Oaklawn Racing & Gambling, says the Lasix-free bonus payments will be provided by the track and won’t come out of the purse fund.

He says the program is experimental and hopes it will inspire more owners and trainers to race their horses without Lasix.

Currently, it is legal in the U.S. to use the drug on race day. It’s used to mitigate bleeding in the lungs, a common issue for racehorses. Use of Lasix on race day is banned in Europe and nearly every major racing jurisdiction outside North America.

Last month, Todd Pletcher and D. Wayne Lukas were among a group of high-profile trainers urging a gradual elimination of race-day medication in the United States. Their proposal calls for a ban on race-day mediation for 2-year-olds beginning next year, followed by a ban on medication for all horses in 2016.

Mark Lamberth, an Arkansas Racing Commissioner, says he applauds Oaklawn for thinking outside the box and taking a positive step toward trying to reduce race-day therapeutic medications.

Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, was one of the last tracks in the country to allow Lasix on race days. Cella says if the results are encouraging, he hopes other tracks might consider similar programs.

Oaklawn’s racing season runs from Jan. 9 to April 11. The track plans to offer $23.5 million in purses next year, which averages over $400,000 a day.

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