HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, Sept. 18)  – Charles J. Cella, president of Oaklawn Racing & Gaming, announced today that the Arkansas track in 2015 will become the first in America to offer purse bonuses for horses that run and win without Lasix.

The Oaklawn Lasix-free Bonus program will provide a 10% bonus to the winner’s share of the purse for all horses that run and win without Lasix.  This means Oaklawn Lasix-free incentives will range from $1,080 for its minimum purse of $18,000 up to $60,000 for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).  The total potential bonus supplement will be $1.4 million.

Further, Cella said Lasix-free bonus payments will be provided by Oaklawn itself and will not come out of the purse fund.

Cella called the program “experimental” and said he hopes it will inspire more owners and trainers to race their horses off of Lasix. “We know some horses do indeed need Lasix in order to run to potential and I want to make this very clear: we are not advocating that horses who need Lasix, race without it.” said Cella.  “However, it is also our belief that many of the horses running on Lasix may not need it. We think it is in the best interest of the sport and the breed to find a way to have more horses run without Lasix.  Our hope is this program will be a step in the right direction.”

The race day use of Lasix (furosemide) has been allowed in the United States since the early 1970’s.  Although the vast majority of thoroughbreds race on Lasix, the Jockey Club and a growing number of the sport’s more prominent owners and trainers have come out in support of reduced use of Lasix on race days.

“I applaud Oaklawn for thinking outside the box and taking a positive step toward trying to reduce race-day therapeutic medications,” said Mark Lamberth, an Arkansas Racing Commissioner and chairman-elect for the Association of Racing Commissioners International. “As an owner and lover of the sport, this makes me proud to be from Arkansas, where racing continues to come first.”

For decades Oaklawn was known as a hay, oats and water track.  It was one of the last tracks in the country to allow Lasix on race days.  Now, Oaklawn becomes the first track in the country to offer an incentive to run without Lasix.

Cella said if the results are encouraging, he would hope other tracks might consider similar programs.

“We don’t know if this will work or not,” said Cella.  “We’re trying to do the right thing.  And we want to send a message that if you have a good horse that does not need Lasix, come to Oaklawn.  If the program does work, we’ll share the results with other tracks and racing jurisdictions, and we’ll build on it here at Oaklawn.”

Oaklawn’s 2015 racing season will run January 9 – April 11.  Oaklawn purses have increased every year for seven years and it anticipates another record purse distribution of $23.5 million in 2015, more than $400,000 per day. Maiden allowance races at the start of the season will offer purses of $60,000, up $5,000 from the beginning of the 2014 racing season.