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February 17, 2012
Often you will hear those proponents of banning Lasix state something to the effect that, “Before  we started permitting Lasix on race day our horses were making an average of over 9  starts per year, and now they barely average 6 starts.”  This is true.  In the mid-1970s when Lasix began to be used in America, horses were averaging over 9 starts, and now they are barely above 6 starts per year.  And, of course, this anti-Lasix faction would have you believe that America’s horses have fallen to the bottom of the charts when compared to their brethren around the world!
Not so fast!
Actually American horses still make more average yearly starts then most horses around the world.
The best numbers I can find on this subject come from the Jockey Club Fact Book which tracks average starts per runner by country and has been doing so for over 20 years.  In 2008, I chose the 12 countries who had the most starters in that year’s Jockey Club Fact Book which happened to cover the year 2006.  These countries ranged from the United States with 66,733 starters down to New Zealand with 5,381. As I previously reported, the U. S. finished third in average starts per runner that year with 6.31, trailing only Japan with 7.69 and barely South Africa with 6.37, which meant the U.S. runners were within 0.07 starts per runner from being second in the world.
I wondered if this close third place finish by American racers was just an anomaly, so I decided to track it back as far as I could through old Jockey Club Fact Books.  I decided to check each countries starts per runner at five year intervals which allowed me to go all the way back to 1991. The most recent Fact Book, the 2011 edition covered 2009 so I decided to use that as my final year.
In 1991, Japan led the world (which it did every year in my chart except for 1996 when Italy snuck past them) by a slight margin over Japan, 9.10 to 8.94.  The U.S. finished third with 7.90 starts per runner well ahead of fourth place Canada with 6.85 whose horses also raced on Lasix. Every fifth year on this chart, the U.S. was third in the world in average starts per runner, except for 1996 when Lasix using Canada finished third ahead of the Lasix using U.S.  In 2009, as always Japan led in starts per runner with 7.76 followed by South Africa which just barely edged out the U.S. for second, 6.21 to 6.17.