Updated: May 9, 2019
The use of lasix and other drugs in horse racing has always been a hot issue. Whether or not lasix should be banned in North American horse racing is a question that has been begging to be answered ever since the Stronach Group announced their plans to phase out lasix. The announcement by the Stronach Group has been followed up with a coalition of 20 tracks forming to phase out lasix and completely eliminate the use of it in stakes races by 2021. This coalition includes all tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc., The New York Racing Association, and The Stronach Group as well as the tracks Keeneland, Del Mar, Oaklawn Park, and more.
Dr. Kathryn Papp is one veterinarian and animal lover that is in support of this ban. She, alongside her family, is working to breed and raise horses that will race without any medication.
Papp was raised in New Jersey. As a child she worked with high-end jumpers and hunters and competed in these circuits into her college years. She attended college at the University of Vermont and Tufts University in Massachusetts. Afterwards, Papp attend the University of Guelph - Ontario Veterinary College in Canada. She graduated in April of 2008.
In her first associate position following her internship, Kathryn Papp worked for Equine Veterinary Care at Fair Hill, a Thoroughbred training center in Maryland. Dr. Papp, now 36, has been practicing veterinary medicine for almost 11 years with a focus on the Thoroughbred racehorse. She owns Hillcrest Meadow Equine where she offers services ranging from vaccines to minor surgeries.
Dr. Kathryn Papp’s dedication to saving animals does not end when she’s finished with her veterinary appointments for the day. In 2012, PA Racehorse Rehoming, Rehabilitation, & Rehoming (PARR) was formed. The rescue group officially became a 501(c)(3) in 2014. “At this time I was working mainly at the Penn National Racetrack in Grantville, PA,” Papp said. “I ended up marrying a TB trainer and in order to be able to sleep at night, knowing we had a hand in making any money off of these horses and recognizing how many horses needed immediate aftercare options following their retirement from racing, we started PARR and rented a farm and began helping as many as we could”.
Recently, Dr. Papp ventured into Thoroughbred breeding with her husband Monti Neal Sims, mother Carol Papp, and father Allen N. Papp. Together they are working to breed horses that will race without lasix. The family established Hillcrest Meadows Farm, LLC. (HMF). They are based out of Cream Ridge, NJ.
“Their first broodmare was one given to them by a client of mine when the horse fell ill while racing,” Dr. Papp explained. “It was brought to their attention that she had very unique bloodlines that traced back to certain founding TB mares and sires and bloodstock agents recommended that they breed her".
In order to not contribute to the overpopulation of unwanted horses, Papp’s family has been developing a program that allows them to ensure the safety of any horse ever bred, owned, or raced by them. They have escrow accounts for any horse that comes into their care. Each month, $200 will be placed into the accounts of Hillcrest Meadow Equine's horses to ensure that they can be claimed back or purchased if in a bad situation or so that they can receive proper medical care if injured.
Hummingbird by Cat Thief is among the first horses to race for Hillcrest Meadows Farm. She currently holds a record for 15:2-1-1, mainly running at Penn National. Inherent Value by Notional is another mare that has started her racing career for Hillcrest Meadows Farm. She has a record of 7:0-3-2. Both mares are trained by Papp’s husband, Monti Neal Sims.
“The few horses HMF have already raced under their ownership have started their careers without lasix,” Dr. Papp said.
However, Dr. Kathryn Papp notes that it is very hard to run your horses without lasix in lower level races. “When racing in claiming races, many trainers or other owners almost force your hand into putting your race horses on lasix to run. If you run successfully without the medication, they know they can claim your horse and easily improve its performance just by putting it on lasix. Some of our claiming horses will run on small amounts of lasix for this reason”.
This is a sentiment that many trainers and owners in the lower levels of horse racing seem to share. It is more difficult for a horse to win a race if they are not on lasix because most of, if not all, the other horses in the race will be running on the medication.
“If more opportunities become available for lasix free racing or if the horses are talented enough to run in non-claiming races, HMF intends not to race them on lasix,” said Dr. Papp.