LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said Wednesday its debate will continue on a proposal to ban the use of an anti-bleeding drug on race days in the state that bills itself as the "horse capital of the world."
At a regular monthly meeting, commission members on Wednesday voted down a motion to delay the issue for a year.
A public hearing will be held next month in Frankfort.
The proposal would phase out race-day use of the drug furosemide in graded or listed stakes races, including the Kentucky Derby. The drug is used commonly to treat pulmonary hemorrhaging in racehorses.
If approved, Kentucky would be the first state to take the action against the drug, which is banned internationally.
Furosemide is marketed as Lasix and Salix and is the only medication allowed to be given to horses on race day in the U.S.
A more sweeping proposed ban -- aimed at completely phasing out use of furosemide on race days -- failed on a 7-7 roll call vote at a tense commission meeting last month. The commission has since added a new member, Lexington horseman John Phillips.
The proposed ban remained divisive when it came up for discussion before the Equine Drug Research Council, an advisory group for the Horse Racing Commission that met before the full commission meeting. A motion to support the proposed regulation narrowly failed after speakers -- most of them opponents of the ban -- had their say.
"I've seen horses that have collapsed on the racetrack in pools of blood. ... It's not a pretty sight," said opponent Rick Hiles, a council member and president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association.
But state Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican also on the council, said a race-day ban on the medication would help the entire horse racing industry.
"The horse racing industry has a significant perception problem and it's starting to reach critical mass," Thayer said.
John T. Ward, the commission's executive director, said Lasix has become "the golden shot" administered when horses race or work out. But he said there's a growing public perception that racehorses are overly medicated.
Ward, a veteran thoroughbred trainer, said the racing industry would adjust to the race-day furosemide prohibition.
Opponents of the earlier proposal said the race-day ban would saddle Kentucky with a competitive disadvantage that would drive away trainers and horses. Kentucky racetracks already are struggling to keep up with competitors in other states where purse money is bolstered by slot machines and other forms of gambling. Kentucky lawmakers have refused to allow casino-style gambling at the state's racetracks.
Three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert told The Associated Press in an interview that the proposed ban would hurt racing and the horses. He said he gives Lasix as a preventative against bleeding.
"Once they bleed, they just keep bleeding and it's hard to really stop," he said.
Baffert said the horsemen who have problems with race-day use of Lasix could just stop administering the drug at those times.
But he said a ban on race-day use of the drug would put horses at a disadvantage if they bled.
"You don't know which ones are going to bleed," he said.
The new proposal would gradually ban the use of furosemide within 24 hours of post time in any graded or stakes races in Kentucky. Those races draw top-notch horses because of the higher purse money offered.
The new version would begin on Jan. 1, 2013, when the ban would apply to 2-year-olds racing in any graded or stakes races in Kentucky. The prohibition would extend to 2- and 3-year-old horses competing in those races in 2014.
The Kentucky Derby, run the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, is for 3-year-old horses.
Then in 2015, the ban would apply to any horse entered to race in graded or listed stakes races in Kentucky.
The phase-in could reshuffle fields in some horse races in 2014, when the ban would apply to 3-year-olds but not to older horses.
Violations of the race-day drug ban would result in the horse being disqualified and forfeiture of their purse money.
"That is a heavy penalty to pay," Ward said. "The owner takes the hit for a lot of money."
Violating trainers or veterinarians would face license suspensions and fines growing in severity for repeat infractions in a year's time.
Notably missing from the new version was an out-clause that would have the commission review the impact of the race-day ban during the phase-in period. The initial proposal called for a commission review of the ban in 2013.
Associated Press Sports Writer Colin Fly contributed to this report.