Kent Desormeaux out of alcohol rehab, ready for Belmont

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NEW YORK — Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux returned from a short stay in a drug and alcohol rehab center and was aboard Preakness winner Exaggerator for a morning workout before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

The 46-year-old rider on Tuesday acknowledged those who are helping him through his struggles with alcohol.

With younger brother Keith, Exaggerator’s trainer, by his side, Desormeaux said: “I think that my brother, mostly my wife, and my family have supported me through all the years, and it was my turn to say thank you.”

Exaggerator is expected to be the favorite in a field of 13 for the final leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park.

After his Preakness win on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Kent Desormeaux returned to California. His last day of riding was May 30 before he checked into Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah, a rehab facility popular with celebrities. He says he has a “sober companion” with him at all times, and that his program will continue when he completes the schedule he’s started in Utah.

Exaggerator, who finished second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.92 Tuesday morning, according to Daily Racing Form clockers. At one point, the 3-year-old colt moved away from the rail on the turn, but then completed his work through the stretch.

“Good energy,” Kent Desormeaux said. “His recovery was 20 feet. He took a deep breath. He sucked some air in and just walked home like he’s just been stable walking. ”

Keith added: “As a trainer, the time is of secondary importance. You want to see the horse recover after the work. When I got back to the barn his sweat had already dried up. He had a nice and calm look in his eye and he was under control. So it looks like we’re in good shape.”

The brothers are part of a close-knit family from Louisiana’s Cajun country, but they have much different personalities. Keith, 43, has been training for more than 25 years and this is his first time on the Triple Crown stage. Kent has been a big-time rider for decades, with more than 5,700 wins, including the Kentucky Derby three times, the Preakness three times and the Belmont in 2009 with Summer Bird.

Over the years, though, Kent Desormeaux’s drinking problems have cost him good mounts, including his Preakness ride aboard Tiger Walk and his Belmont ride aboard Dullahan in 2012. He’s failed Breathalyzer tests at tracks in 2010 and 2012.

Last year, he was fined $2,500 by track stewards for being under the influence of alcohol during a race program at Del Mar. Since then, he’s been subjected to breath tests by the California Horse Racing Board any day he rides in Southern California and hasn’t failed any.

Keith has expressed his concern for his brother’s problems in the past, and seemed pleased to have Kent back aboard Exaggerator.

As the two turned and walked away from the brief news conference held next to the track, Keith smiled and said, “he’s different. I’m telling you. He’s breathing. He’s answering. It’s clean living boys.”

The post-position draw is Wednesday. Expected to take on Exaggerator are Brody’s Cause, Cherry Wine, Creator, Destin, Forever d’Oro, Gettysburg, Governor Malibu, Lani, Seeking the Soul, Stradivari, Suddenbreakingnews and Trojan Nation.

Appeals court strikes down federal horseracing rules act

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NEW ORLEANS — Congress unconstitutionally gave too much power to a nonprofit authority it created in 2020 to develop and enforce horseracing rules, a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled Friday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, or HISA, is “facially unconstitutional.”

The authority created by the act was meant to bring uniform policies and enforcement to horseracing amid doping scandals and racetrack horse deaths. But the 5th Circuit – in two rulings issued Friday – ruled in favor of opponents of the act in lawsuits brought by horseracing associations and state officials in Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia.

The Federal Trade Commission has the ultimate authority to approve or reject HISA regulations, but it can’t modify them. And the authority can reject proposed modifications.

Three 5th Circuit judges agreed with opponents of the act – including the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and similar groups in multiple states – that the setup gave too much power to the nongovernmental authority and too little to the FTC.

“A cardinal constitutional principle is that federal power can be wielded only by the federal government. Private entities may do so only if they are subordinate to an agency,” Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote for the panel that ruled in the Texas case.

The same panel, which also included judges Carolyn Dineen King and Kurt Engelhardt, cited the Texas ruling in a separate order in favor of horseracing interests and regulators challenging HISA in a different case.

The chair of the horseracing authority’s board of directors said it would ask for further court review. Friday’s ruling could be appealed to the full 5th Circuit court of the Supreme Court.

“If today’s ruling were to stand, it would not go into effect until January 10, 2023 at the earliest,” Charles Scheeler said in an email. “We are focused on continuing our critical work to protect the safety and integrity of Thoroughbred racing, including the launch of HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program on January 1, 2023.”

The ruling was criticized by Marty Irby, executive director of the Animal Wellness Action organization. “Over the course of three Congresses, the most brilliant legal minds on Capitol Hill addressed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s constitutionality and ultimately decided that the Federal Trade Commission’s limited oversight was sufficient,” Irby said in an email.

Among the subjects covered by the authority’s rules and enforcement were jockey safety (including a national concussion protocol), the riding crop and how often riders can use it during a race, racetrack accreditation, and the reporting of training and veterinary records.

Animal rights groups, who supported the law, pointed to scandals in the industry involving medication and the treatment of horses.

Duncan wrote that in declaring HISA unconstitutional, “we do not question Congress’s judgment about problems in the horseracing industry. That political call falls outside our lane.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, hailed the ruling on Twitter, calling HISA a “federal takeover of Louisiana horse racing.”

Fractional interest in Flightline sells for $4.6 million

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Keeneland says a 2.5% fractional interest in Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Flightline has sold for $4.6 million during a special auction before the start of its November Breeding Stock Sale.

Brookdale Farm’s Freddy Seitz signed the ticket for an undisclosed client, the track announced in a release. The sale comes a day after ownership of the 4-year-old son of Tapit retired the unbeaten colt following his record 8\-length victory in Saturday’s $6 million, Grade 1 Classic at Keeneland. Flightline likely locked up Horse of the Year honors with his fourth Grade 1 victory in six starts by a combined victory margin of 71 lengths – dominance that has drawn comparisons to legendary Triple Crown champion Secretariat.

Flightline will begin his breeding career next year at Lane’s End Farms in Versailles, Kentucky, but a stud fee has yet to be determined. West Point Thoroughbreds, part of the bay colt’s ownership, offered the fractional interest. Seitz said the buyer wanted to “make a big splash” and get more involved in the business.

“With a special horse like (Flightline) all you can do is get involved and then just hope for the best,” Seitz said in the release.

“There has never been a horse that has done what he has done for however many years, back to Secretariat. You just have to pay up and get involved, and this is kind of what he’s thinking.”