New horses among Preakness challenges facing Always Dreaming

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After Always Dreaming’s win in the Kentucky Derby as the favorite, the colt will be running in the Preakness with a bulls-eye on his back.

With a victory, Always Dreaming would head to the Belmont Stakes in New York three weeks later with a shot at winning the Triple Crown. Two years ago, American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought by winning the Triple Crown. Before that, California Chrome in 2014 and I’ll Have Another in 2012 followed up their Kentucky Derby victories by winning the Preakness to set up Triple tries. Neither pulled off the feat.

The 142nd Preakness is shaping up to have 11 runners. Entries are due Wednesday, when post positions will be drawn.

Always Dreaming figures to be the clear favorite. After starting the year without a victory, he’s won four in a row by a combined 23\ lengths.

Always Dreaming arrived in Baltimore three days after winning the Derby by 2} lengths on a sloppy track. Trainer Todd Pletcher wanted to give the dark bay colt plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings since Always Dreaming proved difficult to train in the days leading up to the Derby. His behavior forced Pletcher to adjust his equipment and use a different exercise rider in the mornings.

The colt has been, well, like a dream since he left Kentucky.

“We like what we’re seeing so far,” Pletcher said. “All the indications are he’s bounced out of the race quickly. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he cooled down after the race and recovered so well even the evening of the Derby. All the indications since then have been great.”

Pletcher traditionally skips the Preakness because he’s not a fan of running horses back two weeks after a stressful race like the Derby. Instead, the New York-based trainer often gives his Derby runners five weeks’ rest and points them toward the 1+-mile Belmont Stakes, the third and longest leg of the Triple Crown.

“It’s really a tremendous respect for the Preakness,” Pletcher said. “It’s something I’d love to win. It’s just in a lot of cases we felt like that our horses need a little more time to recover, and not all of them have bounced out of the Derby as well as it seems like Dreaming has so far.”

The 49-year-old trainer is 0 for 8 in the race. His best finish was third with Impeachment in 2000. Always Dreaming will be just his second Preakness starter in seven years.

Pletcher has decided Always Dreaming won’t have a timed workout – known as a breeze – before the Preakness.

“He’s putting plenty of energy into his gallops and I just don’t see the need for a breeze,” he said. “I’m just trying to focus the two weeks on kind of refueling the tank a little bit, and hopefully he can show us at the Preakness all that he has and be ready to go.”

Always Dreaming faces different challenges in the Preakness. Unlike the traffic-choked 20-horse field in the 1\-mile Derby, the second leg of the Triple Crown is limited to 14 horses running a shorter distance of 1 3/16 miles.

Always Dreaming faces new shooters, too. Several horses that skipped the Derby have the advantage of being rested, including Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money, Multiplier, Senior Investment and Term of Art. Lancaster Bomber, from the barn of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, finished fourth in the English 2000 Guineas on May 6, the same day as the Derby.

Some of Always Dreaming’s Derby competition is back to take a shot at knocking him off, including fourth-place finisher Classic Empire.

“I’m running him because we feel he’s the best horse and we want to prove it,” trainer Mark Casse said. “We sure didn’t change our mind given the results of the Derby.”

Also returning from the Derby are second-place Lookin At Lee, seventh-place Gunnevera and 11th-place Hence.

“I’ve tasted what it’s like to think we are going to win the Kentucky Derby,” said Corey Lanerie, who rides Lookin At Lee. “Now hopefully we can get the job done in the Preakness.”

The Preakness lost a potential starter on Sunday when Royal Mo suffered a career-ending injury during a five-furlong workout at Pimlico.

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was aboard Royal Mo when he said he heard a pop while turning into the stretch.

Trainer John Shirreffs said X-rays showed a fractured sesamoid bone in the colt’s right front ankle. Royal Mo was taken to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.

The Southern California-based colt was on the eligible list for the Derby but didn’t draw into the field.

Irad Ortiz sets single-season record with 77th stakes win

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NEW YORK – Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his record 77th single-season North American stakes victory on Saturday when he guided Dr B to victory in the $200,000 Go for Wand at Aqueduct.

The 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico broke the old mark of 76 set by the late Hall of Fame rider Garrett Gomez in 2007.

“This is great. Amazing feeling,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey from 2018-20. “Gomez did it in 2007 and he was a great rider, one of the best in the game. I’m so happy just to be a part of this. I love this sport.”

Ortiz Jr. won the Belmont Stakes with Mo Donegal in June to go with Breeders’ Cup victories in the Juvenile, Filly & Mare Sprint and Sprint. He also earned nine other Grade 1 wins in New York, including Life Is Good in the Woodward and Whitney and Nest in the Alabama and Coaching Club Oaks. He won riding titles at Belmont’s spring-summer meet and Saratoga’s summer meet.

Ortiz Jr. leads North American riders with 304 overall victories this year. His purse earnings totaled over $35.8 million going into Saturday’s races, which already surpassed his single-season record of $34.1 million in 2019.

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.”