Derby winner Justify may face fresh horses in Preakness

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) The competition isn’t exactly lining up to take on Kentucky Derby winner Justify in the Preakness.

Of his 19 rivals in the Derby, it appears most will skip the second leg of the Triple Crown in favor of resting and being pointed toward other races. That leaves mostly fresh horses to potentially fill the maximum 14-horse Preakness field.

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A day after Justify raced to a 2+-length victory in the slop as the 5-2 favorite, trainer Bob Baffert and his star horse drew a horde of visitors to his barn at Churchill Downs.

Baffert guided his fifth Derby winner out of the barn and walked him in a tight circle for fans who eagerly snapped photos on their phones. The chestnut colt’s coat shone in the morning sunlight and he nibbled on a couple of baby carrots Baffert plucked from his vest pocket.

“He knows he’s a stud,” Baffert said.

It was a quick appearance.

With Justify playfully tossing his head, Baffert knew it was best to get the champ back in his stall where he couldn’t inadvertently kick anyone.

“When I came out of the stall, he was pulling me,” the trainer said. “Usually they’re a little bit tired, but he was good.”

Baffert’s phone rang Sunday with an official invitation to bring Justify to run in the Preakness on May 19 in Baltimore.

“I didn’t tell them I’d think about it,” he said. “There’s no reason to say no.”

Baffert will be seeking his record-tying seventh Preakness victory. His four other Derby winners – Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah – all won the 1 3/16-mile race.

Of course, American Pharoah went on to capture the Belmont and complete the sport’s first Triple Crown sweep in 37 years.

But Baffert isn’t going there yet.

“Right now I’m thinking just keep him healthy,” he said.

Baffert plans to leave Justify at Churchill Downs until shipping the chestnut colt to Pimlico likely the Wednesday of race week.

Derby runner-up Good Magic, last year’s 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, appears unlikely to run in the Preakness. However, New York-based trainer Chad Brown said he would weigh his options before making a final decision.

“I want to give myself a little room to really observe the horse,” Brown said. “The horse will tell us.”

D. Wayne Lukas expects to have two Preakness runners: Bravazo, sixth in the Derby, and Sporting Chance, fourth in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard. Lukas has won the Preakness six times.

Among the fresh horses under consideration are Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip and Federico Tesio winner Diamond King.

Quip had enough qualifying points to get into the Derby field, but his ownership chose to point him toward the Preakness. The colt is owned by WinStar Farm, one of Justify’s multiple owners.

Todd Pletcher, who dislikes running his horses again in two weeks, said Audible (third in the Derby), Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso and Noble Indy would return to his New York base.

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.”