Omaha Beach is 4-1 early favorite for Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Omaha Beach is the 4-1 early favorite for the Kentucky Derby after drawing the No. 12 post position on Tuesday.

Bob Baffert-trained Game Winner is the 5-1 second choice from the No. 16 post in the 20-horse field for Saturday’s first leg of the Triple Crown.

Game Winner will start inside stablemate Roadster, the 6-1 co-third choice with Improbable, another Baffert colt who will go off from the No. 5 hole in the 1\-mile race at Churchill Downs.

Omaha Beach is trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and enters the $3 million showcase on a three-race winning streak. The dark brown colt is coming off a one-length victory in the slop over Improbable in the Arkansas Derby, a race that demonstrated his recent knack for getting up front quickly and staying there.

Mandella believes Omaha Beach and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won last year’s Derby for Baffert aboard Justify, will make the most of his spot.

“It’s really important if you get luck with it,” Mandella said. “If you get a bad luck, a good post position doesn’t work.

“His last couple of races he kind of sits back and bides his time a little bit, then decides when to just cruise along. Mike will have to figure that out.”

It remains to be seen how the Derby will unfold hitting the first turn with so many horses vying for the same spot, but Improbable is in a relatively good spot.

Game Winner, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile here last fall, and Roadster will have their work cut out for them, starting from post positions that are a combined 4 for 87 in the Derby. When it was noted that Roadster’s No. 17 post is 0 for 40, nervous laughter grew in a crowded room of horsemen including Baffert, his connections and the media.

Baffert later took all of his horses’ slots in stride, if only because none was on the rail. War of Will drew that unenviable spot and was given 20-1 odds as a result.

“I like the 16 hole, it’s a good spot,” he said of Game Winner’s position. “Roadster, he’s out there. I don’t know. I always get two horses together. A lot of times in California they draw so … I’ll be watching those two leaving there.”

Points leader Tacitus will start from the No. 8 post with 10-1 odds as he tries to give trainer Bill Mott his first Derby victory. The son of Tapit and Close Hatches by First Defence has Grade 2 wins in the Wood Memorial and Tampa Bay Derby during a three-race surge.

Another 10-1 choice is unbeaten Maximum Security, who starts from the No. 7 hole and will try to follow up his victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Todd Pletcher entries Spinoff and Cutting Humor face 30-1 odds after drawing the Nos. 19 and 10 post positions.

Also eligible is 30-1 Bodexpress, who can get into the field with a defection.

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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.”