Bob Baffert-trained Improbable 5-2 Preakness favorite

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BALTIMORE — In a field without the top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby, the odds that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert wouldn’t have the favorite in the Preakness are, well, Improbable.

Baffert will seek a record-setting eighth Preakness victory Saturday with 5-2 morning line favorite Improbable, who will start from the No. 4 post in a field of 13 horses.

War of Will, the second choice at 4-1, received the No. 1 post in Wednesday’s draw.

For the first time since 1951, the Preakness will not include the four horses that crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby. Improbable finished fifth and was moved up to fourth following the disqualification of Maximum Security for interference.

It was the only time in six career races that Improbable failed to finish first or second. On Saturday, co-owner Elliott Walden hopes his horse gets back on track after watching another of his horses, Justify, roll to a Triple Crown win in 2018.

“I feel like we’re favored by default this year,” Walden conceded. “But this horse has a good resume. He ran very well in the Derby without hitting the board.”

After being bunched tightly in the 19-horse Kentucky Derby, Improbable can expect a much smoother ride within a small field.

“Happy with the 4 post. Post positions here are a little bit anti-climactic,” Walden said. “There’s not a lot whole lot to it. We just hope he gets away clean and he’s able to get in a nice rhythm. ”

Baffert did not attend the draw, but he will no doubt be in the center of things Saturday. Baffert and R.W. Walden, who saddled seven winners in the late 1800s, are currently tied atop the Preakness leaderboard.

War of Will, meanwhile, is stuck on the rail with the No. 1 post – the same place he started from in the Kentucky Derby, when he finished eighth and was moved up to seventh.

“We definitely know it’s not as bad as the Derby,” trainer Mark Casse said. “One thing about it: the 1 hole can be extremely good or it can be extremely bad. In the Derby it was extremely bad, so I’m thinking we’re going to get extremely good this time.”

The other two Derby participants in this race are Bodexpress and Win Win Win. Bodexpress (14th in the Derby, moved up to 13th) will break from the No. 9 post and is 20-1 on the morning line. Win Win Win (10th to 9th at Churchill Downs) is 15-1 from the 13 hole.

Bodexpress is striving for his first career victory, with hopes of becoming the first maiden to win the Preakness since Refund captured a four-horse race in 1888.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 83, is looking for his seventh Preakness victory with Market King, 30-1 on the morning line and starting from the No. 8 post.

“I don’t think the post position matters a lot because he’s a very good gate horse,” Lukas said. “I don’t think he’s the fastest but he’ll be close. By the time they get to the clubhouse turn, he should be placed somewhere where we’re comfortable.”

This is Lukas’ 44th Preakness entry, more than any trainer in the 144-year history of the race.

Alwaysmining drew the No. 7 post and odds of 8-1. Not only is Kelly Rubley seeking to become the first female trainer to win the Preakness, but the last Maryland-bred horse to finish first in the race was Deputed Testamony in 1983.

“I think it’s more about the horse than the fact that I’m a woman trainer,” Rubley said. “The horse brought me here, and I’m very proud of him.”

Everfast , entered hours before the draw on Wednesday, was the longest shot in the field at 50-1.

The horse is trained by Dale Romans, who won the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford.

“Some of the top contenders are missing, so we’ll take a chance,” Romans said from Louisville, Kentucky.

The others: Anothertwistafate (No. 12 post, 6-1); Bourbon War (No. 2, 12-1); Laughing Fox (No. 11, 20-1); Owendale (No. 5, 10-1); Signalman (No. 8, 30-1); Warrior’s Charge (No. 3, 12-1).

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.”