Tacitus favored in Belmont Stakes; War of Will second choice

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NEW YORK — Winning the Preakness wasn’t enough to make War of Will the Belmont Stakes favorite.

In fact, being the only colt to run in all three Triple Crown races really didn’t earn him the respect one would expect.

Well-rested Tacitus was made the slight favorite over the hard-working War of Will in a Belmont Stakes that wraps up a whacky Triple Crown.

Tacitus and War of Will got the outside No. 10 and 9 post positions, respectively, on Tuesday in the draw at Citi Field, but those should not be a problem in the 1 1/2-mile race on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Tacitus was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jose Ortiz. War of Will is the 2-1 second choice for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

“I had read in the last couple of days that he wasn’t going to be,” Casse said of not being the favorite. “There’s a few things against him. Tacitus has the home-field advantage. He’s the only guy to play in all three. I’m sure it has to take some toll on him.”

Casse believes War of Will has his best ahead of him, saying he has looked good.

The only thing that threatened him on Tuesday was a couple of loose horses on the track during a morning gallop, but War of Will didn’t seem to notice.

Tacitus has not raced since being elevated into third place in the Derby so he is going to be a lot fresher than War of Will. The colt also likes racing in New York. He won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in prepping for the Kentucky Derby and he is the son of Tapit, who has sired three of the last five Belmont winners.

“I’m not worried about it at this moment,” Mott said of the distance. “I guess we’ve got to see it to believe it. It’s like the Derby, a test by fire, You really only know when it’s over if they’ll do it or not. I feel quite positive about it.”

Thus far this Triple Crown has been memorable for all the wrong reasons.

A year after Justify electrified the racing world by capturing the Triple Crown, thoroughbred’s biggest event for 3-year-olds ended in chaos after Maximum Security was disqualified after finishing first in the Derby. Country House was placed first.

Within days, the owners of Maximum Security and Country House said they would be skipping the Preakness, meaning there would be no Triple Crown.

War of Will was impressive in winning the Preakness but the race was overshadowed when a rival colt threw its rider at the start and ran around the track during the race.

Now comes the Belmont and hopefully it go smoothly.

Joevia drew the No. 1 post position. Jose Lezvano is the jockey on the 30-1 choice.

The rest of the field in post-position order with horse, jockey and odds is:

Everfast, Luis Saez, 12; Master Fencer, Julien Leparoux, 8; Tax, Irad Ortiz, 15; Bourbon War, Mike Smith, 12; Spinoff, Javier Castellano, 15; Sir Winston, Joel Rosario, 12; Intrepid Heart, John Velazquez, 10; War of Will and Tacitus.

“I don’t think there was a bad post position,” said Casse, who had War of Will get the No. 1 post in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. “I like our post position. It’s the first time we’ve got a decent post. It allows us to do a little bit of deciding. If nobody wants the lead, he’ll be on the lead. If a couple of horses inside take off, he’ll tuck in. I love the post position.”

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 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.”