Totally Boss Shines at Kentucky Downs, punches Breeders’ Cup ticket

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The competition of graded stakes winners proved to be no problem for Jim and Susan Hill’s Totally Boss, who was a clear winner in the $684,640, Grade 3 Runhappy Turf Sprint Stakes Sept. 7 at Kentucky Downs.

As a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race, the Turf Cup victory awarded the 4-year-old Street Boss gelding an automatic berth in Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park.

“Everybody was so high on him, and that’s when you think something is going to go wrong,” Jim Hill said of the Rusty Arnold trainee. “He was so cool in the paddock. I had high expectations for sure in this race. He’s really turned it around, figured it out. He’s having a great time. He spends half the time at our farm, Margaux, the other half with Rusty at the track. That just seems to suit him perfectly. He gets stronger every race, so we’re happy.”

One start earlier, Arnold sent Totally Boss to score his first stakes win in the Aug. 4 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint at Ellis Park. That victory was a rebound following a nose miss in a June 29 allowance at Churchill Downs, Totally Boss’s only loss in five starts this year.

“We didn’t think we could get in this race just as a non-stakes winner, so we went to the Ellis one to be the ‘Win and You’re In’ to this race,” Hill said. “Your plan doesn’t often work out but so far it’s been great.”

Totally Boss broke sixth Saturday under jockey Florent Geroux but was quick to get up to track the pace. The 4-1 shot settled in second behind Smart Remark, who set an opening quarter-mile in :23.54. Shakertown Stakes winner Imprimis was between third and fourth with champion Stormy Liberal, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner, and Troy Handicap winner Leinster settled fifth.

As the field came through the stretch, Totally Boss stuck his head in front and continued on to pull clear by 1 1/4 lengths. He wrapped up six furlongs in 1:09.21 on firm turf.

“When he broke sharp, I just took it from there,” Geroux said. “He put me closer to normal, but he was traveling great. And when I asked him turning for him, he gave me his usual kick. He’s a nice horse, and I think Rusty has him near the top of his form right now.”

Smart Remark held for second and Leinster rallied for third. Imprimis, Stormy Liberal, Undrafted, Wet Your Whistle, White Flag, Cautious Giant, and Jazzy Times completed the order of finish.

The Breeders’ Cup is expected to be Totally Boss’s next start, with the gelding heading back to the Margaux Farm before the championship race.

“We thought his race at Churchill showed he belonged, the race he got beat in,” Arnold said. “His first two [this year] were condition allowance races but when he got beat, that was a good field. [Om] beat him that day by a nose and we thought it was a really good race. We had a lot of trouble and we thought at that point he was a good horse.

“Jim Hill picked the Ellis Park race. He said, ‘I’m afraid if we go to New York, it may rain and things may go wrong.’ He said let’s go to Ellis and the ‘Win and You’re In’ and he barely got up there, but it was great because it got us in for this race.”

Totally Boss was bred by Mike Pressley in Kentucky and is the first foal out of the Elusive Quality mare Totally Tucker.

The Hills purchased Totally Boss for $180,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, where the bay was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Cotillion Stakes from Parx Racing on September 21. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.

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.”