Australian-bred Vow and Declare wins Melbourne Cup

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Lightweight chance Vow and Declare, the only Australian-bred runner in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, held off a legion of foreign rivals to win Australia’s greatest horse race for its local trainer, jockey and owners.

The 11-1 shot hugged the running rail in the last stages of the two mile handicap to just hold out Ireland-trained Master of Reality, ridden by star jockey Frankie Dettori who, in a glittering career, has yet to win the $8 million ($5.5 million) Melbourne Cup.

In a sensation after the race, Master of Reality was relegated from second to fourth place for causing interference to another Ireland-trained runner, Il Paradiso, which was fourth across the line.

Master of Reality is trained by Joseph O’Brien at Kilkenny and Il Paradiso by his father, famous trainer Aiden O’Brien. Joseph O’Brien won the 2017 Melbourne Cup with Rekindling, edging out his father’s runner Johannes Vermeer.

The relegation of Master of Reality saw England-trained Prince of Arran promoted from third to second place and Il Paradiso to third.

Vow and Declare endured the bumping finish to deliver a first Cup victory for his Australian trainer, Danny O’Brien and also the first for Australian rider Craig Williams in 15 attempts.

O’Brien said the task of winning the Melbourne Cup against runners from Britain, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand had “a bit of David and Goliath” about it.

“It’s a special thing to happen and I really can’t believe it,” O’Brien said. “It’s a privilege to have a horse good enough to be in it and then for him to be ridden so brilliantly by Craig.

“In the last stages he just wouldn’t give in and wouldn’t give in and he put his head out on the line and won the Melbourne Cup.”

Starting from the second-widest barrier in the 24-horse field, Vow and Declare ran prominently throughout the race and took the lead down the long straight at Melbourne’s Flemington racecourse as a crowd of more than 100,000 roared. Master of Reality challenged wider on the track and Prince of Arran flashed home late but the only Australian-bred hope held on.

“I was just lucky enough to sit on Vow and Declare,” Williams said. “Without the hard work of everyone at the stable we don’t have this horse.

“Danny O’Brien’s done a wonderful job with him and it was a privilege to ride him today. We had a difficult barrier draw and I just had to trust him and know what we can do. It’s great to be associated with a great horse.

“The bit of bumping that he endured late actually spurred him along. I grew up and watched races, wrote stories, dreamed of these occasions. But I couldn’t do it without Vow and Declare.”

The Melbourne Cup, raced since 1861 on the first Tuesday in November, is known as “the race that stops a nation.” The race begins at 3pm and Australia comes to a standstill as people in workplaces around the nation, including the national parliament, gather around televisions to watch.

The fields for the race have become increasingly international in recent years and Australian winners have become rare. Vow and Declare is owned by a group of small-time owners, mainly from Australia’s east coast.

It was No. 23 in a 24-horse field.

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.”