Ray York, winning jockey in 1954 Kentucky Derby, dies at 86

AP Photo
1 Comment

LOS ANGELES — Ray York, who won the 1954 Kentucky Derby aboard Determine at age 20 and rode in a record seven consecutive decades, has died. He was 86.

Michael McKay, his longtime girlfriend, said he died Sunday after a year-long struggle with pneumonia at an extended care facility near Bakersfield, California.

York rode Determine to victory in the 1954 Santa Anita Derby before they teamed to win the Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths. It was York’s only win in five Derby mounts. He was nearly unseated when Timely Tip made an abrupt left turn coming out of the starting gate and clipped heels with Determine.

York and Determine also won the 1955 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita. Determine went on to a successful stallion career, siring 1962 Kentucky Derby winner Decidedly.

In York’s only appearance in the Preakness Stakes, he finished 10th aboard Armageddon in 1952.

York, a native of Gloucester, Massachusetts, began his career in 1949. He won 3,082 races and had career earnings of $14,206,054, according to Equibase. He was considered one of the top riders of his era, which included such Hall of Famers as Bill Shoemaker, Eddie Arcaro, Bill Hartack, Johnny Longden, Don Pierce and Milo Valenzuela.

“He loved racing so much and all the people he had known over the years,” McKay said. “Ray was so much fun, always laughing and always talking.”

She said the couple traveled extensively to China and Europe before York’s health declined.

York spent much of his career in California before retiring in 1992.

He won 26 stakes races at Santa Anita, including his second Santa Anita Derby in 1959 aboard Silver Spoon, a Hall of Fame filly. He won the 1964 Hollywood Gold Cup with Colorado King. York was Del Mar’s leading rider in 1957, 1962 and ’64. He shifted his base to Turf Paradise in Phoenix in the late 1960s, and won seven races there in one day in 1970.

York returned to the saddle one final time at age 66 to ride Culebra to a 10th-place finish in a claiming race at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 2000, becoming the first jockey to ride in seven decades. Before then, he hadn’t ridden in a race since 1992.

“I rode better than the horse ran,” York told the Los Angeles Times afterward.

Culebra was trained by Henry Moreno, who died Sunday, the same day as York.

Besides his girlfriend, York is survived by three children from his first marriage: daughter Bonnie Wunner and sons Ray Jr. and Jeff.

Funeral services will be March 7 in Taft, California.

Appeals court strikes down federal horseracing rules act

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

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

flightline horse
Silas Walker/Getty Images
1 Comment

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.”