Horse named for Dr. Anthony Fauci finishes second in debut

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A racehorse named for Dr. Anthony Fauci finished second in his debut Wednesday at Belmont Park in New York.

Fauci the 2-year-old colt was beaten by a horse named Prisoner in the third race. He was the favorite at less than even money.

Co-owner Phillip Antonacci named the horse for Fauci in mid-March after the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases started doing daily coronavirus briefings from the White House. The Antonacci family like Fauci is Italian-American and from Brooklyn.

“We wanted to honor the service that he’s given to the whole world: beside COVID, fighting all the other infectious his whole life,” Antonacci said. “Throughout the whole thing, he seemed like a voice that knew what was going on and, without trying to be too political, kind of calmed things and provided real data behind what was going on.”

Other pandemic-related names have been registered for racehorses, including Social Distancing, Self Isolation, Flatten the Curve, Herd Immunity and No Spectators.

Antonacci did not pick any of those names, but hoped to name a filly after Dr. Deborah Birx. In the end though, Antonacci said he didn’t have horse good enough to name after the coordinator of the White House’s virus task force.

This colt who debuted Wednesday was named Fauci in part because his owners thought he’d be a special horse. Trainer Wesley Ward has seen that since the then-unnamed horse got to his barn in September.

“He’s a beautiful colt, done everything right on the track in the mornings, got a beautiful mind on him to where he’s not fractious or anxious and seems very, very intelligent,” Ward said. “He’s just a real easygoing guy. Not much bothers him.”

Antonacci has sensed a lot of hype surrounding the horse because of his name. Since the global pandemic began, Dr. Fauci’s likeness has been used for a plush doll, a bobblehead and a donut, and he has a namesake beer.

And now a thoroughbred.

“He’s a really, really good horse,” Ward said. “Especially with the name that’s been assigned to him, you know that he’s got to live up to the name.”

Ward said depending on how Fauci comes out of his first race, he could be headed to Royal Ascot in England for the Coventry Stakes in mid-June.

Fauci’s debut coincided with the first live horse racing in New York since March and amid protests nationwide following death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Jockeys stood for a moment of silence to pay respects for those who died of COVID-19 and in tribute to medical professionals, then took a knee in the paddock prior to the first race as a show of solidarity with protesters in the wake of Floyd’s death.

“There’s a lot going on in the world right now and we wanted to show respect to all causes, and to all people, and to show that we here at (the New York Racing Association) support everybody,” jockey Reylu Gutierrez said. “Horse racing, in general, supports all ethnicities. Horse racing is a worldwide sport and it doesn’t matter what color you are, what religion you are, or what ethnicity you are. What matters in horse racing is that we are one.”

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.”