Honor A. P. wins Santa Anita Derby

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Honor A. P. won the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby by 2 3/4 lengths to enter the Kentucky Derby conversation.

Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Honor A. P. ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.97 and paid $6.40, $2.60 and $2.20. It was Smith’s third straight win and fourth overall in the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 1 race was run without spectators or media at Santa Anita because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I miss the fans, but I just got to pump myself up,” Smith said.

Authentic returned $2.20 and $2.10 as the heavy 1-2 favorite for trainer Bob Baffert, while Rushie was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 to show.

Trained by John Shirreffs, who oversaw superstar Zenyatta, Honor A.P. was purchased for $850,000 as a yearling. He is a ridgling, a male horse in which one or both testicles do not descend.

“We knew that he has tactical speed and Mike can put him pretty much where he wants,” Shirreffs said. “On the backside, we hoped he would get comfortable and to have a nice kick in the end, and it all worked out well.”

Honor A. P. earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled to Sept. 5 because of COVID-19. That moved him into second with 120, two points behind leader Tiz the Law, on the Derby leaderboard which determines the 20-horse field for the race.

“It’s up to him whether we run him again before the big dance,” Shirreffs said. “We have to see how the horse comes out and how he feels, but you’d always prefer to run. Running is probably the best option rather than training up to it, but we’ll wait and see how it all happens.”

The victory, worth $240,000, increased Honor A. P.’s career earnings to $362,200.

Authentic earned 40 points and is now fourth on the Derby leaderboard. Rushie earned 20 points. Anneau d’Or finished fourth and earned 10 points.

Unbeaten in three previous starts, Authentic broke outwards leaving the gate but was less than a length off the lead from his outside post position heading into the first turn. From there, he pressed the pace while three-deep, was in a good position while second at the top of the lane, but couldn’t catch Honor A. P.

In the $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, 6-5 favorite Improbable won by 3 1/4 lengths over Higher Power.

Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke and trained by Baffert, Improbable ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.69 and paid $4.60, $3 and $2.40.

Higher Power returned $4 and $3. Tenfold was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $4 to show.

“I got the consolation prize,” joked Baffert, who won his fourth Gold Cup after losing the Santa Anita Derby earlier. “This horse has been training so well. Drayden had him in the perfect spot and he had plenty left for the run home. This horse is only going to get better.”

Improbable earned $180,000, increasing his career winnings to $1,129,520.

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.”