2 horses trained by Baffert test positive for lidocaine

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LOS ANGELES — Two undefeated horses from the barn of two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert have come back positive in split-sample testing for a banned substance in Arkansas.

Baffert confirmed to The Associated Press via text message Monday that he had been informed of the positives for lidocaine involving Charlatan and Gamine in the second round of testing, which he had sought under his rights after the first positives occurred in late May. The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, initially reported on the positive tests.

Lidocaine, a widely used anesthetic in racing, is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and use of it carries a penalty of a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense. Without mitigating circumstances, a horse would be disqualified and forfeit its purse. Lidocaine’s use is regulated because it can act as a masking agent.

Charlatan tested positive after earning $300,000 for winning a split division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2 at Oaklawn Park. The 3-year-old colt has been sidelined by a minor ankle issue that forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes on June 20 and will keep him out of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. Baffert has said the Preakness on Oct. 3 remains a possibility. The Triple Crown series has been rescheduled and is being run out of order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gamine, a 3-year-old filly who tested positive after winning at Oaklawn on May 2, won her most recent start in the Acorn Stakes on June 20 at New York’s Belmont Park. She romped by 18 3/4 lengths in stakes-record time, and Baffert is considering running her against males in the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert said in a statement that he believes both horses were “unknowingly and innocently” exposed to lidocaine by one of his stable employees. The employee had broken his pelvis and was suffering from back pain in the days leading up to May 2. He applied a pain relieving patch, which contained small amounts of lidocaine, according to Baffert’s statement.

Baffert said he believes the lidocaine from the patch was inadvertently transferred from the employee’s hands to the horses through the use of tongue ties applied by the employee who handled both animals leading up to their races.

“This is a case of innocent exposure and not intentional administration,” Baffert said in the statement. “The extreme sensitivity of modern day testing can now pick up trace levels of innocent contaminants that have no effect on a horse. This is an issue that regulators of horse racing need to account for and address.”

The level of licocaine in Gamine on May 2 was 185 picograms, while Charlatan had 46 picograms, according to the trainer’s statement. A picogram is a trillionth of a gram.

Baffert told the AP he had no additional comment.

No one at the Arkansas Racing Commission responded to phone or email messages after hours Monday. The commission will next hold a hearing on the case.

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.”