Monmouth jockeys pick up Haskell rides because of COVID-19

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Jockey Joe Bravo has an unexpected chance to win the $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

Bravo has been the leading rider 13 times at the New Jersey track. He gets a boost for the Haskell after the New York Racing Association decided to bar its jockeys who ride at other racetracks.

Bravo picked up the mount on Belmont Stakes runner-up Dr Post when regular-rider Irad Ortiz opted off the Todd Pletcher-trained colt this week rather than miss this season’s Saratoga Race Course meet in New York.

The New York ruling came after several prominent jockeys announced they had tested positive for COVID-19 and Del Mar racetrack near San Diego canceled weekend racing after 15 jockeys tested positive.

“After all the positives in California, I think the racetracks are just trying to take the best precautions to go finish their meet without a hitch,” said Cory Moran, Bravo’s jockey agent. “They are using protocols for the safety of their jockeys until this thing dies down. It is really getting out of hand with the positives.”

The Grade I Haskell – the showpiece race at Monmouth – seems to be a race with two very good colts and five longshots.

Dr Post is the 5-2 second choice in the 1 1/8 mile race. Trainer Bob Baffert’s Authentic is the 4-5 favorite, having won three of four starts, with his last being a second in the Santa Anita Derby in California.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Bravo told The Associated Press by phone. “With all these new regulations that Irad had to follow, I was lucky Todd picked me out and I am just glad to be part of that team.”

Bravo also got the mount because he has had success riding for the colt’s owner Vinny Viola, the owner of the Florida Panthers.

“He’s a pretty powerful horse, he can go inside or outside and Pletcher is excited about him so that got me excited about him,” Bravo said of Dr Post, who drew the No. 1 post position.

Dr Post tends to run from behind, which is what he did against Tiz the Law in the Belmont. Authentic, who got the No. 2 post, is a front-runner who will be looking to give Baffert a record-extending ninth win in the Haskell.

“You never want to overthink a race,” Bravo said. “You want to let a horse do his running and stay out of his way. But decisionwise, it looks like there is plenty of pace on paper. I just hope they all show it and it will be easier for me to catch them down the lane.”

Mike Smith, who rode Justify to the Triple Crown in 2018, is coming from California to handle Authentic for the first time.

Before he gets into Monmouth Park, the 54-year-old rider will have to produce a negative COVID-19 test from that day, racing secretary John Heims said. The track has set up 12-minute tests for all out-of-town riders competing Saturday. If he passes, Smith and the other jockeys will be isolated from the regular Monmouth jockeys.

Also entered in the Haskell in post position order with colt, jockey and odds were:

Jesus’ Team, Nik Juarez, 15-1; Ancient Warrior, Trevor McCarthy, 20-1; Fame to Famous, Jose C. Ferrer, 30-1; Lebda, Alex Cintron, 20-1; and Ny Traffic, Paco Lopez, 7-2.

The Haskell will offer points for the Kentucky Derby, with 100 going to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. In addition, the winner automatically qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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.”