Authentic wins 2020 Kentucky Derby, ends Tiz the Law’s Triple Crown hopes

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Authentic denies heavy favorite Tiz the Law a shot at the Triple Crown by outlasting a furious homestretch battle to win the 2020 Kentucky Derby. He took over the lead about 1/4 mile into the race and stayed there even as Tiz the Law came rocketing towards him.

This was the 200th Grade I stakes victory for Authentic’s jockey John Velazquez and his third Kentucky Derby win. His Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert gets his sixth Kentucky Derby win, which ties Ben Jones‘ record for all-time wins by a trainer. He is owned by Spendthrift Farm, Myracehorse.com, Madaket Stables and Starlight Racing.

Tiz the Law finished 1 1/4 lengths behind to take second, and 46-1 longshot Mr. Big News was third. Authentic, who set off at 8-1 odds, paid $18.80 to win, $6.00 to place and $5.00 to show.

Thousand Words, Baffert’s other entry, was a late scratch after the horse reared up and fell in the saddling paddock. He quickly got back up on his own and was walked out of the area.

Related: Order of finish for 2020 Kentucky Derby

Outside the gates of Churchill Downs and throughout the city of Louisville, protesters and counter-protesters filled the streets, prompting the track to increase security. Protesters called for justice for Breonna Taylor, 26, who was shot and killed by Louisville police in her home on March 13.

The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled this year’s Triple Crown schedule, as the Kentucky Derby was moved from Saturday, May 2 to the first Saturday in September.

The Derby remains the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the U.S. and has run every year since 1875. However, this was only the third time the race was run outside the month of May and the first time since 1945, when World War II pushed the Derby to June 9. The Belmont was moved back two weeks but remained in the month of June while the Preakness was changed from Saturday, May 16 to Saturday, Oct. 3.

The 2020 Triple Crown will always be remembered with an asterisk—because of a different race order, later dates for all three races (which gave horses more time to mature and prep), significantly more time in between each event and a shortened Belmont (9 furlongs instead of the traditional 12).

The racing calendar wasn’t the only thing affected by COVID-19. Just two weeks before the Derby, Churchill Downs announced that the race would run without fans in the stands. Originally, the race was pushed months back in the hopes that spectators could attend, and the track announced earlier in August that less than 23,000 would be allowed in and subjected to COVID-19 guidelines.

“With the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning,” Churchill Downs said in a statement on Aug. 21. “Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that.”

Some familiar faces were also noticeably absent, as several top jockeys, including last year’s Derby winner Flavien Prat and wildly successful brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr., decided not to make the trip to Kentucky due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its related safety precautions (riders needed to be at Churchill Downs by Monday, Aug. 31).

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.”