Another horse in Baffert’s stable draws a positive test

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A filly trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert has tested positive in a postrace drug test for the second time this year, making it the third positive test by a horse in Baffert’s stable in the last six months.

Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney, issued a statement confirming Gamine’s test results after her third-place finish as the 7-10 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4. The two-time Grade 1 winner tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid, which Robertson said is “a legal, commonly used anti-inflammatory medication.”

The New York Times reported the post-race positive for Gamine on Thursday, citing two unidentified sources. Robertson suggested the newspaper’s description of betamethasone as a “banned substance” is inaccurate.

The Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, which regulates horse racing, first tweeted Thursday that one of the primary samples from a horse that ran on Sept. 4 indicated a Class C medication violation. Baffert’s attorney later identified the horse as Gamine.

Betamethasone is a Class C drug that is allowed in Kentucky as a therapeutic. However, state rules require at least a 14-day withdrawal time and any level of detection on race day is a violation. The penalty for a first offense for a trainer is a fine of at least $1,000, without mitigating circumstances.

A split sample for Gamine will be tested to confirm the initial positive. Baffert is training Gamine for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland in Kentucky in early November.

Baffert’s attorney said the drug was administered to Gamine on Aug. 17 — 18 days before the Kentucky Oaks — and the veterinarian followed medical and regulatory guidelines.

“Trainers and veterinarians must be able to rely on guidelines given them by racing officials,” Robertson said. “If they are told by regulators that a medication will clear a horse’s system in 14 days, they must be able to rely on that information.”

Robertson said Gamine’s test revealed 27 picograms of betamethasone. The current threshold in Kentucky is zero after the state lowered the allowable threshold from 10 picograms in August.

“The thresholds for many lawful medications such as betamethasone are way too low,” Robertson said. “A picogram is a trillionth of a gram — 27 picograms is a minuscule amount that would not affect a thousand pound animal. The regulations governing racing must be ones that are related to pharmacology in a horse as opposed to how sensitive labs can test.”

It was Gamine’s second positive this year.

After she won at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas on May 2, she tested positive for lidocaine and was disqualified when split-sample testing confirmed the initial positive. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that is allowed, but requires at 72-hour withdrawal time. It falls in the Class B category, which calls for stiffer penalties. Baffert is appealing his 15-day suspension by Arkansas stewards. He blamed the positive test on environmental contamination linked to a pain patch worn by assistant trainer Jim Barnes.

Between her two positive tests, Gamine won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont and the Test Stakes at Saratoga, both in New York. She won the Acorn by 18 3/4 lengths in a stakes-record time.

The same day Gamine tested positive at Oaklawn, another Baffert horse also failed a postrace test. Charlatan, who won a division of the Arkansas Derby, also tested positive for lidocaine and was disqualified. Baffert is appealing that decision. Charlatan missed the reconfigured Triple Crown series because of an ankle injury and hasn’t raced since May 2.

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.”