Undefeated Essential Quality opens as 2-1 Kentucky Derby favorite

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Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Champion 2-Year-Old Male Essential Quality leads the 20-horse field as the 2-1 favorite from the No. 14 position in the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

The undefeated grey colt is trained by Brad Cox, who looks to become the first Louisville native to win the Derby.

Jockey Luis Saez seeks redemption after finishing first in the 2019 Derby aboard Maximum Security, whose historic Kentucky Derby disqualification snaked through courts for over a year. Saez didn’t ride in last year’s race.

Essential Quality is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, which has never fielded a Derby winner.

Bourbonic (30-1) will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, the first Black jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby since Kevin Krigger in 2013. A Black rider hasn’t won the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield went back-to-back in 1901 and 1902.

Bourbonic made waves when he pulled off the biggest Wood Memorial upset in history at 72-1 on April 3. He will start on the far outside in the No. 20 post position.

Trainer Vicki Oliver makes her Kentucky Derby debut with 50-1 longshot Hidden Stash from the No. 13. She becomes the first woman to saddle a Derby contender since Carla Gaines with Bolo in 2015. No female trainer has ever won in the race’s 147 editions.

The 2021 Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app. Post time for the 2021 Kentucky Derby is set for approximately 6:57 p.m. ET.

Related: How to watch the 2021 Kentucky Derby

NBC Sports will also air the Kentucky Oaks the day before on Friday, April 30 from 12 to 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Fans will return to Churchill Downs after the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted last year’s race. The 146th Kentucky Derby was moved from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5 and was run without fans in the stands.

Related: What to know about the 2021 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby 2021 post positions, odds

Below are the post positions for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, including current odds as of April 27.

1. Known Agenda (6-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

2. Like the King (50-1)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

3. Brooklyn Strong (50-1)
Trainer: Daniel Velazquez
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

4. Keepmeinmind (50-1)
Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
Jockey: David Cohen

5. Sainthood (50-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Corey Lanerie

6. O Besos (20-1)
Trainer: Greg Foley
Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza

7. Mandaloun (15-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux

8. Medina Spirit (15-1)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez

9. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Flavien Prat

10. Midnight Bourbon (20-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Mike Smith

11. Dynamic One (20-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz

12. Helium (50-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux

13. Hidden Stash (50-1)
Trainer: Vicki Oliver
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

14. Essential Quality (2-1) – Morning-line favorite
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez

15. Rock Your World (5-1)
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario

16. King Fury (20-1)SCRATCHED
Trainer: Kenny McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

17. Highly Motivated (10-1)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano

18. Super Stock (30-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

19. Soup and Sandwich (30-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

20. Bourbonic (30-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Watch the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

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.”