Essential Quality leads 2021 Belmont Stakes odds over Preakness champ Rombauer

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Brad Cox’s Essential Quality opens as the 2-1 favorite for the 2021 Belmont Stakes ahead of Preakness winner Rombauer (3-1). Essential Quality and Rombauer will break side-by-side from the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.

The 153rd Belmont Stakes airs on Saturday, June 5 from 3-5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 5-7 p.m. on NBC. Coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app. NBC Sports will also broadcast from Belmont Park on Friday, June 4 from 5-6 p.m. ET with live racing, insider previews and expert betting tips.

Five of the eight horses ran in the Kentucky Derby and two ran in the Preakness. Todd Pletcher’s Overtook (20-1) is the only horse debuting in the Triple Crown. Pletcher also fields Bourbonic (15-1) and Known Agenda (6-1), who both ran in the Kentucky Derby.

France Go de Ina (30-1) looks to become the first Japan-based horse to win the Belmont, which would come with a $1 million bonus from the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

Noticeably absent from the lineup is Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who was suspended by the NYRA pending an investigation into his horse Medina Spirit’s failed post-Kentucky Derby drug test. Churchill Downs suspended the two-time Triple Crown winner for two years after a second drug test confirmed the presence of the banned substance betamethasone in the colt’s bloodstream.

Rombauer’s Preakness-winning jockey Flavien Prat will move over to Hot Rod Charlie, the horse he finished third on in the Kentucky Derby. John Velazquez, who rode Medina Spirit in the Derby and Preakness, has the ride on Rombauer in the Belmont.

Related: What to know about the 2021 Belmont Stakes

Belmont Stakes 2021 odds, post positions, lineup, horses

Below are the post positions for the 2021 Belmont Stakes, including opening odds as of June 1.

1. Bourbonic (15-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

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

3. Rombauer (3-1)
Trainer: Michael McCarthy
Jockey: John Velazquez

4. Hot Rod Charlie (7-2)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Flavien Prat

5. France Go de Ina (30-1)
Trainer: Hideyuki Mori
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

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

7. Rock Your World (9-2)
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario

8. Overtook (20-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Manny Franco

Watch the 153rd Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 5 from 3 to 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 5 to 7 p.m. on NBC. Coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and on 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.”