Another Triple Crown long shot? Fenwick is 50-1 in Preakness

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BALTIMORE — Rich Strike winning the Kentucky Derby at 80-1 may not be the only big upset this Triple Crown season.

Not if Fenwick has anything to do about it.

Two weeks after Rich Strike became the second-biggest long shot to win the Derby, Fenwick could join him in the record books at the Preakness Stakes. The 50-1 shot also has as heartwarming a story and is as unlikely to be on the Triple Crown trail: The colt is named after owner Jeremia Rudan’s mother, who died in a house fire when he was 19 and running for Kevin McKathan two years after the trainer lost his brother because of a heart attack.

“This is one of those deals where you can stop and take a breath and say, `You know what, we can do this,”‘ McKathan said. “It can happen.”

Fenwick has the longest odds of any horse in the field of nine for Saturday’s Preakness, which is being run without Rich Strike, largely because he finished last in his most recent race in April and has just one win in six lifetime starts. Rich Strike also had only won once before shocking the sports world in the Derby.

“Everyone’s like, `This is a real sport for the rich and famous,”‘ McKathan said. “But let me tell you what: You just end up with a good horse and you can beat ’em all. That horse has no idea. He has no idea what he cost. He has no idea who owns that guy. He has no idea what kind of plane they flew in here on. They don’t know.”

Few know much about Fenwick, who was bought by Rudan and McKathan for the modest sum of $52,000 as a yearling and went unsold as a 2-year-old after a freak accident caused him to run slower than expected.

“He goes faster, he brings $900,000 and we’re not here,” McKathan said. “Someone else is.”

Perhaps it’s par for the course for the big chestnut colt that McKathan acknowledged runs into troubles on the racetrack. That would explain the 11th-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 9 when Fenwick broke a step slow and couldn’t find room to run.

“I don’t think we really saw what he could’ve showed,” Rudan said Thursday. “He needs a clear trip, and hopefully he gets it and then we’ll really know what he can do.”

Much like Rich Strike in the Derby, when the horse that was claimed for $30,000 and got into the field less than 36 hours before the race and took advantage of a blazing hot pace, a lot would have to go right – or wrong for others – to pave the track for another improbable result.

“You’re going to need that racing luck to have something like an 80-1 win again,” said trainer Tim Yakteen, who has Armagnac in the Preakness after running Taiba and Messier in the Derby. “It doesn’t happen very often.”

Fenwick was also a late addition to the Preakness. Technically, Fenwick is McKathan’s first starter in a Triple Crown race, but the veteran horseman got training started for Bob Baffert’s Real Quiet, Silver Charm and American Pharoah.

He has all three of their names tattooed on his left arm and called American Pharoah’s 2015 run to end the sport’s lengthy Triple Crown drought “life-changing.” Fenwick could presumably join them if he pulls off a Preakness upset.

“Given the opportunity and everything kind of goes his way, he deserves to be here and he’ll show them,” McKathan said. “I think he is special.”

It would also be special given the grief his owner and trainer have experienced. Rudan’s mother got him into racing and after calling him “Sunshine,” he thought it only fitting to honor her, especially because the horse’s mother was Make the Sun Shine.

“It’s all kind of coming together,” Rudan said.

The sun was shining during an early morning this week at Pimlico when McKathan got emotional talking about brother and longtime partner J.B. McKathan, who died Feb. 3, 2019, at age 53. He wasn’t sure what to say but perked up when asked what his brother would think of him entering Fenwick in the Preakness.

“Oh, he’d think I’m crazy,” McKathan said with a chuckle. “My brother would be like: `What are you doing? Don’t do that.”‘

It might be crazy to think Fenwick can replicate Rich Strike’s effort, and he would be the longest shot to win the Preakness if he goes off at odds of 25-1 or higher. But 13 years after he thought a celebration was coming for Baffert-trained Pioneerof the Nile in the Derby before Mine That Bird passed him to win it, McKathan couldn’t help but take a chance in the Preakness with a horse in his own name for once.

“I’m just happy to be between the fences,” McKathan said. “Give me a shot and hope with a little luck and God’s help, I think he’ll run big.”

And if he doesn’t? Don’t expected sullen times at the barn for a little outfit just happy to be at a Triple Crown race.

“That is a big deal for me,” McKathan said. “Am I going to have 40 horses at Belmont? No. Am I going to have a barn at Saratoga? No. I’m going to continue to do what I do. But I think to have an opportunity to take one of these babies all the way and see it through, good, bad or ugly, it’s kind of neat to be a part of it.”

Watch the Preakness on Saturday, May 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. ET on CNBC and from 4 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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.”