Bob Baffert’s Taiba favored in $1 million Haskell Stakes

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Taiba is the slight 7-5 favorite over the undefeated Jack Christopher in the $1 million Haskell Stakes on Saturday, the first major race for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown.

Taiba is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who is seeking to extend his stakes record with a 10th Haskell victory at Monmouth Park.

“I don’t think about records,” Baffert said. “I just think about sending a good horse up there. I’ve sent some really great ones. I hope this guy is the same type of horse. He’s lightly raced, and he’s very talented.”

Jack Christopher, the 3-2 second choice, will race around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/8-mile track. His four victories, including a 10-length win in the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park, have all come at distances of a mile or less. Jose Ortiz will be aboard for trainer Chad Brown.

The Haskell marks a return to the spotlight for Baffert. Earlier this month, he completed a 90-day suspension handed down by the Kentucky Racing Commission for a failed post-race drug test involving Medina Spirit, who was first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby but was later disqualified.

While Baffert was sidelined, Taiba was transferred to Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s former assistant. While in Yakteen’s care, Taiba won the Santa Anita Derby before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. The horse’s only race for Baffert prior to the suspension was a dominant debut win at Santa Anita in March.

Taiba drew post 2 for Haskell, with Mike Smith set to ride.

“The Kentucky Derby, I don’t know what happened there. I wasn’t around,” Baffert said. “It was a tall order for him. There are some good horses in here. Jack Christopher is a really fast horse. The Haskell is a great race, and great horses have won the race. I have great memories there and I hope the horse shows up.”

White Abarrio, the Florida Derby winner, is the 5-1 third choice followed by Cyberknife, the Arkansas Derby winner, at 6-1.

The other four entrants are 10-1 or higher. Post time is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

The full field, from the rail with jockeys and odds: Cyberknife, Florent Geroux, 6-1; Taiba, Mike Smith, 7-5; One Time Willard, Paco Lopez, 30-1; Howling Time, Joe Talamo, 10-1; King of Hollywood, Nik Juarez, 30-1; White Abarrio, Joel Rosario, 5-1; Jack Christopher, Jose Ortiz, 3-2; Benevengo, Angel Rodriguez, 20-1.

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.”