Judge halts horse racing authority enforcement in La., W.Va.

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A federal judge said a national horse racing authority cannot enforce its rules in Louisiana and West Virginia while a lawsuit challenging the organization is in court.

In granting a preliminary injunction, Western District of Louisiana Judge Terry Doughty said the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority likely went beyond its bounds on three rules that went into place July 1. State and racing officials in those jurisdictions sued to prevent the federal authority’s new regulations from going into effect.

HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said the ruling is limited in scope geographically to Louisiana and West Virginia and does not question the organization’s constitutionality or validity.

“Congress enacted HISA to enhance equine and jockey welfare and protect the integrity of this great sport by, for the first time, creating national rules and standards to govern thoroughbred racing,” she said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “These measures are backed by research and informed by the expertise of independent and industry representatives. The reality is that the majority of racing participants support the authority’s mission to protect those who play by the rules and hold those who fail to do so accountable in order to keep our equine and human athletes safe and the competition fair.”

Doughty said the authority may have overstepped its bounds when it comes to how horses covered by the rules are defined, the ability for investigators to confiscate records from anyone who owns or “performs services on” a covered horse and basing state payments for upkeep partly on race purses.

The attorneys general of Louisiana and West Virginia hailed the injunction as a victory. Louisiana’s Jeff Landry said the regulations are “unclear, inconsistent and violate due process.”

“I am grateful Judge Doughty applied the law and blocked this federal overreach from devastating our state and the thousands of Louisianans in the horse industry here,” Landry said in a statement. “Louisiana has not only regulated horseracing but also built an entire culture around it with the owners, trainers, jockeys, racetracks and patrons. … The process of creating the law and its associated regulations showed a reckless disregard for the thousands of industry participants in Louisiana and a correspondingly reckless disregard for the impact to our state.”

West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey said he was confident the legal challenge joined by the Louisiana State Racing Commission, Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, West Virginia Racing Commission and The Jockeys’ Guild “will likewise have a favorable result.”

The Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act went into law in January 2021, giving a federal authority the ability to regulate the sport across the U.S. Safety regulations started in July, with anti-doping rules going into effect at the start of 2023.

Activist Marty Irby criticized the ruling, calling HISA “the sport’s last chance at survival.”

“It’s a shame to see the federal court side with rogue state operators and officials who continue to help keep doping and animal abuse alive in American horse racing,” said Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action. “If these states insist on operating under the status quo, then we will make sure to further highlight every doping incident, death, and scandal in their domains.”

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.”