Epicenter wins the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Epicenter is back where trainer Steve Asmussen thinks he should be – in the winner’s circle.

Relegated to second-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in May, Epicenter returned to the track for a stirring victory in the $600,000 Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, charging along the outside in a four-horse duel to hold off Zandon by 1 1/2 lengths.

It was Epicenter’s third win to go with the runner-up Triple Crown finishes this year for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds. That it came in the traditional Saratoga prep race for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes here in four weeks was a plus.

“It’s extremely rewarding off two tough races to bring him back in the winner’s circle where we think he should be,” said Asmussen, who won the JIm Dandy for the third time. “It was his first race ever at Saratoga, and we know what’s on the menu next. We want to be as ready as we possibly can for it.”

Ridden by Joel Rosario, Epicenter charged along the outside as the small field was bunched together across the track, then pulled away to hold off Zandon by 1 1/2 lengths. Tawny Port was third.

Epicenter ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 4/5 and paid $4.20 and $2.60. Zandon paid $3.20.

Preakness winner Early Voting, in his first race since that signature triumph at Pimlico in May, set the early pace but was relegated to fourth at the finish. Early Voting had won three of four starts.

“Hats off to the winner,” said Chad Brown, who trains both Zandon and Early Voting. “He didn’t break that well and he still circled the field and won nicely. He was the best horse today.”

Rosario also was aboard Epicenter in the Triple Crown disappointments. Epicenter closed from the eighth position in both races, finishing three-quarters of a length behind Rich Strike in the Derby and just over a length behind Early Voting in the Preakness.

This time it was his turn. The bay son of Not This Time also outran Zandon in the Grade 2 Risen Star, then won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds.

“”He was there for me,” Rosario said. “He’s a really good horse. He get older now, more mature, stuff like that. He tried really hard. He always tries. When we run him in the Preakness, the pace was really good and he still come back.”

Western River, a 20-1 longshot slated to run his second stakes with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, was scratched.

It was the culmination of a banner day for Asmussen, who won the Jim Dandy with Kensei in 2009 and Tenfold four years ago. In the 38th running of the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt, his heavily favored Jackie’s Warrior won his fourth straight race and captured his fifth career Grade 1 victory, pulling away down the stretch to easily beat Kneedeepinsnow and Willy Boi.

Jackie’s Warrior became the first horse to win a Grade 1 three years in a row at Saratoga and has won 12 times in 16 career starts.

“The great racehorses that have won here and he’s the only one to do that,” Asmussen said. “He’s the whole package.”

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.”