Cave Rock dazzles for Bob Baffert in Grade 1 win at Santa Anita

America's Best Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. — Bob Baffert is headed to the Breeders’ Cup in Kentucky next month with the likely favorite in the $2 million Juvenile.

Cave Rock romped to his third straight victory, and second in a Grade 1 race, winning the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita.

Trained by Baffert, the 2-year-old son of Arrogate earned an automatic berth for the BC Juvenile at Keeneland on Nov. 4.

Baffert will be allowed to enter horses in the two-day world championships because the Lexington track is not owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which has banned him from its tracks for two years for repeated medication violations.

Baffert is suing the home of the Kentucky Derby in an effort to reverse the ban, which kept him out of this year’s Derby and is set to bar him again in 2023.

Although Baffert isn’t looking past the Breeders’ Cup, Cave Rock’s co-owner Mike Pegram let his mind wander to the first Saturday in May.

“I hope we have this much fun come springtime,” Pegram said, alluding to the Kentucky Derby. “You always think about that, but we got to hope he comes back healthy.”

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock led all the way in running 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.05. Sent off as the 2-5 favorite, the dark bay colt paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.

“He’s a powerful horse, he’s tough and he’s quick,” Baffert said. “He looks like a 3-year-old.”

Baffert saddled half of the eight-horse field, with his entries finishing in 1-2-3-4 order. It was his 11th victory in the race named for his 2015 Triple Crown winner.

“I can’t remember running one, two, three, four ever,” he said.

National Treasure returned $5.60 and $3.20. Hejazi was another 3 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $2.40 to show. Gandolfini was fourth.

Cave Rock is a son of Arrogate, winner of the 2016 BC Classic, and Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, both in 2017.

“Every time I’ve had a sire, I always try to find the best one by that sire and he was the best one that we found,” Baffert said. “I’ve been lucky that way.”

Cave Rock was coming off a 5 1/4-length win in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last month. He won his career debut by six lengths in August at Del Mar.

The colt was bought for $550,000 as a yearling and is owned by longtime Baffert clients Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. Pegram said Cave Rock is named for a landmark in the South Lake Tahoe area.

“You look at him, you see him travel on the track, I mean he’s everything a guy would want,” Pegram said. “There’s a whole lot of running to do. It’s still too early, but two Grade 1s, we’ll take it.”

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.”