Flightline heads Breeders’ Cup Classic

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Undefeated Flightline and Rich Strike, upset winner of the Kentucky Derby, head a field of nine for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with trainer Todd Pletcher pre-entering two horses for the $6 million race that also includes a horse from the barn of embattled trainer Bob Baffert.

Trained by John Sadler, Flightline is 5-0 in his career, winning his starts by a combined margin of 62 3/4 lengths.

“We know we have a really super horse,” Sadler said Wednesday. “The pressure is there because he’s going to be a heavy favorite, but I’ve trained quite a long time and this is the kind of pressure you want.”

The 4-year-old Flightline is coming off a record 19 1/4-length win in his last race, the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sept. 3.

“He just made mockery of everybody behind him,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who will send Olympiad against Flightline. “When you get these good horses all together, he’s going to have to face the best group he’s faced so far. That’s the true test.”

Rich Strike is winless in three starts since his shocking victory in the Derby at 80-1 odds in May. He was a close second to Hot Rod Charlie, another Classic pre-entry, in his last start, the Lukas Classic on Oct. 1 at Churchill Downs.

Rich Strike is the only winner of this year’s Triple Crown races to still be competing. Preakness winner Early Voting and Belmont winner Mo Donegal have both retired to stud.

The Classic field was among the horses pre-entered Wednesday for the $28 million, 14-race world championships on Nov. 4-5 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. The track last hosted in 2020, but without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pletcher’s two pre-entries are Happy Saver and Life is Good for the 1 1/4-mile Classic to be run Nov. 5 and broadcast on NBC. The Classic has implications for the Horse of the Year honors.

“Going up against a horse like Flightline, it makes for an interesting jockeys’ race,” Pletcher said.

Baffert plans to enter Taiba in the Classic, a race the Hall of Fame trainer has won a record four times. The colt won the Pennsylvania Derby and finished second in the Haskell. He was 12th in the Kentucky Derby while being trained by Tim Yakteen, who took over because Baffert has been banned by Churchill Downs through the 2023 Derby.

The other Classic pre-entries are Cyberknife, Epicenter and Olympiad. Cyberknife also was cross-entered in the Dirt Mile.

Baffert has five horses pre-entered in the world championships, his first major event since serving a 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission earlier this year. The penalty was the result of Medina Spirit testing positive for the medication betamethasone after the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Baffert can enter horses at Keeneland since the track is not owned by Churchill Downs. Besides Churchill Downs-owned tracks, he is banned at New York Racing Association tracks. Both entities suspended him separately from the KHRC penalty and he is suing both.

The $4 million Turf has a full field of 14 pre-entries, including two each from Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, Graham Motion, Mott and Charlie Appleby.

The $2 million Juvenile has 12 pre-entries, including two from Baffert ( Cave Rock and National Treasure) and two from Pletcher (Forte and Lost Ark).

The $2 million Distaff features a showdown between Malathaat and Nest, both from Pletcher’s barn.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has two entries, which will add to his record of 167 career Breeders’ Cup starters. The 87-year-old Hall of Famer has the most BC wins (20) and is third in money won.

New York-based trainer Chad Brown has 17 pre-entries. O’Brien, Pletcher and Steve Asmussen, who is North America’s all-time winningest trainer, have 10 each.

Keeneland is hosting the richest two days in North American racing for the third time.

Final entries and the post-position draw is Monday at Rupp Arena, home of the fourth-ranked Kentucky men’s basketball team.

The world championships will open with five races for juveniles in what’s billed as Future Stars Friday on Nov. 4, followed by nine races on Nov. 5.

Twenty-six countries will offer pari-mutuel wagering through the Breeders’ Cup global pool. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong and Mexico will offer separate pool wagering.

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.”