Unbeaten Flightline retires, will begin breeding career

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Flightline has been retired and will stand at stud after completing a dominant, unbeaten career capped by a runaway victory in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.

The son of Tapit will begin his breeding career next year at the farm in Versailles, Kentucky, Lane’s End Farms announced in a news release Sunday morning.

The 4-year-old bay colt won the 1\-mile, Grade 1 Classic by a record 8\ lengths as the 2-5 favorite to cap a 6-0 thoroughbred career. His time of 2:00.05 was just a tick off Authentic’s time of 1:59.60 two years ago.

Flightline was virtually unknown until his 19\-length victory in September’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. His combined victory margin of 62} lengths entering the season-ending championships soon drew a lot of attention – along with comparisons to legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

Trainer John Sadler’s pupil lived up to the hype in the biggest race of his career, starting from the No. 4 post. He and Todd Pletcher-trained Life Is Good (8-1) soon jetted away from six other horses at a blistering pace to form their own match race through the far turn.

By then, Flightline had begun reeling in Life Is Good, drawing even as they turned for home and taking off from there.

“Brilliant is his normal,” Sadler said afterward. “He didn’t disappoint, and never has. … He’s just a remarkable, remarkable horse.”

Flightline earned $3.12 million with the Classic win to increase his career total to $4.514 million. He all but solidified his stock as Horse of the Year when the Eclipse Awards are announced in January.

Flightline’s ownership syndicate, comprised of five groups, has yet to determine a stud fee. A 2.5% fractional interest in Flightline will be auctioned on Monday at Keeneland ahead of the track’s November Breeding Stock Sale.

“We would like to thank trainer John Sadler and his team for the incredible work they did with Flightline,” Lane’s End’s Bill Farish said. “His historic performances are a credit to their expertise and unwavering efforts to bring out the very best in the horse.”

The announcement quickly answered the post-race question about whether Flightline would follow up his Classic win with competition as a 5-year-old or head straight to the breeding barn.

The horse was especially peppy early Sunday morning at Keeneland, alternating between chomping on his feed and bobbing his head up and down as onlookers snapped photos.

“We came. We saw and we conquered,” Sadler said, adding that Flightline will spend a few days there and have a showing at Lane’s End.

Flightline won the Classic race before a capacity crowd of 45,973 just two years after the previous Breeders’ Cup was held without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Breeders’ Cup generated a record $189,060,373 handle from all sources, a 3.4% increase over last year at Del Mar. Keeneland’s on-track handle was $28,326,478 for the two days.

Ryan Moore won the Bill Shoemaker Award as the Breeders’ Cup’s top jockey with three wins, including Filly and Mare Turf aboard Tuesday. He also had three seconds. Irad Ortiz Jr. also had three wins but one runner-up finish.

Trainers Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien each won three races, with Appleby achieving that mark for the second consecutive year.

Also Sunday, trainer Steve Asmussen said Epicenter was resting in his stall after undergoing surgery to repair a lateral condylar fracture of his right front.

Jockey Joel Rosario pulled up the 5-1 second choice on the backstretch in the Classic and he was taken to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. Asmussen said veterinarian Larry Bramlage inserted two screws to stabilize the injury.

“Dr. Bramlage and the Rood and Riddle team are very happy with how the surgery went and the prognosis is excellent for him to be a healthy sire,” Asmussen added.

Irad Ortiz sets single-season record with 77th stakes win

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NEW YORK – Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his record 77th single-season North American stakes victory when he guided Dr B to victory in the $200,000 Go for Wand at Aqueduct.

The 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico broke the old mark of 76 set by the late Hall of Fame rider Garrett Gomez in 2007.

“This is great. Amazing feeling,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey from 2018-20. “Gomez did it in 2007 and he was a great rider, one of the best in the game. I’m so happy just to be a part of this. I love this sport.”

Ortiz Jr. won the Belmont Stakes with Mo Donegal in June to go with Breeders’ Cup victories in the Juvenile, Filly & Mare Sprint and Sprint. He also earned nine other Grade 1 wins in New York, including Life Is Good in the Woodward and Whitney and Nest in the Alabama and Coaching Club Oaks. He won riding titles at Belmont’s spring-summer meet and Saratoga’s summer meet.

Ortiz Jr. leads North American riders with 304 overall victories this year. His purse earnings totaled over $35.8 million going into Saturday’s races, which already surpassed his single-season record of $34.1 million in 2019.

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.”