Horse Racing Returns to Fairgrounds Free of Restrictions | Dishes

Horse racing has returned to the fairgrounds with little change other than the tote board after months of legal wrangling.

New federal anti-doping rules have been dead since Friday, while a prominent horse trainer booted off the track by the fairgrounds owner is running horses again in New Orleans thanks to state intervention.

Doping scandals and a spotlight on track deaths across the country have prompted Congress to take action and prompted action from some track operators to clean up the sport’s tarnished image.

In Louisiana, where horse racing has been held on the fairgrounds since before the Civil War, race organizers have fought on both fronts to maintain the status quo in challenges to state authority over the Sport of Kings.

The local racing season got underway on Friday just hours after a panel of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, rejected a federal law, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, as “unconstitutional.”

Signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in 2020, the law created a nonprofit agency to develop and enforce national regulations on doping, jockey restrictions and track safety. Introduced last summer, those rules sparked legal challenges in Louisiana, West Virginia and Texas.

Attorney General Jeff Landry and his attorney general Liz Murrill, who is now running for attorney general while Landry is running for governor, argued that the new agency with powers that Murrill described as “staggering in scope” rushed out of the gate too quickly. In a victory tweet on Friday, Landry called the law a “federal takeover.”

Charles Gardiner III, the executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission, said the commission had “issued directions to return to Louisiana rules,” including more liberal use of riding crops by jockeys.

Gardiner declined to comment on the implications of the court ruling, citing “some confusion across the country” over its impact.

The decision followed another defense of state control of horse racing by Landry’s office.

Liz Murrill.jpg

Liz Murrill

On Saturday, a horse trained by Karl Broberg stood at the starting gate of the exhibition center. Broberg’s entry of 9-year-old Mageez into the $75,000 Scott’s Scoundrel Stakes signaled a battle over his on-track presence is over.

The track’s owner, Churchill Downs Inc., banned Broberg from all racetracks, including the fairgrounds, for a year last year. The company claimed the trainer, who has led the nation in victories in recent years, left an injured horse with no one to tend to after a race in Kentucky last year.

Churchill Downs didn’t need the state of Kentucky’s approval to keep Broberg out, but in Louisiana last year the race commission delayed a hearing and sued Churchill Downs.

Orleans District Judge Robin Giarrusso ruled last month that the company had the right to bar Broberg from the fairgrounds. To race, he would have to face a panel of three commission-appointed state race commissioners.

State officials denied a reporter access to the steward’s hearing on Oct. 20 for Broberg, citing an exception to public gathering laws related to investigations.

However, records released by the commission on Monday show the judge’s ruling could mean little. The stewards, after a hearing that included testimony from the Churchill Downs veterinarian, ruled that Broberg could continue to drive at the fairgrounds. The stewards found thin evidence to keep him off the Louisiana leads.

A Churchill Downs lawyer declined to comment on Friday. Broberg’s attorney also declined to comment.

Running 70-1, Broberg’s horse Mageez crossed the finish line second to last as rain fell on Saturday on a brand new $1.5 million stretcher that replaced an earlier model that was damaged in Hurricane Ida.

Another group gathered for photos with the winners, and with them stood Attorney General Murrill. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, boots and a “Liz” sticker on her pink coat, she smiled next to the winner, a horse named Who Take the Money.

After two early days of racing on Friday and Saturday, the fairground racing season resumes on Thursday for its traditional Thanksgiving Day opening day. The 80-day racing season lasts until March.