By T. D. Thornton
Prognosticators attempting to judge the likelihood of passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act (HR 2651) acquired a few more tea leaves to read last week. Potential clues came in the form of a story first published by the Capitol Hill news site Roll Call that described how politicians looking to advance federal bills on sports betting and online poker might try to hitch such legislation to horse racing’s anti-doping bill.
The Integrity Act’s sponsor, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), told Roll Call he would urge colleagues not to burden his racing-specific bill by lumping it together with potentially derailing amendments just because they share a common gambling theme.
“There’s no need to put those issues together if it would draw greater controversy,” Barr said.
Other lawmakers might think differently. They could be sizing up the Integrity Act as a logical landing place for add-on betting bills because HR 2651 already has 125 bipartisan co-sponsors and has advanced past the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee hearing stage.
By contrast, even though sports betting has been a hot topic in state legislatures since a May 14 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down the federal law barring sports wagering, the idea of a national framework of laws to regulate it has been unable to gain traction on Capitol Hill.
The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations had intended to hold a hearing last Tuesday on sports betting–but it was canceled without any makeup date being set.
In the wake of that cancellation, Gambling.com reported June 27 there could now be a new sense of urgency to trying to piggyback a national sports betting bill onto horse racing’s anti-doping bill because “the most high-profile legislative proposals have come from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). [But] Hatch, the Senate’s most senior member, is retiring in January 2019. With his departure so goes the most outspoken advocate for sports betting laws.”
And on the internet poker front, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) told Roll Call right after the anti-doping bill’s hearing that he was “looking at” incorporating a draft proposal to expand online poker into HR 2651.
Barton, according to a June 25 story in Online Poker Report, has already gone down swinging with previous versions of the Internet Poker Freedom Act in 2011, 2013 and 2015 that went nowhere after gaining just a cumulative total of 14 co-sponsors between the three bills.
So what’s next for the federal bill that would implement a uniform anti-doping and medication control framework upon U.S. horse racing?
“I can’t predict that at this point,” House Energy and Commerce chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) told Roll Call when asked whether the Integrity Act would advance. “There was obviously differing viewpoints on the legislation, which we fully anticipated. Everybody knew that. I think it’s important to air these issues, and then we’ll decide where we go from there.”
3YO filly division runs deep
The solidity at the top of the 3-year-old filly division was reinforced on Saturday after open-length wins by ‘TDN Rising Star’ Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d’Oro) in the Queen’s Plate S. at Woodbine Racetrack and Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) in the GII Mother Goose S. at Belmont Park.
When you factor in the emphatic win by Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) in the GI Acorn S. on the GI Belmont S. undercard three weeks back, that means the 1-2-3 fillies from the GI Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in May have now all posted stakes victories in subsequent or second-back starts.
As one of only two fillies in the field, Wonder Gadot added blinkers to beat Canadian-breds after a string of six consecutive short-margin seconds and thirds. She tracked a robust pace in fifth for most of the 10-furlong trip and always looked primed to pounce before jockey John Velazquez cued her to quicken off the far turn. Wonder Gadot responded with a rousing, going-away run, asserting herself 4 3/4 lengths ahead of the competition under the wire.
Midnight Bisou simply aired by six lengths in the 1 1/16 miles Mother Goose as the .45-to-1 favorite in a field of four. She adopted the role of a menacing stalker and swatted away the previously undefeated pacemaker Road to Victory (Quality Road) at will before running up the score in hand and well in command.
As of this writing though, only two of those three heavy hitters are likely to rematch in the GI Alabama S. at Saratoga Race Course, the division’s premier summer race.
Wonder Gadot will take aim at the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales S. at Fort Erie on July 24, prior to contesting the Alabama, trainer Mark Casse said after Saturday’s race.
Midnight Bisou is also scheduled to remain on the East Coast to target an Alabama start.
Monomoy Girl will opt for a different series of races. After her Acorn win, her connections indicated a preference for running in the July 22 GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, followed by the Sept. 22 GI Cotillion S. at Parx. The Nov. 3 GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff is her ultimate seasonal goal.
Light campaign planned for X Y Jet
Front-running force X Y Jet (Kantharos) returned to his home court and winning ways on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, ripping straight to the front and never looking back to wire the GIII Smile Sprint S. over six furlongs as the prohibitive 3-5 betting favorite.
The speedy gray was making his first start since finishing a head short of a win in the Mar. 31 G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan Racecourse.
X Y Jet has now racked up a 6-4-1 record from 12 starts at Gulfstream. Trainer Jorge Navarro said after the race that the 6-year-old gelding–who has overcome three surgeries–is likely to target only two more races in 2018.
“Nothing’s bugging him right now. Our main focus is to keep him clean. Maybe the [Sep. 15 GIII De Francis Memorial] Dash at Laurel–that’s a maybe. And then the [GI] Breeders’ Cup [Sprint]–just one more race before the Breeders’ Cup.”