Jockey John Velazquez agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to settle the complaint filed against him in the Life At Ten case regarding the mare's participation in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I).
According to the agreement worked out with Velazquez’s attorneys and approved by the commission March 6, half the fine will be paid to the Disabled Jockeys Fund.
The agreement brings to a close the commission’s case against Velazquez that was precipitated by the lackluster performance of Life At Ten in the Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. The commission began an investigation after the race due to the lack of effort by the second favorite in the race. Prior to the race, Velazquez told an ESPN reporter on horseback that the mare did not warm up like she usually did. An ESPN producer relayed that information to the stewards, but Life At Ten was permitted to run.
In the Ladies’ Classic, Life At Ten broke slowly and was eventually eased by Velazquez. A day later, trainer Todd Pletcher said Life At Ten apparently had an allergic reaction to anti-bleeder medication.
On March 16, the commission charged that Velazquez had violated Kentucky’s rules of racing by making comments to the ESPN broadcasters about the condition of Life At Ten, by his failure to notify veterinarians of his concerns, and by failing to ride Life At Ten out and easing her without adequate cause.
Velazquez, who is the regular rider of Uncle Mo, the 2010 champion 2-year-old male and current favorite for the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), stipulated in the agreement that one or more rules may have been violated and waived his right to a hearing.
In a statement released after the commission approved the agreement, Velazquez continued to maintain he did nothing wrong.
“I firmly believe that ending this matter now is in the best interests of racing,” Velazquez said in the statement. “I have ridden in over 21,000 races, and I can tell you that the safety of every single one of those horses was, and remains, for me foremost. A prolonged legal battle will not serve the Industry well. It will, in fact, distract us from all that is positive and great about this sport. I have not been cited with a single racing rule violation in the past 12 years. While I do not agree with the ‘charges’ noticed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission nor do I concede any guilt, I do believe that this resolution is right for racing.”
Commissioners Ned Bonnie, Tom Ludt, and Alan Leavitt voted against the settlement, which was approved by the commission following a closed executive session.
Ludt said he voted against the agreement because he believed the amount of the settlement was excessive and that the case should have gone to a hearing officer.
Bonnie, an attorney, declined to say why he voted against the settlement, noting “I made my arguments in there and I lost.”
Lisa Underwood, the KHRC’s executive director, declined to provide details of what led to the settlement, other than to say attorneys for the jockey contacted the commission shortly after the charges were filed.
Following the March 16 action, Maggi Moss, a prominent horse owner and one of two attorneys representing Velazquez, said her client was being made a “scapegoat.”
Underwood said a hearing has not been scheduled in connection with the commission’s action against chief state steward John Veitch. The commission on March 16 charged Veitch with five possible violations of racing rules in connection with the incident.
In other action during the April 6 meeting, the commission approved several items relating to wagering at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.
Keeneland was approved to allow a limited number of bettors to make on-track wagers using mobile devices during the upcoming spring meet. According to Keeneland officials, up to 30 bettors will be selected each Wednesday of the race meet to participate in the testing of the wagering system. The bettors selected to take part would be allowed to make wagers via mobile devices throughout the remainder of the meet.
All of the wagers would be processed through the track’s on-track wagering system as if the wagers were placed using conventional means.
The commission also approved a daily Pick 5 wager, where bettors would pick the winners of five specified races and the minimum bet would be 50 cents, and a Pick 10 for Churchill Downs.
The Pick 10 will be offered only on the night race cards during the spring meet at the Louisville track; any wagering pools when the wager is not hit would carry over until the next night card, with a mandatory payout on the final night card of the meet.
Also during the meeting, Dr. Mary Scollay, the commission's equine medical director, reported that there were only three catastrophic (fatal) accidents at Turfway Park from Feb. 4 through March 27. Commissioner Dr. Foster Northrop, a racetrack veterinarian in Kentucky, said the numbers are a reflection of the diligent efforts by staff at Turfway Park and the commission's veterinary staff.