Tab in Life At Ten Case Exceeds $100,000
A probe into Life At Ten's performance in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) and subsequent hearings into whether chief steward John Veitch violated any racing rules has cost the parties involved more than $100,000 to date.
Documents obtained by The Blood-Horse through an open records request show the KHRC has spent more than $48,000 on the case to date, including $35,396.16 in legal fees for attorneys Luke Morgan and Chapman Hopkins, who were retained to represent the commission in its action against Veitch. The outside attorneys—from the firm of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland—represented the commission in the June 28-30 hearings into whether Veitch violated racing regulations with his handling of the Life At Ten case.
They billed the commission at the rate of $100 per hour.
Tom Miller, who along with Mike Meuser of the firm Miller, Griffin & Marks represent Veitch, said his client’s legal costs are well above those of the commission, pushing the total spent by the KHRC and Veitch above the $100,000 mark.
The rest of the costs incurred by the commission consist of court reporting fees from the firm of Patty Tipton’s Court Reporters Inc., and $1,870 billed by California steward Scott Chaney for his expert witness testimony during the Veitch hearing.
Because the case is not completed, there will be additional costs incurred by both parties. The KHRC and Veitch’s attorneys are in process of drafting their final arguments for submission to hearing officer Robert Layton.
Veitch’s legal costs are also expected to continue to go up since Miller said Veitch has no intention of signing an agreement in which he would acknowledge violating rules of racing.
“He did not make a mistake and believes he is unfairly being selected for prosecution,” Miller said.
An independent effort undertaken by Ed Musselman, who publishes the Indian Charlie newsletter, to raise funds on behalf of Veitch’s defense was called off after Miller was advised the action would violate state ethics laws relating to a public official taking money from anyone they could regulate. Miller said Musselman’s efforts were not initiated by Veitch, but that the newsletter publisher agreed to stop the solicitation because potential donors could be horse owners, trainers, and jockeys who are regulated by Veitch and the other stewards.
As chief state steward, Veitch is paid $91,690 per year, according to a database of state government employee salaries.
Life At Ten, owned by Candy DeBartolo and trained by Todd Pletcher, finished last in the Ladies’ Classic as the second choice at odds of 7-2. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Life At Ten had no run when the field left the gate, and she was not persevered with throughout the 1 1/8-mile race.
Before the race, Velazquez told retired jockey Jerry Bailey, who was assisting with the ESPN coverage of the Breeders’ Cup, that the filly did not look right, but did not relay those concerns to the stewards or to any KHRC veterinarians. The day after the Ladies’ Classic, Pletcher said it appeared that Life At Ten had an allergic reaction Salix, a medication she was treated with prior to the race.
The racing commission voted in March to initiate action against Velazquez and Veitch, who were charged with probable cause of three and five violations of Kentucky racing regulations, respectively. Later, Velazquez settled the case against him by acknowledging there may have been a violation of racing regulations and paying a $10,000 fine, half of which was paid to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
The regulations cited by the commission against Veitch deal with whether Life At Ten should have been scratched, the failure to conduct a post-race test, and whether there should have been an investigation into why the horse did not run to her normal form.
Veitch’s attorneys contend the stewards had absolute discretion to determine whether to send Life At Ten for veterinary examination and whether to send her to the test barn; that the regulations pertaining to stewards' responsibilities are vague; that Veitch has been targeted for selective enforcement; and that the chief steward’s right to due process has been violated.
The KHRC’s tab for the Life At Ten case does not include the cost of the initial investigation undertaken by the Office of the Inspector General within the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, hearing officer Layton’s time on the case, or any of the KHRC’s staff time.
The Office of Inspector General interviewed more than 90 people in preparation of a report submitted to the commission. Ann Stansel, records custodian for the office of legal services in the Transportation Cabinet, said there was no bill submitted to the KHRC for the work because personnel worked on other cases at the same time.
“The cabinet did not charge the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for work done on this investigation,” Stansel said in an email response to an open records request. “We do not possess an accounting of this data, or an exact overall total of expenses, as a separate log regarding the hours worked on this investigation was not kept.”
Stansel said there was also no accounting or billing associated with copying of documents.
Layton, who will file a report to the commission as a result of the hearings into whether Veitch violated any rules, said his work in connection with Life At Ten case was part of his job within the Office of Administrative Hearings, so there was no bill sent to the KHRC. As of Aug. 23, Layton said his time on the case included the three days of hearings at the KHRC offices and another seven days on pre-hearing matters, conferences, and orders.
Susan Speckert, general counsel for the KHRC, said “any activities related to the Life At Ten investigation performed by a KHRC staff member was undertaken as part of that employee’s regular work duties.”
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