Hearing Set on Veitch's Appeal of Suspension
by Ron Mitchell
Date Posted: 7/23/2012 2:32:00 PM
Last Updated: 7/25/2012 9:13:33 AM

John Veitch
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

As his legal tab continues to soar, former Kentucky chief racing steward John Veitch will get his day in court. A Franklin (Kentucky) Circuit Court judge has scheduled a hearing on Veitch’s request for the court to reverse a one-year suspension he was given by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in connection with the controversial Life At Ten Case. (The hearing, initially scheduled for July 30, is now scheduled for Aug. 1).

Veitch, who was fired from his position last Nov. 28, 2011, without cause, was suspended 365 days Feb. 15 after the commission voted to uphold hearing officer Robert Layton’s finding that the Hall of Fame trainer had violated four racing regulations in his handling of the Life At Ten matter. Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate issued a stay of the suspension April 11, meaning Veitch could seek a license to resume his career in racing.

Life At Ten, owned by Candy DeBartolo and trained by Todd Pletcher, finished last in the 2010 Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs 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 race.

Before the race, Velazquez told retired jockey and ESPN analyst Jerry Bailey that the filly was not warming up as she normally does, but did not relay those concerns to the stewards or any KHRC veterinarians. The day after the Ladies’ Classic, trainer Todd Pletcher said it appeared that Life At Ten had an allergic reaction to Salix, a medication she was treated with prior to the race.

The KHRC immediately undertook an investigation that looked into, among other things, who had knowledge of Velazquez’ comments prior to the race and whether action should have been taken to have the filly inspected and/or scratched.

A report stemming from the investigation determined there was no intentional wrongdoing, but cited a sequence of communication breakdowns and some vagueness about responsibilities that led to questions about what action should have been taken before and after the race with regard to Life At Ten. That report led to changes in procedures by the KHRC and Breeders’ Cup prior to the World Championships held for the second year in a row in 2011.

The KHRC found probable cause that Velazquez and chief steward John Veitch had violated rules of racing in connection with the incident. Although he did not admit to violating any rules of racing, Velazquez paid a $10,000 fine, half of which went to charity.

After conducting three days of hearings, Layton determined Veitch had violated rules by not having Life At Ten inspected by a veterinarian or scratched from the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs after jockey John Velazquez told an ESPN audience the filly was not warming up properly prior to the race. Also, Layton ruled Veitch should have ordered Life At Ten tested after the Ladies’ Classic, in which she was not persevered with and ran last as the 7-2 second choice.

In addition to trying to get his one-year suspension reversed, Veitch has also appealed his dismissal, claiming he could not be fired without cause and that his firing was also age discrimination. He has also questioned the procedures followed in ordering his dismissal. He contends only the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, not Public Protection Cabinet secretary Robert Vance, had the authority to dismiss him.

Attorneys for Veitch and the KHRC also recently appeared before Wingate twice in response to efforts by the former chief steward to be considered for a license in Kentucky, in view of the stay of the suspension.

Luke Morgan, who along with Chapman Hopkins of the firm McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland have been retained by the KHRC for the case, has argued that Veitch must have a position lined up with a Kentucky track before he can be considered for a license.

Veitch’s attorney, Tom Miller, has argued that racetracks will not offer Veitch a position until he gets licensed and that there is no statutory requirement that employment is a prerequisite for licensing.

Meanwhile, the tab for both parties continues to rise.

Miller said Veitch has spent more than $110,000 in legal fees and more than $5,000 in other costs associated with the case. An open records request has been submitted to the KHRC for its costs incurred in connection with the Life At Ten and Veitch cases.

Through July of 2011, the KHRC had spent more than $48,000, the largest portion of which had gone to the outside legal counsel. A spokesman for the commission said a response to the open records’ request will be forthcoming by July 25.



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