John Veitch 2007 Hall of Fame Inductee
Thursday June 7, 2007 12 p.m. (ET)
When he is inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, New York, in August, Vetich will join his father, Sylvester Veitch, in the elite club. Sylvester Veitch, who trained from 1946 until 1984, was inducted in 1977.
Veitch, 61, now the chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, trained champions Davona Dale, Our Mims, Before Dawn, and Sunshine Forever during his career, but his best-known horse may be Alydar, who was part of the great rivalry with Affirmed in 1977 and 1978. Davona Dale and Alydar are members of the Hall of Fame.
"It’s actually the dream of a lifetime," Veitch said of his Hall of Fame selection. "When my father was inducted and I saw how important it was to him, it made me realize what an achievement it was. My father said the day they inducted him was the greatest day in his life. That certainly was the greatest day in my life, also, but the day I get inducted will be the second, and I will remember it forever."
Veitch was an assistant to his father and Elliott Burch before opening a public stable in 1974. Veitch trained for Lexington's legendary Calumet Farm from 1976 to 1983 and surfaced on the 1978 Triple Crown trail with Alydar, who finished second to Affirmed in all three races. Veitch went on to train for the Galbreath's Darby Dan Farm from 1984 until the late 1990s, a stint that included 1985 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Proud Truth, and 1988 champion grass horse, Sunshine Forever.
In North America from 1976 through his retirement, Veitch recorded 410 victories from 2,339 starters with purse earnings of $20,097,980. He won 76 graded stakes from 401 starts and a total of 93 stakes from 500 starts.
"I was very lucky to come along with both Calumet and Darby Dan at the right time when they had some very good horses for me to work with," he said. "It was a wonderful experience to be part of that, part of the history of the game. I had the very best, I saw the very last of the great racing stables, so I'm enjoying my new life as chief state steward here in Kentucky."
In 1999 Veitch took a one-year contract with Prince Faisal bin Khalid in Saudi Arabia. After his return to the states he worked half a year for Calumet's Henryk de Kwiatkowski, who purchased the bankrupted farm in the early 1990s with hopes of revitalization. Veitch went on to work two years for John Ed Anthony before accepting his position with the KHRA.
Join John Veitch as he answers questions about Alydar, training for Calumet and Darby Dan farms, his Hall of Fame selection, and his present role as chief steward for the state of Kentucky.
John, first of all, congratulations on the Hall of Fame! In your opinion, are horses more fragile now than when you started training or is it just a matter of how we views things?
I think they are more fragile. It goes back to the very fundamentals of what mare is bred to what stallion. We have had probably 20 years of intense, pervasive use of medication in this country that has allowed some horses with basic unsoundness to race and to pass along that unsoundness to their offspring. The pervasive use of Lasix to prevent bleeding has weakened the system. Back when I was a boy and my father was training for C. V. Whitney, we had group of mares that were just pensioned off because their offspring were unsuitable for racing. Instead of continuing to breed them and weaken the breed, they were just retired and pensioned. Most of the colts that had not been productive at the racetrack, to keep people from breeding to them they were gelded. That was the philosophy of the day. Of course, most of the better pedigreed horses in America were being bred by a small group of major stables that it was a sport to them and all of the emphasis was not on making money. They had more money than they could spend and had all gone to the same schools. One of the places where they could show they were better was on the racetrack, by breeding a better racehorse and hiring a smarter trainer to train him. With the breeding concept that has gone commercial, with the pervasive use of medication which disguises some horses weaknesses so you really don’t know if you’re breeding to a sound horse, things have changed. In the course of two or three decades we have gone from producing the soundest racehorses in the world to one that is not as sound. You are going to find some people who have foresight in the betterment of the game and horse itself as an ideal way of doing it, and will try to,. But once you’ve turned that corner it is difficult to go back. When you have money that is involved rather than what is right for the game, it sure is a blocking agent.
How did you get the Calumet job and what was it like working for them?
Melvin Cinnamon called me in December of 1975 and that Admiral and Mrs. Markey wanted to make a change. Every year they had a brilliant 2-year-old that never seemed to make it to its 3-year-old year. They wanted somebody who was young who would take the job. Most people don’t realize that by then Calumet had fallen on some hard times. In April of 1976 Melvin Cinnamon called me again and asked if I could meet himi again on the 14th in Miami where Admiral and Mrs. Markey had a home. I went over to have lunch with them and I thought it was just an interview. The first thing the Admiral said was “Melvin, have you told Mr. Veitch what his salary is going to be?” I was shocked. The next morning Melvin and I went over to the stable at the Hialeah racetrack and Melvin gave the news to the former trainer that I was going to replace him. We had 24 horses there and a few at the farm that were recovering, and by the end of the year I had nine left. They were in pretty rough shape. It was a bad year for Calumet. I went to their home in Florida in December to resign at the end of that year after having the job for only about ninth months. Mrs. Markey would not accept my resignation and explained to me that she had given me a lot of bad horses to train and I would have better material to work with and that is how it turned out. They were wonderful people to work for – knowledgeable, understanding, supportive. There was never a time they told me what to do. I was hired as their trainer and they had confidence in me. They were wonderful – the word is class. They loved the sport—win, lose or draw. They were wonderful to work for, as was the whole Calumet family, the people who had worked on the farm all their life. They were so supportive and pleased when the stable came back to life again.
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