Remedy Sought in Latest KHRC, Veitch Dispute

Former Kentucky chief steward John Veitch seeking license.

A Circuit Court judge has told former Kentucky chief racing steward John Veitch to obtain a letter of interest for his services from a Kentucky racetrack and then re-submit his license application to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

During a hearing June 20 in the latest dispute between the regulatory body and Veitch, who was fired and subsequently suspended by the commission, Franklin (County) Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate heard from attorneys for both parties about the circumstances surrounding Veitch’s attempt to obtain a license.

Veitch was fired without cause as the KHRC’s chief steward last Nov. 28 and subsequently had his license suspended for one year by the commission. The license suspension stemmed from a hearing officer’s report that concluded Veitch had violated rules of racing in his handling of the controversial Life At Ten incident during and after the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I).

Veitch was not licensed in Kentucky when the suspension began Feb. 16, but the action meant that he could not be licensed in the state for a year from that date. The suspension was stayed by Wingate in an April 11 ruling.

According to attorney Tom Miller, Veitch applied for a license after being told there was a possibility he would be considered for a job as steward during the upcoming Ellis Park race meet. Rather than acting on the paperwork submitted by his client, Miller said, the commission returned Veitch’s application and fee without further explanation.

Miller said he was then informed by KHRC representatives that in order to be granted a racing official license, the applicant must have a job working as a racing official in place. But Miller said there is no regulation stipulating that a license applicant must have a job commitment before an application is considered.

“They are applying a rule that doesn’t exist,” Miller said.

“They won’t hire him until he has a license?” Wingate asked. “So it’s like a Catch-22.”

Luke Morgan, a Lexington attorney representing the commission in the Veitch matter, explained to Wingate that no one from Ellis Park relayed to the KHRC any information about the possibility Veitch was being considered for a position as a racing official. He noted that Veitch’s name was not on a list of Ellis Park officials submitted to the commission, nor did the commission receive any amended requests from the Henderson, Ky. track that Veitch be added to the list.

“The track could have contacted the commission and said put Mr. Veitch on the list,” Morgan said, adding that it would not be prudent for the KHRC staff to only accept Veitch’s word that he was in line for a position.

In a written response to the motion from Veitch’s attorney that led to the June 20 hearing, Morgan explained that “the commission cannot simply issue a racing official license to an individual just because he applies for one and claims to have a job at a racetrack. The commission would be derelict in its duties if it did so.”

Morgan said there is no requirement that an applicant for a racing official job be licensed at the time of application, only that they have a license when they are hired. He said the practice of requiring a racing official license applicant have a job lined up has been “long-standing” and was in place when Veitch served in his position with the commission.

“They are not just handing them (licenses) out,” Morgan said. “You have to have a reason to have a license.”

Considering there are any number of positions that fall under the racing officials’ category in Kentucky, Wingate suggested that Veitch obtain potential employment commitment from a Kentucky track and re-submit his application.

The remedy proposed by Wingate seemed to satisfy both sides, and Miller said Veitch would follow the judge's suggestion.