Life At Ten

Life At Ten

Skip Dickstein

KHRC Rules on Life At Ten Situation

Organization voted there was probable cause that Veitch, Velazquez were in violation.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted there was probable cause to believe that both jockey John Velazquez and chief state steward John Veitch were in violation of regulations regarding Life At Ten’s participation in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

The commission’s action, taken after a nearly three-hour closed executive session during its monthly meeting March 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington, coincided with the release of a report into the incident.

Read a summary of the report “Investigation of Events Surrounding the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic” here.

Read a full report of the investigation here.

The matter was decided on a 9-1 vote for both Velazquez and Veitch, who were charged with probable cause of three and five violations, respectively, in connection with the incident. Dr. Foster Northrop, a racetrack veterinarian, was the only commissioner present to vote against probable cause that Velazquez violated three regulations.Commissioner John Ward, a trainer, was the only one to vote against probable cause in the case of Veitch.

Neither Northrop nor Ward would comment on the reason's for their votes. Other commissioners and KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood would discuss the commission's action, noting the on-going nature of the case.

The decision will now be sent to a hearing officer who will issue a report stating if there were in fact violations, and giving recommendations for penalties.

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 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.

Kentucky has three stewards--Brooks Becraft, Rick Leigh, and Veitch.

The report said there was no evidence of intentional wrongdoing or nefarious or fraudulent activity, but “in some instances there was not a specific rules violation but, rather, a failure of common sense to prevail.” The report also reveals a systematic breakdown in communications among the various people either working directly for Life At Ten and her connections or working for the KHRC and the Breeders’ Cup.

The commission, in reviewing and adopting the report, found probable cause that Velazquez violated:
--810 KAR 1:009 Section 10
--810 KAR 1:016 Section 14
--810 KAR 1:025 Section 14 (1) (Q)

The commission determined there was probable cause that Veitch violated:
--810 KAR 1:004 Section 4 (1)
--810 KAR 1:004 Section 4 (8)
--810 KAR 1:012 Section 9 (1)
--810 KAR 1:016 Section 14
--810 KAR 1:018 Section 11

The regulations involving Velazquez deal with requirements that a jockey ride out a horse until the end of a race unless there is a problem with the horse and acing in the best interests of racing.

The regulations involving 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.

KHRC director of enforcement Patrick Adams led the investigation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Inspector General was called in to analyze the racing stewards’ activities as an outside, independent party in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest. In all, 90 people were interviewed either by the KHRC enforcement staff or the Office of Inspector General, according to the commission.

Specifically, the investigation revealed that about five minutes prior to the horses entering the starting gate, ESPN producer Amy Zimmerman brought it to the attention of the stewards that Velazquez had concerns about Life At Ten. Steward Brooks Becraft told the investigator that he observed something physically wrong with the horse, but steward Rick Leigh said he thought Life At Ten “looked choppy” but did not see anything out of the ordinary with her.

Becraft said he mentioned to the other stewards that the veterinarians should be contacted about Velazquez’ comments, but that Veitch responded “if we do that we might as well scratch the horse,” according to the report, which went on to say “Veitch denies hearing those comments from Becraft but acknowledges Becraft might have said it. Veitch denies responding ‘if we do that we might as well scratch the horse’.”

The report said Leigh recalled Becraft saying the horse should be looked at by a veterinarian, but recalled that was about the time the horses were being loaded into the starting gate. Also, the stewards stopped watching the ESPN broadcast after receiving Zimmerman’s call so they were unaware of comments made by Pletcher that Life At Ten was not herself in the paddock or a followup interview in which Velazquez said the filly still had not improved.

Both Becraft and Leigh said in hindsight they should have brought the matter to the attention of state veterinarian Bryce Peckham. Veitch said he believed Velazquez should have Life At Ten to the veterinarian.

The OIG report concluded that “there is confusion among the stewards regarding the chain of command. There was no clear understanding regarding the authority of each individual steward vis a vis the chief state steward.”

Following the March 10 commission meeting, Veitch declined comment on the commission's action. Asked about his status as chief steward, Veitch said he did not know.

Underwood said Veitch was still the state's chief steward.