John Veitch, chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission who was the subject of an investigation into the Life At Ten situation during the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, was dismissed from his position Nov. 28.
Tom Miller, Veitch’s attorney, confirmed that his client received a letter from the Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the KHRC, stating that Veitch’s “services were no longer needed.” Miller said the letter also stated that Veitch was being dismissed without cause, meaning that he would not have a right to appeal the decision to the state Personnel Board.
Miller said the dismissal was effective immediately.
Brice "Rick" Williams, assistant director of the Kentucky Breeders' Incentive Fund, has been named interim chief steward and the KHRC will conduct a national search for a permanent steward.
Marc Guilfoil, interim executive director of the KHRC, said Williams is an accredited steward who has substituted for Veitch when the former chief steward took vacation or needed time off. He said Williams has indicated he has no plans to apply for the job on a permanent basis.
Miller said his client is exploring all of his legal options. He said he found the dismissal, in the form of a letter from Holly McCoy-Johnson, appointing authority for the Public Protection Cabinet, to be “interesting in its timing.”
The action comes in the midst of a hearing officer completing a final report from an investigation and hearings held this summer regarding the performance of Life At Ten during the 2010 Breeders' Cup World Championships. Robert Layton, who is the chief hearing officer for the Office of Administrative Hearings within the Energy and Environment Cabinet, is drafting the report based on three days of hearings conducted June 28-30. Earlier this month, Layton requested and received a 30-day extension in which to complete his report.
Life At Ten, owned by Candy DeBartolo and trained by Todd Pletcher, finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) 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.
The KHRC launched an investigation that included a review of comments Velazquez made to retired jockey Jerry Bailey, who was working as an announcer on the ESPN coverage of the Breeders’ Cup, prior to the race. The jockey said Life At Ten was not warming up as she normally does, but did not relay those concerns to the stewards or any KHRC veterinarians.
The KHRC found probable cause that Velazquez and Veitch had violated rules of racing in connection with the incident. Though he did not admit to violating any rules of racing, Velazquez paid a $10,000 fine, half of which went to charity.
Veitch has said he did nothing wrong in his handling of the case and that the charges against him are due in part to disagreements between him and KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood over handling of disciplinary matters.
Underwood last month announced she was resigning, effective Nov. 16, to become partner in a Lexington law firm.