Life At Ten: Blame Veitch
Updated: March 10, 2011, 7:28 PM ETBy Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com
Though it seemed to take forever, a report issued Thursday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission into the Life at Ten debacle was not only thorough, but left little doubt who was to blame -- steward John Veitch. Though the KHRC concluded that Veitch and jockey John Velazquez may have been in violation of a numbers of rules, violations that could lead to some sort of penalties, it is really Veitch that comes out looking like the bad guy, or at least like some sort of stumblebum. It is the commission's report that best sums up what Veitch did wrong. Though not referring specifically to him, the report says "in some instances there was not a specific rule violation, but rather a failure of common sense to prevail." Exactly. Life At Ten's condition to race in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Distaff started to become an issue when Velazquez told ESPN commentator and retired jockey Jerry Bailey that his mount was not warming up properly. "She's not warming up the way she normally does," he said. It was then that ESPN producer Amy Zimmerman contacted the stewards and told them of Velazquez's comments. At the time, there were still more than five minutes to go before the race would begin, plenty of time for the stewards to react. There are three stewards, in this case Veitch, Butch Brecraft and Rick Leigh. But it is Veitch, as the Chief State Steward representing the State of Kentucky, who is in charge. The buck stops with him. The moment he heard from Zimmerman, he should have been vigilant and done everything within his power to make sure than a horse that was in no condition to race never entered the starting gate. Instead, he did nothing. If Life At Ten were to be scratched, it would have had to be done by the veterinarian representing the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Astonishingly, Veitch never bothered to call them. With them having no idea that something was amiss with Life At Ten, the on-track vets had no reason to take an extra look at the horse. Veitch wasn't the only one who messed this up. All sorts of things could have happened and should have happened to prevent this horse from racing and the betting public from getting ripped off. And certainly this wasn't Velazquez's finest hour. He knew there was something wrong with Life At Ten, yet he, also, never alerted the track vets about the apparent problem. The commission concludes that she would have been scratched had Velazquez alerted the KHC vets about his concerns. Still, his job is to ride a horse. Veitch's is to make sure a horse that is in less than ideal shape does not race, which has to be done in order to protect the betting public. How can a producer from ESPN understand better than a steward that there was a serious problem here that needed to be addressed? From the report, we now know that Life At Ten was a sick horse. Dr. Ken Reed, a private vet employed by trainer Todd Pletcher, told the commission that, after the race, Life At Ten was "obviously in great distress and obviously dried out." He added: "I mean, she was obviously in muscle cramps she was probably sick going into the race and we didn't realize it, and that's what I told Todd."
Horsephotos.comPletcher and Velazquez talk after Life at Ten's lethargic run in the Ladies' Classic.
The commission wants to weigh whether or not jockeys should be allowed to talk to television reporters so close to the race. That the broadcast crew did its job and interviewed Velazquez was among the few things that went right.
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