07/01/2011 5:35PM

Life Goes On

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Consider for a moment the larger issues being raised by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's investigation into the charges against chief steward John Veitch surrounding the poor performance of Life at Ten in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic last November at Churchill Downs.

To read the media reports of the three days of hearings -- which included a blow-by-blow twitter feed from Louisville journalist Gregory Hall -- there was an abundance of he said/they said testimony along with an agonizingly pointless reconstruction of who heard and/or saw what and/or when in the moments leading up to the race itself. Eventually the hearing officer will decide whether or not Veitch was irresponsible in not demanding a veterinary examination of Life at Ten in the moments immediately before the race (based upon what he was hearing from secondary, unofficial sources) and then whether or not Veitch had erred by not ordering post-race blood and urine samples be taken from Life at Ten.

The second question is a snap. Of course Life at Ten should have been tested, just as she had been tested and examined according to Breeders' Cup protocols in the days leading up to her race, and would have been tested had she finished in the first four. When a high-profile second choice runs up the track like she did, never really entering the fray, the integrity of the process is paramount. Her performance could not be simply shrugged off as "one of those things," and there was no evidence presented that Life at Ten was in such post-race distress that she could not have produced a test sample. If a steward has the power to exercise such testing discretion, I can't think of a more appropriate use of that power.

As to the first question, welcome to a slippery slope covered with thin ice.

Unlike a craps table or a roulette wheel, the pari-mutuel horse race is not a hermetically sealed betting event. Stuff happens. Stuff that's outside of the control of the officials in charge. Because of this, there is every reason for the public to think that any viable piece of information would be welcomed by stewards and veterinarians as the race approaches, as long it has passed at least an entry-level smell test.

When John Velazquez informed ESPN's commentators -- and viewers -- that Life at Ten was not warming up like the Life at Ten he knew, that was news, and in today's world, such news spreads fast. However, when the Churchill Downs stewards were informed of the rider's comments by TV producer Amy Zimmerman, the news was greeted with skeptical curiosity. Stewards are neither trained nor mandated to interact with broadcast media while the game is underway, which certainly includes the warmup period when most of the betting takes place. And broadcast media, not being under the jurisdiction of the stewards, can pick and choose which tidbits of information it seeks and disseminates. (No one, for instance, had asked Velazquez two hours earlier how My Jen was warming up for the Filly & Mare Sprint before she finished last, beaten 40 lengths.)

The fact that Velazquez turned out to be right, that there was something amiss with Life a Ten (an insipient case of Uncle Mo's cholangiohepatitis maybe?), is beside the point. If Life at Ten wins, Velazquez gets to poke fun at himself all the way to the bank. If she runs well and gets beat on the square, his pre-race comments become grist for speculation, but hardly for an inquest. But if Velazquez thought it was enough to present his concerns to television but not to one of the official veterinarians, then perhaps there is room for a refresher course for participants on the difference between show business and reality.

In the end, the chain of events that brought the game to that hearing room for three days could never happen again. Either independent broadcast media becomes part of the official oversight or not. John Veitch is being tried and possibly fried for failing to alert official veterinarians to something he was told a jockey said on television. Between commercials. If that makes sense, the game has taken a weird turn down a road overgrown with information while bereft of context. Veitch, when told, should have called Velazquez himself and firmly inquired: "John, it's John. I'm hearing things. Would you like to tell us what you told them?"

****

As a rule of thumb, I would lean toward spending precious funds these days on the living Thoroughbred, especially regarding his health, welfare and responsible retirement. Every so often, though, it's important to heed the call to preserve the sport's history, which is why it is good news that the remains of the Hall of Fame racehorse Noor finally have found a home.

Or will, as soon as they are exhumed from the unmarked grave in what used to be the infield of the training track at Loma Rica Ranch, near the town of Grass Valley in north central California. Noor ended his days there in 1974, at age 29, a pensioned stallion and local celebrity. Most of that celebrity stemmed from his championship season of 1950, during which he defeated the likes of Citation (four times), Hill Prince, Assault, Two Lea, Next Move, On Trust and Ponder in a testing, coast-to-coast campaign.

Noor's burial site soon will be part of a development project. No surprise there. Neither was it a shock that Charlotte Farmer, a retired executive secretary devoted to Noor's memory, had so much trouble finding a suitable place to transfer the remains. She got a lot of turn-downs and red tape along the way before the people at Old Friends Equine in Lexington said they would welcome Noor with open arms, and lay him to rest in a plot of ground hereafter reserved for Hall of Famers.

In order to get Noor from six feet under in Northern California to the embracing bluegrass of Kentucky, there is a need for donations toward a $6,000 nut to cover the costs of exhumation and transport. Old Friends will be providing the granite gravestone, so that's done. Donations can be made through the Old Friends website (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/), specifying "Noor" via PayPal. Or you can always tell them the check's in the mail. Here is a sample of how Noor delivered in his championship form -- http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=33929. Click below for Noor's past performances.

 

 

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write essay for me More than 1 year ago
You know the state of the handicap division is in disarray when you think to yourself, "Hrm, I wonder if Duke of Mischief can get 10 panels", knowing that if Fawkes can get this horse to go that distance, he'd have a legitimate shot.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
I'm in there with TBTA except I don't care about the horses nearly as much as she does.She's a true horse lover. I care more about protection of the PLAYERS . While I like your historical articles you are a bit of an apologist for the shady owners and rulers of this sport and always have been. I suppose thats because you are acquainted with many of them personally . You being based in the west I'm sure you know of MY SWEET LUCY and the sponging incident. The reason they let LIFE AT TEN go back to her own barn was so TAP could remove the SPONGE. Simple as that. You ain't gonna hear about anything wrong with her because the only thing wrong with her was lack of breath which was remedied as soon as she was taken back to her OWN barn and the sponge was removed. Personally I didn't bet the race & wouldn't have bet LAT even with your money if I did, but its another black eye for racing which will attempt to sweep it under the rug as the game goes into further decline. The Emperor doesn't have any clothes Jay & whatever you and the other apologists have to say ain't gonna cover him up in the mind of the public. Vietch has always had stupid comments to make in regards to doing his job and his shiney head should roll. He's no friend of the player thats for sure. He views the backbone of the sport the same way most in power in this game do. SUCKERS that supply a revenue stream for them to take advantage of. Not only cream but also scum rises to the top Jay. I've read your excuse making for different forms of larceny so many times that I can anticipate your stance before you write it. On the other note why try to make bigger suckers out of the players . Why don't some of THE FINE UPSTANDING PEOPLE that own the damn horses pay for their retirement ,burial ,etc IN FULL. Isn't 20 % of every dollar bet enough to take care of these million/ billionaires. I have 3 cats Jay would you like to donate so they can be fed daily ? I have a couple of them buried in my backyard . When I move would you like to pay for them to be dug up and reburied at say Forest Lawn ? You really need to clue up on where the bulk of the money that buys YOUR product comes from and start looking to protect them rather than SNOW them Jay. I like to watch horses run. You've looked me in the eye more than once in the morning with a quiZical look on your face that said ,who is the greybeard sitting in the grandstand in the morning for no apparent reason . He doesn't have a watch in his hand ? He's not an owner and he doesn't work for anybody here. I like to watch them run. In a race or a workout . I'll pay for my pets, you pay for yours & lets let the owners of these horses pay for them . Is that a novel idea or what ? If the owners don't want to do that then maybe we should make hamburgers out of them. (the owners not the horses) Captcha>>> etilia governed >>> If an etilia is a crook then that captcha sums it up.
Charlotte Farmer More than 1 year ago
I just wanted to give an update to anyone who might be reading this story. As of today, Friday, July 08, 2011, Old Friends has received a total of $2,485. For all those who have given to Noor, again I thank you.
Charlotte Farmer More than 1 year ago
Tesio – Howard DID not die 24 years before Noor. Charles S. Howard died June 6, 1950, at his home in San Francisco. Saturday, June 17, 1950, Noor won the Forty-Niners’ Handicap at Golden Gate Fields, wherein he beat the great Citation for the fourth time. Citation and Noor would meet again in the Golden Gate Handicap Saturday, June 24, 1950, for the fifth and final time. Noor won that day with Citation coming in second.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
And on another front (J. Veitch getting away with complete incompetance was a given fromn Day One. Even if he had been a Brooklyn Congressman, he might have beat the rap...) “Excitement of…” (as in, “Excitement of summer just starting” DRF 07/07/11) Well, I guess it beats using the now beyond-threadbare-and-now-utterly-pathetic, public-relations-rehearsed “I’m excited!” in a headline.
Dogs Up More than 1 year ago
Now can any jockey, owner/trainer get a free pass 'scratch' by using this event as precedent? What if JV said 'you never know, the slow poke to the gate wins, and the horse who is chomping at the bit doesn't hit the board". A post parade, if you one can view it on tv/internet vs being at the track, live, is to make an assessment before betting your money regarding f you think the horse is sound, fit. I'd say most people cannot do this.
JW More than 1 year ago
While John Veitch might have acted differently and probably will the next time,i beleive both he and John Velzquez have faced undo criticism.From the jockey i can hear the conversation with Pletcher( " Todd i think we should scratch.Pletcher " what is wrong?Not warming up properly.Pletcher--you want me to take this to Mrs. DeBartalo.tell her you don't like the warm-up at this juncture.I can just hear her response.Didn't the vet just check her and she was fine and now you tell me we shouldn't run!!!!!!!! I have a very good friend who is quite good with body language and will often throw out a bettable horse because he doesn't like his/her action.HE is often right and looks like a genius those times.But there are also times when that particular horse wins and his comment then is "i guess i outsmarted myself".if we start scratching horses at the gate because they were quieter than usual we are sure to have ensuing chaos.Do we really want to travel this path?
Vanna More than 1 year ago
Thanks for your astute observations on the case. I was wondering, however, why the trainer has not come under more fire for the Life at Ten incident. And I also find it odd that about this time last year, Devil May Care was diagnosed with hepatisis and later was either euthanized or expired from liver cancer. Less than 9 months later, Uncle Mo was diagnosed with a liver related disorder. Now you suggest a possible similarity between Life at Ten and Uncle Mo. I have been around horse racing for nearly 40 years and although not a vet, rarely have I heard about liver disorders in horses. In light of Barry Irwin's controversial Derby statements, should not the whole Life at Ten issue be looked at a little closer? Vanna, Please be clear on this -- I was not suggesting Life at Ten was suffering from any specific ailment in my snide aside regarding the much later diagnosis of the malady suffered by her stablemate Uncle Mo. If I recall, the only suggestion from the Pletcher stable was that she might have been experiencing a reaction to her diuretic, which happens. If they found anything else, we have not heard about it. Thank you, JH
Anne More than 1 year ago
Hi Jay, When Todd mentioned the diurectic I remembered that in KY lasix Adjunct is permitted. To me there were several in the BC races using it for the first time as well. My question is...why use it to begin with? If a horse is that much of a bleeder he/she should NOT be running. But...that is just me. Good points have been made and maybe something will become of this so it doesn't happen again. I was there and never really saw the warm up on the screen that you and Nick were referring. Which means...you can still be there and not have a clue. We didn't know about the boxing match until a friend from Canada called me to get information about the fight. Ha... had NO clue.
Karen Gogue More than 1 year ago
Thank you Jay for the attention you will bring to Charlotte Farmer and the Champ Noor...it is a blessing that we have these wonderful eqines from the past to remember what joy and thrills they brought to this Sport of Kings (Queens). Say "hello" to the family, have a wonderful 4th and enjoy every minute you have with them. Thank you, Karen