03/11/2011 4:29PM

The Stewards' Responsibility


The voluminous report on L'Affaire Life At Ten by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRA) nearly outweighs President Obama's Health Care Bill but, as the wheels of justice turn slowly in the Bluegrass State, we are only a step or two closer to discovering what went on prior to, during and after the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Nov. 5 when the 3.80-1 second choice did no running at all, causing her backers an excruciating amount of anguish.

That jockey Johnn Velazquez was unhappy with the way Life At Ten was warming up is incontovertible. He said as much to Jerry Bailey on television as the horses were going down to the start. That trainer Todd Pletcher was concerned about Life At Ten's condition in the paddock has also been documented. That John Veitch, Chief Steward for the Commonwealth of Kentucky neglected to take a blood sample of Life At Ten immediatley after the race is agreed upon by all.

The key statement in the Report appears to be "Becraft (KHRC steward John Becraft) said that he mentioned to the other Stewards that the veterinarians should be called about Life At Ten. Becraft said that Veitch responded "if we do that we might as well scratch the horse." Veitch denies hearing these comments from Becraft, but acknowledges Becraft might have said it." Veitch denies responding, "if we do that we might as well scratch the horse.""

What we have here is a failure to communicate, as well as a possible failure of memory on the part of Mr. Veitch. The communication channel that might have saved the betting public and Life At Ten's connections a great deal of trouble should have gone Velazquez to the gate stewards or the starter to the veterinarians. If those channels had been properly followed, Life At Ten might have been scratched to both the short and longterm benefit of all.

In Britain, a performance like that of Life At Ten in a race if the magnitude of the Ladies Classic- or any other race would have prompted a stewards' inquiry almost as soon as the race had been concluded. Jockey, trainer and all stewards concerned would have been called to Jockey Club headquarters in London no later than the following Monday or Tuesday for a hearing. And the results of that hearing would, in most cases, have been issued within a week after the incident.

That there was a major foul-up at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 there is no doubt, but it is not nearly the tragedy that occurred in the 2006 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

That was the race in which Barbaro broke down a hundred yards out of the gate. The injury he sustained that day ultimately led to his death.

That rider Edgar Prado, trainer Michael Matz, the stewards of the Maryland Jockey Club and the track veterinarians collectively allowed Barbaro to run in the Preakness calls the actions of all concerned into question. A little history helps to explain why.

Barbaro was a horse with sensitive underpinnings. Perhaps this was why Matz started his career on turf, an easier surface than dirt. His first three races were on grass. His first six races were also well spaced, allowing him plenty of time to recover after each outing.

Barbaro had 46 days between his maiden score at Delaware and his victory in the Laurel Futurity. It was another 43 days before his third start, a vcitory in the Tampa Bay Derby. He would make his dirt debut in the Holy Bull Stakes, in which he wore front bandages for the only time, off just a 34-day absence, then won the Florida Derby off a 56-day layoff. Barbaro would then go in the Kentucky Derby after a 35-day rest.

The average number of days off for Barbaro in his first six races was 43 days, just a tad over six weeks. But as the winner of the Kentucky Derby, he was expected to run on just 14 days notice in the Preakness. Was that too short for him? Subsequent events suggest that it was.

And so does Barbaro's warrm-up prior to the Preakness. He was difficult going down to the start. Then, once loaded, he broke through the gate. Was Barbaro trying to tell us something, as horses frequently attempt to do when they are not right? Was he in distress, being asked to do something, i.e., run on just 14 days notice, and perhaps not fully recovered from his Kentucky Derby exertions? We will never know, but what we do know is that after having broken through the gate, Barbaro was immediately reloaded for the start. A few seconds later, his racing career, and ultimately his life, were at an end.

Why didn't the gate vet have a closer look at Barbaro after he had broken through the gate? Was there pressure on keeping the Derby winner in the race in front of 100,000 people and a national television audience? Or did trainer, rider, stewards and vets really believe that all was right with Barbaro on the day?

The Barbaro tragedy should have alerted stewards in every jurisdiction to monitor suspect pre-race behavior more closely. That that has not been done is evident in the case of Life At Ten.

WRITERJOHN More than 1 year ago
ManuelB More than 1 year ago
Interesting article Alan. Having been to Europe several times (now in Ireland) I'm amazed at how much more information is available from Stewards and in general, when horses perform worse (or better) than expected. In yesterday's Racing Post there were two instances where the summary of the horse's performance in its last race included an extended commentary from their trainer as to why the horse had improved so much. I found it quite useful in handicapping the race. In North America Stewards take a very passive role and their deliberations are rarely reported in the Daily Racing Form. Paris Turf always has a section on Stewards.
Kevin J More than 1 year ago
As one of the legion of fans whose exotic wagers were wasted on the race, I was at the time quite angry, but on mature reflection, it seems to me that the actions of the jockey were easiest to understand. At the time, Velaquez was not my favorite jockey, but now, he may very well have saved his mount from significant stress as a result of his actions, after all, part of his job is to bring his mount back safe and sound. That the KHRA should take until now to take action against those involved is ridiculous, and while the jockey was indeed easy on the horse during the race, had they needed to act, such action must be taken immediately. Looking at the various reactions of those involved, it is clear that no-one wanted to make that final decision to scratch the horse, and though with hindsight, a scratch was obviously right. The only real charges to bring against those involved are lack of the courage, in the face of only moderate evidence, to stick their necks out far enough possibly to be chopped off at a later stage. Like the Barbaro case, the loss of revenue would have been considerable had a late scratch been authorized by the stewards. Thus it seems the KHRA are holding a trial with the main charge being cowardice, of a jockey, stewards and even perhaps the vet at the start, in the face of millions of dollars in lost revenue and possible loss of future employment if they make the wrong choice. Too much pressure on those involved, too much time elapsed since that day, and now the KHRA want to rake over the coals again? Possibly the worst decision of all was for the KHRA to pursue the matter further after all this time.
rick cossey More than 1 year ago
mr. shurback, perhaps you should become the interpreter of horse actions since you are so good at armchairing the professionals that do. the case of life at ten and barbaro might have relationship since they are both horses. decisions are made both good and bad. protocols are followed. if indeed a change should be made perhaps it be that if a horse breaks through a gate he or she is automatically scratched, but to put the blame on a vet who gives a visual or a jockey who thinks everything feels right is less than on the mark. the case of life at ten is totally different. if indeed the trainer, jockey, and all connections think the horse is not right, it should be a scratch. that was not done. shame on one of the nations most visable trainers. as always the ones who suffer, like my group at breeders cup who had a $1,000 pick six ticket with life at ten singled, suffer and no one cares. the barbaro case was tragic and for you of all people to bring it up again with the angle of blame is unconscionable.
Bryan More than 1 year ago
Alan, While I do agree that the whole issue surrounding Life at Ten would have been better handled in the British system and we would have gotten a quicker answer than in todays nothing but beurocracy filled American political system, I have to strongly disagree with the comparison you make to Barbaro. If any comparison is to be made, it should be made to the 1992 Breeders Cup Sprint and the Breakdown of Mr. Brooks. After that tragedy, Walter Swinburn was interviewed by NBC and he stated that Lester Piggot told him in the warm up that Mr Brooks felt terrible going to the gate, yet said nothing to the stewards or the track vets there. For us to sit back from afar and say that a horse does not look like it is warming up right, without knowing the habits of that horse is hypocritical really. Many horses do not look great in warm ups and then run lights out when the gates open (and I have many a losing ticket to prove that). Same can be said with horses that break through the gate. I do not have facts on hand, but I would be curious of the results of a study that looked at the number of racing injuries sustained by horses who broke through the gate vs those that happened with the horses being normal. A jockey has a keen sense of what is going on in the horse underneath him, and I seriously doubt Edgar Prado would have run Barbaro if he felt he was even slightly off. If he did sense something and said nothing...then yes he is just as guilty. What is different in this case is that both the trainer and jockey of Life at Ten knew something was not right with the horse, and pretty much ignored it. That to me is the real travesty here. They both knew how she normally acted and knew that it was not the way she was acting that night. The real heart of the problem is what it has been in this country for centuries....the care for the horse is secondary to the care for the almighty dollar. Until that changes...then issues like this will still occur. In fact, what annoyed me more than anything really was the immediate talk of how the bettors got swindled and how the bettors deserve their money back and how it was a shame for the whole betting system in Amaerica. Not one word was uttered about the safety of the horse. It was almost an after thought and I am glad that nothing serious happened to her.
andyodonnell More than 1 year ago
Money comes before the welfare of the horse,or the jockeys or the coal miners,or the first responders, or the gulf waters. We live in an avowed capitalist society.Better get used to it.
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Once again, Alan, you are on the mark. Maybe you should succeed Greg Avioli at the Breeders' Cup? This whole shameful affair just underlines the fact that our sport is run by fools. And, in this case, the powers that be should be ashamed of themselves for putting the blame on John Velasquez. Thanks to today's TV coverage fans can follow the action closer than ever and this incident, which was obvious to everyone watching except apparently the dolts of stewards at Churchill Downs, is a shocking reminder of the fact that there is no hope for horse racing in North America, as long as its in the hands of such dim people. For what its worth...Neil Drysdale scratched A.P.Indy (the favourite) on Derby day, and he went on to be a great horse, thanks to such considerate discretion. And IMHO neither Unbridled's Song nor Talkin Man (both short-priced horses) should have run for the roses, because neither horse was 100% on the day.
Joseph E Tripi More than 1 year ago
Obviously there is greater financial incentive to "let the race go" than to do the right thing and pull the big horse. All of the officials work for the house or in some way are vested, Life at Ten was a nice pay day for the house. One has to question Mr. Veitchs' statements a little further... Regarding Barbaro, I seem to recall in watching the network coverage of the Preakness, that Prado turned and was trying to look at his horse's legs after the warm-up and during the walk up to and behind the starting gate. No one has ever mentioned this or questioned it. Did he feel something was wrong when he warmed the horse up? If he felt something was amiss and had reported it to the gate steward... I think it's pretty hard to step up and "do the right thing" when there's big money on the line and everyone is expecting things to go a certain way.
Don Rutberg More than 1 year ago
I'm glad someone else has noticed these two sad stories. Barbaro was injured bursting through the gate and no one even looked at him for more than a second. They just wanted him to run so there would be no refund. Taking one step and dying was ok; getting scratched and refunding all that money was unacceptable. With Life at Ten, someone made sure there was no blood test done so everyone was happy; that is, everyone who was involved in giving Life at Ten the needle of a lifetime. Why is it that every time someone mentions saving the integrity of the sport, people get angry? Now that you've tackled these problems with Barbaro and Life at Ten, why not promote the idea of a central office for horse racing, a commissioner who would watch out for the overall health of the sport instead of track owners trying to get revenge on other track owners. (I am all in favor of a central office to co-ordinate any number of aspects in racing: stewardship, scheduling, etc. But racing in this country is the last bastion of the states rightists, and the states will fight harder than the Confederacy did to hold on to their bailiwicks- the northern states just as hard as the southern states.) AS
russell burghard More than 1 year ago
I think almost everyone watching the live telecast of the 2010 BC Ladies Classic will admit that Life at Ten shold've been scratched at the gate. It was clear that the mare was not warming up properly and the jockey and trainer were obviously concerned. But neither one of them are concerned about the bettors. Its the job of the State Vet to be a neutral arbiter to protect the interests of horses and bettors. Mr. Shuback certainly realizes that the United States does not have a 'true' national racing body like England and France and as a result these decisions will be made by the individual states. Comparing the Barbaro incident to Life at Ten is foolish. Barbaro was clearly ready to run in warmups before he entered the gate. Barbaro simply broke through the starting gate, an event which happens with frequecy in American racing. How hard he hit his head on the gate stall is something only the gate crew, jockey, state vet, and starter can answer. Perhaps he should've been scratched but these were two completely different situations.
Tony More than 1 year ago
Barbaro and Life At Ten are apples and oranges. With Barbaro, the post suggests that Prado and Matz and the MJC are complicit in what happened to him. While I do agree that Barbaro breaking through the gate should have merited more than just a cursory inspection, I'd respectfully suggest that breaking through the gate from the start is hardly cause for scratching that instant. You might be able to infer that the starting gate incident contributed to his breakdown, but Fio Rito won the Whitney Handicap 30 years ago after breaking through the starting gate. It's hard to say exactly if a horse is ten or twenty times more likely to breakdown after bursting through the gate prior to the start of a race, but there are horses who are clearly able to overcome such obstacles to win a race, without causing catastrophic injury. I'm with you on the idea the MJC should have done a thorough examination to the point of delaying the race by minutes, but I'm not quite there on the notion that the gate incident can be extrapolated to have caused the injury that cost him his life. As for Prado's role, in that instance, just what did he do wrong? He wasn't speaking to NBC moments before the race suggesting the horse didn't seem right, to the point that he was concerned. There wasn't noticeable discomfort or sluggishness or anything to indicate prior to the race that the horse was unfit. Compare that to Velazquez, who made the mistake of confessing to the media something definitely seemed wrong and never let the stewards know it. And Life At Ten's issues seemed apparent to all prior to her race, including the media. Can the same have been said for Barbaro? It seems to be a reach. And what exactly did Michael Matz do that was so wrong? The horse has respites on the Derby Trail, won with something left, and Matz saw absolutely nothing in the following 2 weeks that would have suggested a breakdown or injury was in the offing. You honestly think someone who has a love of horses and massive experience with horses such as he does would have run an unfit horse in a race if he had seen a problem even in the last few moments before the Preakness began? Everyone wishes for Barbaro's sake we can turn back time, but it does no one any good to open old wounds with comparisons that are a reach, to put it mildly. Velazquez goofed. He felt something was wrong, reported it to the media, and never mentioned it to the stewards, and no matter what Maggi Moss thinks as his mouthpiece, he's no "scapegoat". He made a choice that in hindsight turned out to be incredibly stupid, which is probably the last thing one could say about Edgar Prado's handing of affairs---if not for him, remember, Barbaro wouldn't have ever had a shot at recovery, even for a moment. The stewards screwed up, and John Veitch is trying to pass the buck when clearly as chief steward he should have listened to the concerns of his other stewards--on that, we agree the MJC should have done better, also. But Pletcher should get a pass, here, too. The filly had something which was difficult to diagnose until post-race testing could be done, and even if he should have been more attentive to anything out of the ordinary, he's at least not on the horse's back in the moments before the big race. Yes, it's another example that racing needs more authoritative control, more care taken for what's best for the horse first, and the betting public second. Yes, there were screw-ups along the way that are inexcusable, and just about everyone involved bears at the least a tiny bit of responsibility. But comparing this to what happened with Barbaro is more than a reach, it maligns a few folks who actually cared more about the animal (with the possible exception of the MJC) and less about making the trains run on time.
Mike Podesta More than 1 year ago
Why has nobody brought up the Valazquez/Bailer angle? Should a rider be concentrating on his mount and the upcoming race in the immediate prerace warm-up or should he be speaking to the media? If Mr. Valazquez had not been speaking to Mr. Bailey might he have been speaking to the veterinarians? As a steward I have been criticized many times by owners and trainers after scratching a horse at the gate even after doing so on vaterinarian advice which it almost always is. I have yet to receive a thank you. (Excellent point. Asking a rider questions on his way down to the start is akin to asking a baseball player questions as he is walking up to the plate. All TV networks would be well advised to keep their personalities out of the way during pre-race warm-ups.) AS
Vanessa Gall More than 1 year ago
Alan: Good points about the responsibility of state veterinarians and stewards in high profile races. In Barbaro's Preakness, however, I feel certain that the original incident of breaking through the gate was probably the cause of his breakdown. When a horse breaks through the gate, many opposing forces are placed on their muscular and skeletal system. They are thrusting out of the gate with their hind legs, while the jockey is severely applying an opposite force on the thrusting to halt their momentum. This in turn places stresses and strains on ligaments and tendons which help the bones to absorb stress. Barbaro's tendons and ligaments might have suffered strains/sprains from the original incident and his leg was stressed to the point of fracture when he left the gate thrusting on an injured leg to actually begin the race. No one but the stable involved with the horse, however, intimately knows all the leg problems, soreness and lameness that a horse suffers from. Handicappers must develop some knowledge of the style of a trainer as he prepares his horses for races. I'm not sure whether trainers space races out so much because they are trying to keep their horses sound or because they think it's a trend that they should follow. Certainly in the old days, time between races wasn't much of an issue. Just look at Secretariat's or Seattle Slews past performances!! How would have foreign racing authorities handled the Life at Ten issue? How do foreign racing authorities deal with horses breaking through the gates? P.S. Didn't Barbaro win the Tropical Park Derby, not the Tampa Bay Derby?
Kay P. More than 1 year ago
Interesting points about what happens when a horse breaks out of the gate while the jockey is trying to hold him back. I saw a slow-motion head-on replay of Barbaro's early break once, and only once. It showed him rocking backward with his head up high in the air. His right back leg was quivering very rapidly. I believe that he was off balance and overstressed something in the leg and perhaps a more thorough exam by the vet would have caught it.
Gulchfan More than 1 year ago
I agree about the stresses placed on a horse when they break through the gate, and I'd add the assistant starter holding onto the horse's bridle (probably hurting their mouth via the bit) and desperately trying to keep them from running off, probably stressing their necks, too, as they are turned.
William B. Johnson More than 1 year ago
I wish that someone would review the replay--from network TV, not cable--of the pre-race actions of Barbaro's jockey, Edgar Prado. When Prado was walking Barabaro just a few minutes before loading into the gate, he looked back at the horse's right hind leg four or five times. Something was wrong, and Prado suspected it. I definitely believe that Barbaro's injury and death resulted from human error.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Amen, Barbaro was worth the effort tho? So nice. No?
Alison Mandelbaum More than 1 year ago
Thank you Alan, for your breathtaking honesty. It's a trait found far too little in the practitioners of this sport. The racing public deserves to know as much as possible about the sport they love. I rarely get to the track and rarely bet when I do, but I love the sport and follow it closely. I think that bringing it's less savory practices into the light of day can only be for the good. Only when trainers, jockeys, stewards,vets, owners and all involved are aware that their actions have consequences will the sport start to clean itself it up. It's up to reporters like you to keep us informed and keep the pressure on the governing bodies to enforce the rules they have and create new ones when necessary to serve and protect those who have no voice at all in this, the horses.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Alan you almost answer your own question. Barbaro as you stated broke through the gate and they did not so much as blink an eye and see if the horse was cut or had any other problems. The fact is he was the Kentucky Derby winner. The horse could have been on three legs and they would have made that horse run. How much did the track make off of not scratching him by the handle off of ALL the bets from win, place, show, doubles, exacta, tri's, superfectas, pick 3, pick 4 and pick 6. What is 25 percent of 3 million there is your answer? For a track that financial condition was in poor order and the on air people were talking about how run down the facilities are there lies the problem they put their financial self interest above Barbaro who ultimately died due to leg problems. He was not a fit horse and should have been scratched. By the way TV was on a time line for the 2 minute race to go to commercial so to postpone the proceedings would have made the TV execs mad and pulled their support of the sport. The show must go on even if it cost the animal his life.
Chris Szabo More than 1 year ago
Very well written article, thank you. You begin with a theme, and follow it up with a clearly outlined argument, written in a succinct, easy to read style. And the writer pulls no punches either. Finally, someone who dares speak the truth, and not sugar-coat events which simply should not have taken place. (Thank you for your kind words. They are very much appreciated) AS
Otherlyn More than 1 year ago
BARBARO also acted up in the paddock, and baulked at being saddle that day. Something was not right! There is no doubt as to the professional skills of Michael, and Edgar, nor about their deep affection and regard for this colt. However, I do believe that BARBARO himself was trying to let them know that he did not want to race that day. I will always believe it. Perhaps his legs should have been x-rayed after the Kentucky Derby. It is entirely possible that he sustained some sort of fracture in that little stumble as he came out of the gate in that race. ..and that it went un-noticed, and un-detected until the morning of the Preakness. BARBARO knew...he just had no otherway to tell anyone. He tried, but everybody missed it. They simply missed it by grave mis-take. Yes, had the stewards at the Preakness been sharper, and had had the courage to do the right thing, perhaps BARBARO would still be with us. It's all hindsight, and perhaps wishful thinking now...Oh Lord, would that we could turn back time! At least now, in the aftermath of the tragedy of losing him, The Love that surrounded BARBARO has produced many positive benefits for thoroughbreds, via the grassroots efforts of the FOB (Fans of Barbaro), and his owners. Let's hope that the Thoroughbred Racing powers-that-be will consider automatically scratching ANY horse who forcefully breaks through the gate on their own. Assuming, on the side of Life, that the horse might have something to say. RIP, Champion BARBARO.
Texasreb More than 1 year ago
Barbaro should have been scratched. He clearly showed he was in distress. Life atTen likewise should have been checked by gate vet and stewards. Velasquez should have said something to the stewards. It is obvious he had decided not to race the horse. Not racing the horse is one thing for a "prep". The Breeders Cup races are not preps. The owner had to supplement $60,000 for this race. I would be awfully mad about this event as an owner. Racing needs to protect the animals and betting public.
Nick Briglia More than 1 year ago
Of course there was pressure to keep the Derby winner in the race. They never would have made the decision to scratch him. Should they have? I think any horse that breaks through the gate should be scratched. Their record of futility after breaking through the gate is fairly well known. Horses rarely run well. As a matter of fact, on March 4th at Aqueduct a much more serious injustice to the public was done without one word from the racing press. In the 9th race a horse, Talk To Nick, broke through the gate just before the gates were actually sprung open by the starter. He subsequently lost his rider while wiping out the 8 horse just to his inside. There was a brief inquiry but neither horse was declared a non starter. This was a shameful travesty that got NO PRESS whatsoever. I challenge you to look into this incident and have the guts to write a story about it. Why weren't the starter and stewards punished for this unacceptable incident. Why was all that money stolen from those who bet on those two horses?
Greg Biddle More than 1 year ago
Being more than a fan of horses all of my 55 yrs.,your comments about Barbaro struck a nerve with me.Ive seen horses running for$ 5000.00 break through the gate at River Downs and get more attention than Barbaro got.I was red faced and mad as hell when they let him start.All this is for the a dollar and a T.V. scheduled time slot,like they dont go over there time slot in golf!!! Lets do this stop the load process ,check the horse,scratch the horse and unload the field,if it takes 10 mins. so what ,if your there you could change your bet , if not take what comes,the important part is the horse.We are getting killed here in KY. by casinos,I cannot watch races at Turfways winter meet.I dont know how trainers and owners can go on,if something is not done soon we will lose Ellis Park too.Life at Ten should never had a start in that race,anyone with guts should have made the call,but we cant expect the stewards in Ky. to short change Churchill,instead they go after a world class jockey!Here it comes ,if something is not done soon, at least here in KY., we will and are losing are fan base,maybe a track or two and are best breeding stock.In my mind there is no sport better than what we have.(i cant stand cry baby ball players),.All my years i have invested in something i love to watch,read,learn &follow, there is nothing that comes close to this sport.If we dont take care of are horses, and the lawmakers in Frankfort dont get there heads out of their ass,we will be known for a good place to raise chickens! Greg Biddle Crittenden Ky.
Greg More than 1 year ago
20/20 hindsight is always easy, I have been a fan for 40 years and an owner for 10, I watched the Derby and the Preakness, there was absolutely NO reason at that time to even consider scratching Barbaro, if as you say that the number of days was a concern then ask Matz or the Jacksons, but as for what happened on the track, ZERO reason to question running.
Del More than 1 year ago
Great information and analysis. A solid argument for more pre-race monitoring. But what was stopping Pletcher from scratching her in the first place? The entry fee of course. But that's the gamble when you enter a horse into the big race. Hey, were all gambling as handicappers. The owner and barn are actually gambing too. And I don't think it's the jockey's job to assess the horse. What about jockies that are unfamiliar with their mount? Put the responsibility on the person who calls the shots. It has to be the trainer.
Gulchfan More than 1 year ago
Thank you for bringing up the lack of a real vet inspection of Barbaro before he was reloaded. I noted that day, and have continued to observe, that the vet behind the gate almost never actually touches a horse before deeming them fit to start or not. I'm wondering if there is some rule about this I am unaware of, not allowing them to touch the horse to check their legs (or anything else), perhaps to prevent the appearance of impropriety. If so, I strongly disagree with that policy. We'll never know if Barbaro was 'off' even before going into the gate, but my mother (who was watching it with me) noted, at the time, that Prado kept looking back to Barbaro's right hind during the post parade and warm up. Did he feel something? If so, he's never said. I think, as disappointing as it would have been, Barbaro should have been a gate scratch at the Preakness. About Life at Ten, I disagree with Maggie Moss' statement saying that John Velasquez was not at fault, though he is not the only one. If Pletcher noted her docile behavior in the paddock, he could have mentioned to the state vets to pay particularly close attention to her during the warm up. If these vets had been observing her that whole last week before the race (as has been stated), they should have been able to tell something was wrong. Also, what if she was ill? She could have exposed every other horse in the race (and all the outrider's ponies, too) to that. Ultimately, I believe it was up to Velasquez to notify someone official that his horse was not fit to race, since, after all, he was the one sitting on her. He freely admitted it on worldwide television (and another thing on the state vets watching, if I remember correctly, it was former jockey Jerry Bailey who asked Johnny if she was warming up okay, that tells me he thought something wasn't right, so why couldn't the vets tell?), why not to the state vet? Why didn't the outrider with him report it? Velasquez had a duty to Life at Ten, as well as every other horse and jockey out there to make sure she didn't run and endanger herself or others. Thank God nothing horrible happened.
Debbie More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe that you are attempting to equate Barbaro's break down with the Life at Ten situation. Yes, Barbaro broke through the gate, but he was examined by the track vet and reloaded, and started the race. Prado heard his leg snap down the track, the injury did not occur at the gate. And it is not the track steward's job to determine that the horse shouldn't have run on 13 days rest, even though he'd always run on much longer rest in the past. I can assure you that Barbaro did not act distressed as he'd counted the days between the Derby and the Preakness and decided that he was too stressed to run on 13 days rest. The thought is just ludicrous. His breakdown was heartbreaking and unfortunate, but just a terrible accident and is not in any way similar to the Life at Ten situation. If Pletcher gets away with this one, there is no justice in horse racing.
Vnice More than 1 year ago
A excellent piece of writing. I couldn't agree more with the piece. Dead on.