10/17/2011 3:26PM

Breeders' Cup moves to prevent repeat of Life At Ten incident


LEXINGTON, Ky. – A racing official will be assigned to monitor television broadcasts and all internal radio communications among racing and regulatory personnel at this year’s Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs as part of a plan to avoid incidents like the one last year involving Life At Ten, the last-place finisher in the Ladies Classic.

The plan was announced Monday afternoon in a statement issued by Churchill Downs, the Breeders’ Cup, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The three groups worked out the plan over the last several months to address gaps in communications between racing officials and regulatory officials after a months-long investigation into the incident. Life At Ten, the second wagering choice, was eased after her jockey, John Velazquez, told interviewers on ESPN’s telecast that the horse was “not warming up like she normally does.”

The incident created a stir among bettors and racing fans who complained that Life At Ten should have been scratched. The investigation revealed that the officials who were in position either to examine or scratch the horse did not receive notification about the comments, received conflicting information, or did not act on the comments.

The official who will monitor the television broadcasts and internal communications will be a racing commission employee who is an accredited steward, according to the statement. The official will be required to monitor the network telecasts as well as simulcast feeds.

In addition, one of the three stewards at Churchill will be required to be in the paddock during the saddling of the horses. Typically, all three stewards remain in the stewards’ box during a race card.

The statement said that ESPN will be required to include representatives of the stewards and the Jockeys’ Guild in its pre-production meeting. John Veitch, Kentucky’s chief state steward – who has been accused of violations of Kentucky’s racing rules and is facing possible penalties over the incident – complained during a hearing earlier this year that ESPN did not include stewards in its pre-production meeting. Veitch said that stewards would have advised ESPN to refrain from interviewing jockeys until after the race.

Also as part of the plan, veterinarians who are employed by the racing commission and Breeders’ Cup to examine horses or be on call during the races will be required to wear uniforms with the “easily identifiable” words “Vet Team” on them. In the Life At Ten incident, neither Velazquez nor the filly’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, alerted any veterinary officials about concerns over her warm-up.