12/01/2014 2:09PM

Judge rules to reinstate Veitch


A Kentucky judge has ruled that a state department acted outside of its authority in 2011 when it fired John Veitch, the state’s former chief steward, following an inquiry into an incident involving Life At Ten in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

The ruling by Judge Thomas Wingate of Franklin Circuit Court is the latest chapter in a long-running legal tussle between Veitch and state regulators. Veitch was fired in November 2011 by an official in the state’s Public Protection Cabinet several months prior to the release of a report claiming that Veitch was negligent in his duties in the Life At Ten incident.

In the ruling, Wingate said Veitch should be reinstated to his job and awarded back wages. The ruling did not take up any of the legal questions surrounding the Life At Ten incident, and instead stated that any decision to fire or hire the chief state steward was the responsibility of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and not the Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the KHRC.

The KHRC was expected to discuss the ruling Tuesday at a regularly scheduled commission meeting, though in closed session. Wingate’s ruling was released Friday.

Although Veitch was fired prior to the release of the report on the Life At Ten incident, the commission suspended Veitch for a year in early 2012. In part, the report claimed that Veitch should have asked veterinarians to examine Life At Ten after her jockey, John Velazquez, said in a televised interview approximately five minutes before post of the BC Ladies’ Classic that the filly “was not warming up like she normally does.”

The report also said that Veitch did not sufficiently follow up on the incident. Life At Ten finished last in the race as the second choice, though Velazquez did not ask the filly to run after the first furlong out of the gate.

Veitch, who has been working as a minor racing official at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky., since being re-licensed in 2013, has filed numerous challenges to the investigation and his firing. The challenges have resulted in a handful of sometimes-contradictory rulings over the legitimacy of the report’s conclusions and the manner in which the matter was settled.