12/02/2014 5:24PM

Kentucky commission likely to appeal ruling reinstating Veitch


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is likely to appeal a recent ruling that called for the commission to reinstate John Veitch to his former position of chief state steward, the chairman of the commission said Tuesday after a regularly scheduled meeting.

Robert Beck said he “would anticipate” the appeal, based on discussions the commission had in a closed session at the end of the meeting. The commission has until Friday to file the appeal, and Beck said the decision to appeal likely will not be evident until the deadline is reached.

“We’ve got time,” Beck said.

On Friday, a circuit court judge ruled that the Public Protection Cabinet did not have the authority to fire Veitch late in 2011. The judge, Thomas Wingate, said the decision to fire Veitch could only have come from the KHRC itself, as the direct supervisor of the state’s chief steward. The Public Protection Cabinet oversees the KHRC.

Veitch was fired several months before the release of a report claiming that he was negligent in handling an incident at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs when he failed to order a pre-race inspection of the filly Life At Ten or take additional steps to investigate the filly’s poor performance. Just prior to the race, Life At Ten’s jockey, John Velazquez, told a television interviewer that the filly “was not warming up like she normally does,” though Velazquez did not communicate any concerns to veterinary staff stationed around the track.

An appeal by the commission likely would ask for the Wingate ruling to be stayed while the appeal is heard. In addition to ruling that Veitch should be reinstated, Wingate ruled that he should be paid back wages.

Although Veitch had already been fired, the commission suspended his license for a year after the release of the Life At Ten report in early 2012. Veitch has recently worked at Keeneland as a minor racing official.

• In other news at the meeting, the commission approved a “change of control” on the racing license for the Thunder Ridge harness track to reflect an option exercised by Keeneland to purchase the track, which has struggled financially for a decade. The approval is the first step in a process through which Keeneland hopes to relocate the track’s racing license to the Corbin area in the southeastern corner of the state.

The new track will include a parlor housing approximately 500 slot machine-like devices called Instant Racing machines, and revenue from the devices will be used to subsidize purses at a brief Quarter Horse meet at the track and at Keeneland’s Thoroughbred track in Lexington. Vince Gabbert, Keeneland’s chief operating officer, said current plans envision opening the new track in 2016.

• The commission also approved a new wager sought by Churchill Downs that will allow futures betting on the sire of the Kentucky Derby winner, although a Churchill official also told the commission that the company does not yet know if it will offer the bet. Churchill already offers futures pools for the winner of the Derby and the Oaks, and the bet will be structured along the same lines, with bettors receiving all of the progeny of the sire.

• A joint partnership agreement between Keeneland and the Red Mile to open an Instant Racing parlor at the downtown Lexington harness track also was approved by the commission. The plans calls for the parlor to open next year with 1,000 machines. Keeneland and the Red Mile will split the commissions from the machines, with portions being used to subsidize purses at each track.