10/25/2013 11:11AM

Kentucky Court of Appeals orders circuit court review of Veitch suspension


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Court of Appeals has ruled that the state’s circuit court should review the one-year suspension levied by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on former chief state steward John Veitch because the sanction was based in part on a flawed interpretation of his role in the Life At Ten incident at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup.

The three-judge panel affirmed most of the actions taken by the commission in the ruling, but it said that the commission erred in basing the one-year suspension in part on the comments of Life At Ten’s jockey, John Velazquez, just prior to the horse being loaded into the gate for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Velazquez told television interviewers that the filly “was not warming up like she normally does.”

“The jockey’s pre-race comments did not immediately call into question Life At Ten’s health and well-being, mandating action by Veitch,” the ruling stated. “However, the horse’s poor, unexpected racing performance certainly did require Veitch to take action based on regulations.”

Veitch was suspended for one year in early 2012 because of a hearing officer’s ruling that he violated multiple rules of racing requiring stewards to protect the integrity of racing. The hearing officer said that the rules required Veitch to order an examination of the filly prior to the race – even though her jockey did not alert veterinarians at the starting gate to his concerns – and to order post-race tests and an investigation after she finished last.

Tom Miller, Veitch’s attorney, said that the ruling by the Court of Appeals can be appealed to the Supreme Court by either side in the case. If the ruling is not appealed, it will be sent back to the circuit court judge who made the initial ruling for reconsideration of the penalty, which Veitch has already served.

Miller said that whatever the outcome, he intends to “look for relief from the court for the excess sanction” approved by the racing commission. Veitch, a Hall of Fame trainer, is currently working at Keeneland as a patrol clerk and entry judge, a minor position requiring a license from the state.