04/28/2013 12:06PM

Kentucky panel orders Veitch be re-instated to chief steward position

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A Kentucky state panel has ruled that former chief state steward John Veitch was improperly dismissed from his position because the agency that fired him did not have the authority to do so.

In an April 24 ruling, the Kentucky Personnel Board said that Veitch should be reinstated and that he is entitled to back pay since being fired in late November 2011. The ruling stated that only the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had the authority to fire Veitch, rather than the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the racing commission.

The ruling is the latest in a long-running legal saga after Veitch was taken to task for his role in the Life at Ten incident at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Life at Ten was never prevailed upon during the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic that year after her jockey, John Velazquez, told television interviewers that she “was not warming up like she normally does” during the post parade. Veitch was later held responsible for not ordering a pre-race veterinary review of the filly or conducting a timely investigation of the circumstances surrounding her poor performance.

Veitch filed an appeal with the personnel board and with courts seeking a reversal of the dismissal, arguing that he was fired without cause and alleging that the Public Protection Cabinet discriminated against him because of his age. Veitch was 66 at the time he was fired.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has 15 days to appeal the Personnel Board’s ruling, and a spokesperson for the commission said on Saturday that the commission “will be filing exceptions within the next two weeks.”

“The dismissal of Mr. Veitch without cause is not at question in this recommendation – only the mechanism used for that dismissal,” said Dick Brown, the spokesperson. “However, the conclusion that only the KHRC, and not the Public Protection Cabinet, has the right to terminate Mr. Veitch is contrary to the applicable statutes.”

Robert Vance, the secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet, issued the order to fire Veitch several months before a hearing officer recommended that the commission suspend Veitch for a year for his role in the Life at Ten incident. The hearing officer prepared his report following a three-day hearing into the incident conducted in the summer of 2011, and the commission unanimously voted to accept the recommendation early in 2012.

Veitch, a Hall of Fame trainer, was appointed chief state steward in Kentucky in 2005. He had a rocky relationship with members of the state racing commission, according to testimony during his hearing.