Updated on 08/02/2012 12:35PM

Veitch, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission present arguments to court


A Kentucky circuit judge is expected to rule in the next 90 days on whether the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission acted improperly in suspending former chief state steward John Veitch for one year because of his role in the Life At Ten incident at the 2010 Breeders' Cup.

Judge Thomas Wingate heard from attorneys for both Veitch and the racing commission during a hearing in Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday. In appealing the suspension to the Franklin County Court, Veitch's attorney had argued that the commission's penalty was arbitrary and that the commission based its decision on statutes that are vague.

The attorney, Tom Miller, said on Thursday that he also emphasized in arguments before the court that the commission unfairly penalized Veitch because the statutes give the stewards “discretion, and sometimes complete discretion” in interpreting the rules of racing.

“To sanction him under those statutes is wrong,” Miller said. “That’s what we’ve always been arguing.”

Veitch was fired as chief state steward last November. Nearly three months later, the commission accepted a hearing officer's recommendation to suspend Veitch for one year. Wingate issued a stay of the suspension earlier this year, but the commission has declined to issue Veitch a license in the meantime, a decision that is also being challenged by Veitch through the courts.

Veitch's suspension was based in large part on his failure to ask state veterinarians to examine Life At Ten after the filly's rider, John Velazquez, told television analysts that the horse "wasn't warming up like she normally does" several minutes before  post of the Breeders Cup Ladies' Classic. During a three-day hearing in June last year administered by the racing commission, Veitch testified that he did not hear the comment directly, and that it wasn't his responsibility to alert veterinarians to the comment.

Several veterinarians stationed along the post parade route testified during the hearing that they could see nothing physically wrong with Life At Ten. Velazquez also did not ask any veterinarians to examine the filly.

The hearing officer's report also cited conflicting testimony by Veitch in the investigation of the incident and his statements during the hearing. In addition, the hearing officer said that Veitch made a deliberate decision to avoid asking veterinarians to examine the filly, despite another steward's request that the veterinarians be notified about the comment.