04/06/2011 3:45PM

Velazquez fined $10,000 in Life At Ten settlement


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Wednesday approved a settlement with John Velazquez that will require the jockey to pay a $10,000 fine on charges lodged last month related to the Life At Ten incident at the Breeders’ Cup last year.

Under the settlement, Velazquez acknowledged that he “may have violated one or more” of the three statutes that were cited last month by the commission when it elected to charge Velazquez in connection with the incident, in which Life At Ten was eased out of the starting gate after Velazquez and her trainer had made comments to television broadcasters that she was not warming up properly.

Under the settlement, $5,000 of the $10,000 fine will be paid to the racing commission, with the remainder going to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund, a charity that distributes payments to injured riders. Velazquez is a member of the charity’s board.

In a statement released after the meeting, Velazquez said that he believed the settlement was in the “the best interests of racing,” but he added that he did not “concede any guilt.”

“I have ridden in over 21,000 races, and I can tell you that the safety of every single one of those horses was, and remains, for me foremost,” Velazquez said. “A prolonged legal battle will not serve the industry well.”

The settlement will end the commission’s pursuit of the case, according to Lisa Underwood, the executive director of the commission. Velazquez could have faced a lengthy suspension under the three violations, which included a failure to ride out his mount and a failure to present Life At Ten to state veterinarians after making the comments. Velazquez was also charged under a catch-all regulation requiring riders to act “in the best interest of racing.”

A separate but related case against chief state steward John Veitch remains open. Veitch was charged with five possible violations of Kentucky statutes. Veitch has hired an attorney who has already waived his right to have a hearing within 30 days of being charged, a common practice so that defendants can prepare their cases.

Life At Ten finished last as the second choice in the Ladies’ Classic. The pre-race comments by Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher, coupled with her poor performance, had led to critical comments from many racing fans and her owner, Candy DeBartolo, who contended the filly should have been scratched at the gate.

Last month, a report prepared by an investigative team led by the commission said that veterinary officials were not made aware of the filly’s listless demeanor prior to the race. Veitch was the only other licensee to be charged as a result of the report, under several regulations that require stewards to “supervise entries” and prohibit the entry of horses who are “not in serviceable, sound racing condition,” among other rules.