Scapegoat - By Lenny Shulman

(Originally published in the September 10, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Lenny Shulman

As thousands of visitors from around the continent and the world descend on Kentucky for Keeneland’s September yearling sale and October race meeting and the November Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, they may smell the odor of scapegoat emanating from the office of chief racing steward John Veitch.

After a nearly one-year investigation the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has concluded that Veitch and jockey John Velazquez acted inappropriately during last year’s Life At Ten Breeders’ Cup fiasco—charging Veitch with five violations of state regulations.

Velazquez accepted a $10,000 fine after admitting that mistakes were made—but not necessarily by him.

Inconveniently for the commission, Veitch has denied wrongdoing, and state law gives stewards broad latitude in decision-making.

This one-of-a-kind mess stems from the 2010 Ladies’ Classic (gr. I), when second-favorite Life At Ten was allowed to jog around the racetrack, burning millions of bettors’ dollars, after her trainer, Todd Pletcher, noted “she was acting a little unusual” in the paddock and her jockey, Velazquez, told a national TV audience “she’s not warming up the way she usually does.” A TV producer phoned Veitch and told him about
Velazquez’ interview.

It is not Veitch’s job to scratch a horse based on a third-party phone call, which, by the way, misquoted what Velazquez actually said. At that point Veitch decided to allow the veterinarians present to do their jobs—observe the horses and make their own decisions.

There were 11 KHRC and Breeders’ Cup vets on the racetrack, in addition to several on-call vets on the grounds. According to testimony given in the KHRC investigation, at least seven of them knew, before the race, about the Velazquez interview, or of a “rumor” that there were concerns about a horse. None took any action regarding the filly. After observing her on the track, none thought she was unfit to race. 

Life At Ten’s condition was internal. Pletcher, although feeling there was something amiss with the filly, sent her out to the racetrack. Despite state law that “trainers shall bear primary responsibility for the health and physical fitness” of the horse, Pletcher was not sanctioned by the KHRC. None of the vets—nor the other two stewards—were sanctioned for doing exactly what Veitch did.

Velazquez knew something was wrong from talking with Pletcher and warming up the horse. A week before he had complained to stewards when vets at Keeneland refused to scratch a horse at the request of rider Garrett Gomez. Thus, Velazquez knew if he alerted the vets to his doubts about Life At Ten, it would have meant an automatic scratch. He chose not to. Pletcher assistant Mike McCarthy testified that as Velazquez unsaddled
Life At Ten, he told McCarthy, “I knew it. I should’ve scratched her.”

Veitch had some tough calls to make during this Breeders’ Cup; some were found wanting. We didn’t agree with his decision not to send Life At Ten to the test barn after she raced so poorly. But Kentucky statues and regulations clearly leave such decisions to the stewards’ discretion.

The commission apparently thought Veitch would take a deal similar to Velazquez’. He has instead chosen to stand and fight the charges levied against him.

Veitch is a proud man who comes from generations of horsemen. He followed his father, Syl, also a trainer, into racing’s Hall of Fame, saying at the time that adding to his ancestors’ reputations “means everything.” Recently, he added, “I feel the reputations of my father and myself have been injured unnecessarily, and I would never accept a penalty for something I feel has been unreasonably applied. They’re looking for a scapegoat, and I am not willing to accept that.”

In his seven years as Kentucky’s chief steward, Veitch has established a reputation as a fair and impartial judge and has run a tight ship, free of controversy or scandal.

Why then does the KHRC continue to pursue Veitch, who played a minor part in this comedy of errors?

It may have something to do with a dispute between Veitch and KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood concerning a medication violation case against trainer Bernie Flint days before the 2010 Breeders’ Cup. Underwood wanted Veitch to issue a harsher sanction against Flint. Veitch disagreed, citing mitigating factors, and apparently a brouhaha ensued after Veitch’s position prevailed. Is a grudge trumping common sense here?

Unfortunately, continuing to fight will prove costly. Veitch’s legal fees have already far exceeded the $50,000 the Commonwealth has poured into the case. And if the commission decides to sanction Veitch, his lawyers will take the case to federal court, where both sides’ costs will escalate. We understand why Veitch is fighting, despite the emotional and financial pain to himself and his family. Perhaps we should ask the KHRC what’s to be gained by spending tens of thousands more on this witch hunt.

78 Comments

Leave a Comment:

anita b

there have been many instances where trainers and/or jockeys feel their horse is not warming up the way he usually does; stewarts REFUSE to scratch the horse (Garret Gomez on a horse at that same time) unless there is signs of lameness. There has to be a set standard--if a jockey/trainer feels the horse is not quite right-let horse be scratched--plain and simple. 'nuff said

07 Sep 2011 3:59 PM
ezbreeze

Veitch needs to accept responsibilty for this calamity which costs the betting public a bundle of money. Accountability is important and he should step up and take his medicine just like JR did. Lenny, your arguement is not convincing.

07 Sep 2011 5:27 PM
Giddyup

I am 100% in agreement with the views you have expressed on this issue Lenny. That the KHRC have now dragged this out for 10 months gives you an idea how incompetent they are. Instead of trying to cover their own asses and find scapegoats wouldn't that time have been better spent trying to develop measures that would prevent a repeat of the LAT fiasco from happening again?

07 Sep 2011 5:47 PM
fb0252

might have written this one day after it happened. good job!

07 Sep 2011 6:08 PM
Jon

Too bad the horse has to suffer and is not able to regain her form, which in turn costs the owner a lot.

Pletcher should have warned the jockey and the stewards that if the horse did not show any improvement then the jockey and stewards should scratch her.

Why was Johnny Velazquez allowed to donate his fine to a charity? the cause sounds OK but now he can write of the fine as a contribution to a charity and act like its not a fine.

Now that "LAT" looks like a shadow of herself & he value after racing hitting rock bottom isn't it someone's fault for causing this.

07 Sep 2011 7:31 PM
Onechaser

Sounds like a hard place to be for a Jockey.  Damned if you mention the horse seems off, Damned if you don't. Seems like a no win situation. Trainers should know their horses well enough to see if they are not right on race day. The burden should fall on their shoulders, and after all, thats what they are paid to do.

07 Sep 2011 7:46 PM
Allthebest

Bravo Mr. Shulman. You have your facts right and very well written. They are trying to make a good man their scapegoat. To bad John has to pay all those attorney fees to defend his good name from someone who is so shallow and hateful. It falls on Lisa Underwoods head. Perhaps John can turn around and sue her. Good luck to John.

07 Sep 2011 9:00 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Lenny,

This is a great article and a great job explaining all of this mess to us.  And what a mess it is. I contend that this had to have started on the walkover to the saddling area, something must have been noticed and been amiss with her prior to just being in the paddock and to the gate.  I cannot see putting all the culpablility on either of the two Johnny V's.  And where are the owner's voices in all of this?  Did they not walk over to the paddock on BC Day with Life At Ten, did they not notice a nuance of difference in their horse's demeanor?  If I did I would have raised holy hell and not allowed her to run, the owner's need to be added to the list of authorized personnel who have the jurisdiction and responsibility of scratching a horse from a race.  That is where all this leads, new laws about scratching horses.  No matter how much money the betting public has wagered, if a horse needs to be scratched then so be it, too bad.  "Les jeux sont faits, rien ne va plus."  The animals lives need to be considered first and foremost and erring on the side of caution may save a life, the gamblers will just have to deal with it and realize this is one of the aspects of the game.  And what of the seven veterinarians who knew of "something?"  Were they not watching her, but not knowing her usual demeanor did they not pick up on anything?  Somehow I think this starts way before Johnny V. got a leg up and John Veitch saw Life At Ten out there.  As much as I hate to say this and I am biting my lip as I do, I think the trainer should have called for a scratch.  And I love Todd Pletcher, he is one of my favorite all time trainers.  Maybe he justifiably felt she would shake off whatever the nuance of difference was, maybe the whole thing is just a tough call.  But I think it does call for a review of the laws and personnel involved in scratching a horse from a race for its own safety and for the safety and lives of the other animals and jockeys involved.  

07 Sep 2011 9:21 PM
Alex'sBigFan

In addition to what I just said, for that matter let the grooms or walkers be added to the list of personnel able to call for a scratch.  They are the ones who really know the idiosyncracies of the animals as they are with them almost 24/7.  Didn't we all feel that Mario knew Zenyatta best of all?  If they are walking the horse over to be saddled and they feel the horse is not right then their word should be heavily and seriously taken into consideration.

07 Sep 2011 9:28 PM
kincsem

And the jockey and the steward had what to do with preparing the horse? Nothing. Not one thing.  This is a no-brainer: Todd Pletcher SHOULD be responsible for sending out a horse he either knew was not race ready, or he is an incompetent boob who cannot tell the difference.(figure it out) Either way, these clowns (KHRB) are obviously diverting the blame from the real culprit.

08 Sep 2011 12:14 AM
pabred

First, has anyone know what it takes for a trainer to scratch.  An act of God would be easier sometimes.  They threaten you with everything.  I had a true turf horse.  The race came off the turf.  Call the stewards to scratch.  The horse could not beat $5000 claimers on the dirt.  But in allowance company he was right there on the turf.  The stewards agreed with me.  And told me if I scratch they would fine me and give the horse days.  I took them.  Now is that right.  As for John Veitch.  What if he scratched the horse, and was wrong.  You all would be screaming at him for this.  And a blood test is only to show is the horse had something illegal in her system.  Not why she felt bad.  You all talk like you have no real dealings with the everyday horseracing.  Remember, she ran bad, she did not die or break down.  Have any of you had a bad day.  They are not machines.  Horses have personalities and quirks.  Lets move on and put this one to rest.  KHRC, can we just say she ran a bad race and had a bad day.  Does anyone really know what happened to this filly, that day, that instance.  GAMBLING, means you don't know the outcome.  It's a gamble.  Duh.  

08 Sep 2011 12:19 AM
TBlover

Anyone who watched the races on television saw what was happenning.  It is unfortunate that communication was lacking between the parties involved, but it is over now - take it as a lesson learned to make improvements for the future. Also, since Todd Pletcher said publicly that probably the cause for the problem was a reaction to her injection of Salix, that is just one more reason to ban ALL drugs on raceday, so that American racing is equal to International race conditions.  Without injections there won't be reactions to injections - case closed.

What a waste of the cost of all these legal proceedings that could have gone to something worthwhile like the Injured Jockeys Fund or to help Backstretch workers!

08 Sep 2011 12:24 AM
Donut Jimmy

I completely agree that they are scapegoating John Veitch. There were errors in judgement made, but the most serious ones were made by Velasquez and Pletcher who best understood the situation and who were in the best position to scratch the horse. I think that if Pletcher had not already alerted Velasquez that there might be a problem, he would have been in a tough spot. But Pletcher's warning gave him a green light to scratch if needed.

However, a person's judgement under such pressure is often less than ideal, no matter how honorable their intent. I certainly do not believe that Velasquez had any intent to defraud bettors.

I am a veterinarian and was watching the televised coverage when they checked back with Velasquez. I could not see clearly what was concerning Velasquez, but had no doubt that if the filly was not warming up right, that he could feel it, and that he would have her scratched. I was completely dismayed when she was loaded in the gate. If the problem was clear enough to say something to the press, then it should have been clear enough to speak to the vets. But even then, it would still have been up to Velasquez to make the call, as there was no clear lameness or evidence of distress that would have been evident to someone not very familiar with that particular horse.

As for Veitch up in the grandstand, can you imagine the uproar if he had acted on what really constituted a rumor at that point? I am not sure however, that he  or other stewards could not have called one of the vets to ask Velasquez if the horse was all right or not. Veitch was not in a position to directly scratch the horse based on the information he had at the time.

I do not think that there was anyone who was acting in bad faith. As is usual in these matters, it was the horse and the punters who got the worst of it.

08 Sep 2011 12:40 AM
datflippinrabbit

Thought the trainer was boss.

08 Sep 2011 1:36 AM
Diego Conde

Good article. I agree with the fact the commission is looking to save face. I believe there are actually no guilty parties. Life At Ten wasn't laim, wasn't cut, scraped or bleeding. Something just "didn't seem right". That's way too subjective to go ahead and scratch a horse from any race, let alone the BC. If they knew of an ailment and hid it... that's another thing, and Todd Pletcher has to answer. But just for looking kinda' funny, or "not warming up right"? Please. Maybe Dale Romans or the Pimlico's stewards should've scratched Shackleford from the Preakness because he was sweating way too much. Right?...Wrong! It's horse racing; it's a gamble. Horses miss the break, dump their riders, lose shoes, and sometimes they just don't warm up right. The beauty; the curse...Horse Racing.

08 Sep 2011 1:48 AM
Bellwether

LENNY...THYE HOLE DEAL LOOKS REEL BAD FORE "THE GAME"...SPIN IT ANY WAY U LIKE IT DUDE...THAT HOLE CROWD BLUE THE HELL OUT OF IT & VEITCH WAS PART OF IT...PLEASE...NO ty...

08 Sep 2011 4:14 AM
Barry Irwin

John is the brightest star in racing in the State of Kentucky. He is always on the right side of the issue. He is courageous and bold. He takes tough stances. Why this guy is being made the official scapegoat of this thing is beyond comprehension. I wonder if there is more here than meets the eye. He is good for racing fans, horseplayers, professionals and the regulators. Smells of politics to me.

08 Sep 2011 5:38 AM
Your Only Friend

When horse with odds  "Life at Ten" had....runs like it did ....you would think Veitch would automaticlly request test......This was THE  "Breeders Cup" That should be SOP:.

08 Sep 2011 9:11 AM
PomDeTerre

This situation is hardly a "comedy" of errors, and Mt. Veitch is hardly a scapegoat.  He failed to take actions, and as a result, this mare is now hopelessly off form and the betting public in that race were out millions of dollars that would not have gone up in smoke had there been the needed late scratch.  

However, Veitch is far from the only oine to share the blame for this sorry incident.  Velasquez received a slap on the wrist that was "lunch money" for him.  And the biggest offender- Pletcher, himself- got away scott free.  Veitch does need to accept accounatability for this sorry debacle.  However the investigating "authorities" got it wrong from the get go by letting Pletcher off the hook.  The trainer always bears the ultimate responsiblity for the horse, and not only was this tenant ignored, but it appeared to be swept under the rug.  A very sorry blight on racing that should never have been allowed to happen.  Shame on all "investigating" this.  Whether intentionally or not, they ignored the actions of the chief offender here.

08 Sep 2011 9:24 AM
barryaksarben

It is the trainer's JOB to know his horse and then the jock's. Ther was no concrete statemnent to Veitch so he is blameless as far as I am concerned. I knew Marion VanBerg and worked for Jack Van Berg and they NEVER let anyone decide what was best for their horses because they knew and did what was best for the horse, stewards or owners be damned.

08 Sep 2011 9:37 AM
nashville

Good stuff, Lenny and the people who invest in the biz deserve to know the truth. This whole affair begins and ends with Steve Allday. Until his actions have been accounted for on that day, no one is seriously attempting to find out what really happened.

08 Sep 2011 10:01 AM
Allthebest

Just a follow up on LAT. Does a trainer really know how his horse is doing? On very good sources watching this filly breeze one morning several months before running in the breeders cup noted she looked sore. Ofcourse Mr. Pletcher was not there to watch her.  

08 Sep 2011 10:30 AM
tenmd

I am going to repeat here my comments from an earlier blog in July.

Firstly, John Vietch is one of the most honerable men in racing and I find it extremely distasteful that the KRC has chosen him as their fall guy in this matter.

Secondly, lets examine the facts...According to KY Racing Statutes, (810 KAR 1:008) Section 3, "Trainers shall bear primary responsibility for horses he enters as to ... physical fitness to perform credibly at the distance entered"... and,  "shall promptly report to the authority veterinarian or horse identifier any sickness or death of any horse in his charge."   Yet Pletcher was not held responsible for violating either of these statutes.

Next lets examine the other option of the stewards that day. What if they had scratched LAT and no reason was found for the scratch after the race? The trainer didn't ask to scratch, the jockey didn't ask to scratch and there were numerous trackside vets with a much closer view of LAT who saw nothing of concern during the warm-up nor at the gate, even while looking for a problem as they were aware there was mention of one. What wrath would the KRC have brought upon the stewards for scratching a horse on the word of a TV commentator, when trackside vets could find no reason?

I firmly believe that John Vietch should be publicly exhonerated of all responsibility in this matter and that his legal fees be refunded by the commission.

I also have thoughts as to how they should have delt with Pletcher in this matter as he alone was responsible for the condition of this horse, but I will keep those thoughts to myself.

08 Sep 2011 10:36 AM
Linda in Texas

Alex'sBigFan - Datflippinrabbit- PomDe Terre and all who think the Trainer should have known and scratched Life at Ten, I agree.

Next, the jockey who felt or knew or stated she was not right. But he is afraid to tell Pletcher for fear of losing mounts. I mean the dominoes fell and look who pushed the first one. Pletcher.

Sorry, but i am not a fan of Pletcher. He cannot possibly know what every horse he has under his control is doing. His assistants have their hands full and need to step up also.

If i am 1800 miles away and as i watched Life at Ten pre race, and thought to myself what is wrong with her. Surely someone under her nose could see it. And i thought only the horses were the ones with their blinkers on.

I will think about Life at Ten when the same race is run this year. And by the way, where is she now? Saw her race 1 time after that fiasco and of course she did not win. But i was surely pulling for her. And why the heck is this investigation still on going??

08 Sep 2011 10:38 AM
Dogs Up

JV's admission and comments after the race to the asst. trainer provides the spotlight on what prevailed in the course of events.

The chain of custody and responsibilty  for the horse, from being passed from Trainer/barn workers to jockey/vet/assistant starters, should be well defined for the safety and preservation of the race horse. As difficult as it may be to have a seamless procedure, the ramifications of a scratch, in most cases, is the horse is scratched, and re-entered into another race within a few days or more.  

It appears that on this biggest of days,BC 2010, and as the adage goes: "When there's a lot of money on the table, strange things happen", and it did.

08 Sep 2011 10:48 AM
smchapman2

Veitch should have immediately alerted the vet(s) at the gate, who would have asked Velazquez if the mare didn't feel right, and if he was willing to ride her.

Pletcher could have scratched the filly while she was on the track prior to the start if he didn't like what he saw in the paddock or on the track.  Never mind what he had known all week, as you wrote.

Nobody wanted the responsibility of a huge parimutual refund if Life at Ten had been scratched.  

Cheers to Johnny V who was the only one who kept everybody safe; the mare, himself, the other horses and riders, and even alerted the betting public in an unprecedented warning on national TV. His integrity cost him $10,000.

Is Veitch's ego so large and valuable that he can't admit his error over a dollar amount?  

What price will the sport of racing pay in the court of public opinion?  

08 Sep 2011 10:55 AM
BDH

What's to be gained?  Credibility.  As one who lost $$$ on her I am pleased to see the investigation and consequences being carried out even if it has been done somewhat inefficiently.  In my opinion it's better to have this drag on than the more common response in this game....sweeping it under the carpet.  My only complaint is that more culprits weren't identified and consequences levied, especially Pletcher.  

08 Sep 2011 12:06 PM
Karen in Indiana

Good for John Veitch for not playing 'the game'. I thought John Velazquez was doing the right thing by airing his concerns, but after this episode, interviewers are wasting their breath asking the jockey how the horse is doing. I watched that whole debacle on TV and saw the look on Todd Pletcher's face when he was being interviewed after the race. He looked like the kid who was caught with his arm up to the elbow in the cookie jar. He knew and he's the one that should be held accountable. But the powers that be won't do that because he brings money to the state with his operation and the wagers that follow him.

08 Sep 2011 12:44 PM
steve shahinian

The focus upon John Veitch, who is one of three stewards on duty is puzzling.  Had he, or the stewards together, arbitrarily scratched the horse from the stewards stand, the uproar we've heard would have been dwarfed by the alternative.

It would seem reasonable for the trainer and jockey to have had some input in the matter, but once the horses are on the track, it would appear to me that the track veterinarian would have primary responsibility to determine that a horse is unfit to race, and hindsight should not form the basis for our judgment today. We should not judge the participants by what we know after the race, but rather what we knew before.  Todd Pletcher's supposition that Lasix may have played a part seems reasonable to me.

Conspiracy theorists (see post from "Nashville" above for baseless conjecture)aside, I don't get a whiff of impropriety from any of the participants.  I understand John Velazquez's decision to put it behind him, but I don't understand the motivation behind the prolonged insult perpetrated against John Veitch.  He will undoubtedly recover from the blow to his bank account for legal fees, but if I were he, when this pointless exercise is concluded I would be asking where I go to get my reputation back.

Perhaps I've missed it, but rather than scapegoating innocent participants, authorities should instead revisit the protocols that attend scratching horses during the last 30 minutes before a race to see whether a repeat of the underlying event can be avoided, particularly in nationally televised events.

Most of us are in the game because we love it.  It is a flawed game with many ways in which it might be improved.  Scapegoating the good guys is not one of them.

08 Sep 2011 1:27 PM
Lmaris

It was clear from the get-go Pletcher was going to be given yet another pass.  He told JR the mare was off, made a comment on TV to that effect too.  

Since then we've had the absurd delay in getting Uncle Mo an accurate diagnosis to the poor horse's detriment.  Doing the required biopsy would delay training, something neither Pletcher nor Repole were willing to do until it became clear to everyone the horse was in serious trouble.

Pletcher gets a pass, when he's supposedly ultimately liable for the horse.  Veich and JR might have some responsibility, but far less than Pletcher who was given a total pass in the matter.

No wonder people believe the game is fixed.  

08 Sep 2011 1:27 PM
JerseyBoy

pabred:

You nailed it.  That's racing.

Now I wonder why those complaining have not taken a similar stance with Coil in the Travers. The performance was not much different.

08 Sep 2011 1:33 PM
deb

I feel that this is a witch hunt or revenge for a wrong.

Horse racing is a gamble; sometimes the horses wins and sometimes they don't and sometimes they die.

Some horses may improve as they run or they quit and do not want to run that day.  Horses are animals and are not predictable.

The root of this problem is no one made a decision because of the amount of money involved. Its always about the money.  When we look at the individual horse and NOT the money, the right choice will always be made.

There are toooo many people to blame for this, no one should have been fined or abused as they are now.

People should be rewarded for not running a horse when it is noticed that the horse is not up to par at any time on any day, no matter what the money involved.

If you must blame one, blame all because all many people brought the horse to the races.  It is only common sense!

08 Sep 2011 2:19 PM
UncleStosh

The only reason I read the Bloodhorse is to remind myself that all of the "horse" people are apologists to the bitter end for all the worse things in racing. John Veitch is the scapegoat? If he doesn't want responsibility then don't take a job of such great RESPONSIBILITY. If you wall want to obfuscate what happened then gf go for it but it is a complete load of HS. A post above says the horse ran a bad race. As a handicapper, I would not rate that as a "bad" race because the horse basically walked around the track. My first reaction was, "What's wrong with that horse, i hope we don't see the van." A bad race? Get a clue. How'd the horse bounce back in her next start after her bad day? I think the KHRC should verbally sanction Veitch with no fine and then find a candidate who does not try to hide from the responsibilities of the jobs.

08 Sep 2011 2:31 PM
UncleStosh

I thought of the Coil race as well but again as a handicapper who tries to make sense of this stuff so i understand what may happen in the horse's next race, I didn't perceive Coils issue to be injury. It looked like the jock made a bad decision to try and have the horse come from way off the pace becaause he "accidentally" won a race doing it last tinme out. The Haskell was different though bc Coil didn't take dirt in the face in that one. In the Travers, Coil just looked like he didn't want any part of laying dead behind horses taking dirt hard. By the time the jock got him back under control he realized it was all over and just ran him around. Baffert alluded to exactly this scenario when he practically spit venom talking about the jockey's decision to take the horse back at the start.

08 Sep 2011 2:36 PM
UncleStosh

And just because you think other parties(particuliarly Pletcher) also should have been penalized and weren't, it doesn't mean that JR and Veitch did nothing wrong. They are 2 different issues. pletcher really is due for about 60 day suspension. The guy is involved in a lot of questionable stuff.

08 Sep 2011 2:39 PM
Karen in Texas

It seems to me that there was shared culpability in the Life At Ten incident, and that honing in on Mr. Veitch is pointless at this time. I thought John Velazquez behaved honorably before, during,  and after the race--he accepted the consequences of the investigation and has gone on with his life. As for the other professionals involved on that day, including Mr. Pletcher, perhaps admitting that a mistake in judgement was made would be/have been the "professional" thing to do. At least this may serve as a means to alter the protocols for scratching a horse in the future, as others here have suggested.

08 Sep 2011 2:53 PM
sceptre

Lenny, and many others here are missing the point (issue)/and evading the facts...Veitch was given a "heads-up" about LAT well before they loaded. The issue isn't whether or not he should have then scratched her. Rather, the question is should he have then alerted the on-track vets-to have them examine her/speak to JV? Veitch chose not to do so, and this decision of his seems UNREASONABLE/cavalier. Yes, JV should have alerted the vets; Yes, Bramlage (who also received a heads-up on LAT) should have singled out LAT to the on-track vets for same. Veitch is not a scapegoat, but rather, he is likely the primary culprit for this mess. He was alerted, and it was reasonable for him to believe that the alert wasn't frivalous. Such alerts are quite rare, but it was his duty to follow-up.  

08 Sep 2011 2:56 PM
dianeche

I agree with pabred and JerseyBoy.  Everyone is overreacting, but surprise surprise!  

08 Sep 2011 3:04 PM
Needler in Virginia

Bottom line?? Todd Pletcher was, and is, responsible for the condition of EVERY horse in his care. John Veitch is not, and only heard about the problem well after the fact. Todd Pletcher is on the hook for this, guys, and he should have to write a check to cover the losses of all those bettors who believed he would never allow something like this to happen. The ruling of the KHRC is a stroking of Pletcher (the responsible party) and the flogging of Mr Veitch. Shame on them, and hang in there, Mr Veitch!!!

Cheers and safe trips to most.........

08 Sep 2011 3:49 PM
barryaksarben

Pletcher IS responsible for the horses in his care - if he cant see his star horses more than once a month his stable is too  Blanking large. Any owner who puts a horse under him must not care too much for it's well being.

08 Sep 2011 3:52 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thank you, Lenny, for continuing to shine light on this sad affair.

08 Sep 2011 4:37 PM
Jon

Lenny nice article.

This thing has gone on for such a long time that i need to be brushed up on some facts, so can anyone refresh me on what if anything the vet. who visits all barns whose horses are entered to race on that day, did a vet visit LAT that morning and if so what were his comments.

Looking at the facts in order since LAT got onto the track:

1) Pletcher knew she was a bit off.

2) Presuming there was a vet in the paddock did he/she not suspect something & if not sure its their duty to pass on their observation to the on track vets.

3) Pletcher makes a remark to Johnny V. that she looks a bit off, so at that time JV probably asked Pletcher or Pletcher may have told JV warm her up and see how she feels.

4)horses are on the track, now the responsibility shifts to the joc., on track vet.

5) whether the on track vets were made aware or not did they not notice what thousands of horse experts noticed on TV and if Veitch got word from the media that the joc said she was not warming up well the I should have been Veitch's duty to alert the on track vet about the situation and after observation the on track vets job was to report to Veitch their observation so Veitch could make a decision whether to scratch LAT or not.

Hence it appears from the get go everyone involved did not handle their part of the situation well & that includes Johnny Velazquez for allowing LAT run around the track where as he should have pulled her up right away.

08 Sep 2011 4:49 PM
Paula Higgins

Lenny, this is an excellent article and I totally agree with every word you wrote. The day this happened I thought this was Todd Pletcher's responsibility and the jockey's. Pletcher is primarily responsible. I am disappointed that he has not accepted responsibility for this and saved a man innocent of wrong doing, angst and a great deal of money. They pay Todd Pletcher the big bucks for a reason. The reason is training and maintaining the welfare and safety of the horse (#1). Winning is #2. I understand these are difficult calls to make with other people's money on the line, but the buck stops with Pletcher who knew something was not right with the horse. Then comes Velazquez. He has accepted the fine, which was the right thing to do. He also knew the horse wasn't right and should have returned to the barn. At least he got the horse home safe. Veitch has no responsibility in this. I hope Veitch takes this to the courts if necessary and asks the court to award him the costs of his legal fees in the bargain. If I was on the jury the KHRC would be toast. Linda in Texas, you made an excellent point. Todd Pletcher is a very fine trainer but because he has so many horses he has to delegate quite a bit. This is one reason why if I owned a horse I would be sending he or she to someone like John Shirreffs who has a much smaller stable. He knows what's going on with every horse, every minute. If that had been his horse, the horse would not have run.

08 Sep 2011 6:42 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Steve Shahinian,

Very well stated, you and I agree and both stated that the laws and rules for scratching a horse need to be revisited and revamped.  Spoken like true Armenian comrades!!!

Are you the very Steve Shahinian who picked out Soldat?  What a great looking horse he is, do you know how his foot issues are now and if he is back training?  I had asked my friend, Rob Whiteley of Liberation Farm, one of the top breeders, if he knew of you and he did.  I am glad you posted on this blog.  Soldat was my "french soldier" and I miss him!  Kudos to Mr. Clark's son for picking out such a classy name for him as well.

08 Sep 2011 7:03 PM
Jon

@ Paula

i admire your comments here on Bloodhorse, but, i beg to differ on one point you made and that is Johnny V brought LAT home safe, if i were the joc and gotten thru all the pre race bru haha(lightly) I would have pulled her up within the first 100 yards, because i think whatever the cause by Johnny letting her run around the track worsened it.

Also, why was Johnny allowed to donate that money to the charity he wanted, that was a fine & to whoever that fine was made they could have chosen a charity, Johnny got away free because now he can deduct that fine from his taxes.....so from his point he did not lose anything.

09 Sep 2011 12:32 AM
Turnbackthealarm

Whose responsibility was it to make sure LAT provided a post race sample? Has Dr. Allday been subpoened to ask about LAT's drug regimen?

TAP as trainer is specifically identified as the one human most responsible for the care of LAT, he let her in the gate.

Johnny V knew she wasn't right, he let her in the gate.

More than eleven vets who were apparently more blind than my houseguests, let her in the gate.

Candy De Bartolo, the owner, wrote a screed against TAP that was published in many racing publications for letting the horse run. Yet, the horse is still in training with TAP. She has never once looked like the same horse since being let in the gate that day.

Veitch who is ultimately responsible to both the betting public and for LAT, also let her in the gate. I understand the difficult position he was in on a huge day, with rumors and only a set of binocs to confirm them.

Ultimately, there are a great many people who let LAT down that day, and John Veitch surely should not be the one at the top of the list.  I for one, would love to get my hands on this horse's REAL vet records.

As for someone's earlier suggestion that the horse's grooms and/or hotwalkers should also be responsible to scratch a horse, are you kidding me?  Most of these workers are not necessarily in this country legally, don't speak English as their native language, make about $10 per hour and would be terrified to lose his/her job.

If Garret Gomez and Jerry Bailey can be intimidated and retaliated against for gate scratching a horse, what do you think the penalty would be for a backstretch worker????

09 Sep 2011 8:24 AM
SUNNY FARM

My filly "Feathers " has been saving her sack of coins for the 2011 Breeders Cup charities this year , but "we" are thinking of ''Mr. John'' (As Feathers calls him ) and would donate her coins to aid in John's defense.

I can still recall very clearly the "L.AT 10 "

debacle from last year...that she was not seen after by the trainer,but sent out to the gate;cramped and staggering.

That she was rushed back to stable with no cooler upon her directly after the race,and in the Nov. chill... and NOT taken to the test barn, nor was a request ever made to do so.

What dismayed me and confused me was the fact that it IS the TRAINER who IS responsible....yet he has never received ANY penalty what-so- ever. This fact is clearly stated in ALL rules of racing in EVERY state...so why was this ignored when others got fines and took the blame ?

This has caused a lot of contention from all I have heard speak on the matter & who are just fans , not horsemen. They DID notice and what they said was not very nice.

Trainer of the year  ?

That should be changed to "most money of the year " and to EXCLUDE the word HORSEMAN....and I don't care "How great " and re-known that trainer is , he did not act on behalf of the horse and do the right thing. Period.

My filly "Feathers " said a whole lot more but I can't repeat what she said here in public, but she did throw her sack of coins over her stall door & say "Send now to Mr. John "...and like Sept 11th ...."We will never forget "

09 Sep 2011 9:17 AM
JerseyBoy

Here is an example of how a truly disastrous situation was handled in England during the Epsom Derby.

The investigation lasted a few hours.

The jockey had expressed concern about the condition of the horse before the start. The trainer,  Aidan O'Brien, knew there might be a problem.

No action was taken, because this is horse-racing. It is not Sunday school.

URL:

www.bloodhorse.com/.../horatio-nelson-euthanized

09 Sep 2011 10:57 AM
Karen in Texas

Jon----You asked about the pre-race vet exams in your comment on 9/8. The names of the vets and some of their comments are in the investigation report published in March. Their duties and notations are on pp. 7&8 of a 21 page document. I'll try to link it.

www.khrc.ky.gov/.../SummaryRecommendation.pdf

09 Sep 2011 11:24 AM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Lenny,

Sometime ago in an earlier blog about Life At Ten and the ensuing fiasco, I wrote that I thought Veitch was being used as a scapegoat.  Legally, I don't know if it is his responsibility, or the track vets to have sent LAT to the test barn.  From what I have read in previous articles, it is not his responsibility to scratch a horse. Logic would tell one that the primary responsibility would be the trainer's, jockey's and vets in the paddock and during the post parade.  In addition, the vets are on the track following the race one would have thought it was their responsibility to send her immediately to the barn based on her lack of performance.  Having said all of that, I still believe it was Pletcher's and Velasquez's primary responsibility to call attention to her behavior and have her checked either in the paddock, post parade or after the race.  

I placed a small bet on Life At Ten - was it going to make me rich if she won, or poor if she lost? No!  My concern is what happened to a wonderful horse and her condition now.  From what I have read about her recent races, she has not returned to form.  Why?  Isn't that the real question?

From where I sit and as you wrote Lenny, Veitch had no part in the affair, or a very, very minor part.  Those who should have been held responsible have not.

I think of Life At Ten, Devil May Care and Uncle Mo and I wonder to myself that is really going on in that barn.

09 Sep 2011 11:58 AM
Ida Lee

Over-reacting? I don't think so.  It's been said a millon times...THE HORSE COMES FIRST..Those of us who watch the sport, not to bet or make money, but because the beauty, grace and talent of these TBs is glorious to watch. Life at Ten is the beloved darling of thousands of people like me. When she was pulled up, I went into a panic thinking something terrible had happened to her. And to this day no one seems to know why she was allowed to get into that gate when it was obvious to anyone who was watching ON TV that there was something wrong with her. I wonder if she would have been allowed to proceed with the race if she hadn't been up for sale the next day???  It's unforgivable!! As is that no one will take responsibility. That is even more upsetting than the incident itself.

09 Sep 2011 12:02 PM
Dennis

what I just read in one of the above articlesJohn velasquez upon

unsaddling Life At Ten, saying to the assistant trainer "that he knew it, he should have scratched the fillY" this article is in this blog, then it definately points to the Jockey for not requesting the scratch of this horse, before the start of the race, as he did said the horse was not warming up properly, and felt lazy. why do people now are blaming John  Veitch?it rests solely on the Jockey "Johnny Boy" and to prove this he was already fined 10.000usd

and then the case was supposed to be closed, so why now the KHRC is still effing aroung John Veitch?

one never knows! probably if he had scratched this horse, then it would be said the horse was ok, and was denied a chance to run for the prize? so hell happens, and personally, most of this trainers horses going a ways back, they are

always having issues, eg,check on his last 3-4 kentucky derby's, what happens,they are the ante-post favorites ok, and then they are advanced bets, and then they become sick before the races, and scratched, and those fools, the advance wagering guys lose their monies,this is the bigger issues than this sick Life At Ten! dont you all think?the game needs a scrub brush, with powerful detergents, and good clean  rinsing water...from the top to the bottom..

09 Sep 2011 1:30 PM
Gin

What a darn mess.  Pletcher and Velasquez should have scratched the horse. Johnny should have had the veterinaritans look her over before going into the gate.  She was starting to tie up.

Bailey had a gate scratch with Noble's Causeway because he was not warming up correctly. Bailey refused to have the horse start in the race.  Zito was pissed at him, raced him with another jock a couple weeks later and the horse was pulled up during the race.  If a horse isn't right they aren't right to race for the public. No one should be fined, if a horse is having a bad day and is racing "off".  

I think it was more Pletcher's and Johnny's fault she even started at all than Veitch's.  

Everyone notice here that Barry Irwin commented too on this disaster?  He has a good point on politics. I don't know if this person is the team Valor Barry but what he says makes sense.

Everyone who bet should still be intitled to their money back!  That's what really urques me!  I didn't bet the race, but to me everyone there that day should have been refunded.  That is bad sportsmanship!  

09 Sep 2011 2:46 PM
Paula Higgins

@Jon, I understand your point and I agree with basically what you are saying. He should have pulled her up right away. My only point is that she didn't break down. But clearly she hasn't been the same horse since. As for the fine being tax deductable, it shouldn't be because it was techincally a fine and not a donation. I am not sure it is deductible. That is a good question for a tax attorney. I know some people are down on Todd Pletcher and I don't think he has taken ownership on this issue either. It makes him look bad. But in general, I believe he takes good care of his horses. I don't think this is a mistake he will make again. The grooms and hotwalkers are absolutely not responsible for scratching this horse. The trainer should ask for their input since they work most closely with the horse, and use that information to make his/her decision.

@sceptre, Veitch was not the first person aware there was something wrong. Pletcher and Velazquez were. They have the primary responsibility for their horse. The KHRC should not be going after people who are peripherally involved. But if they insist on the "shotgun" approach, they should be going after everyone, including the vets., Pletcher et. al, which they are not. So, they do the targeted approach and go after a few individuals. In that case, they should be looking at people with the primary responsibility for the horse's welfare. How Pletcher escaped responsibility, and Veitch doesn't, defies logic. Something about this smells bad. It should be dropped now. Here's what I would say to Linda Underwood: the majority of people here think this is wrong. Do you really want to go to a trial where people just like us will probably come to the same conclusion? I would think not.

09 Sep 2011 2:50 PM
GKM

I don’t know all the facts and I’m not just talking about the horse facts, but the money facts, and/or something someone might not want to be exposed to the public.  I don’t know what these things might be but I do know these things could be.  The trainer is responsible unless there are underlying factors such as someone told them what to do and held something over their head so they had to do it.  Paula Higgins, I agree with you except for your statement, quote “If I was on the jury the KHRC would be toast.”  I have gotten out of jury duty several times by calling them after I received the letter to serve and asked to be taking off the list.  When they asked me the reason why I told them I have already made up my mind and I think the denfent is guilty as hell.  I hope that John fights, wins , cost them a lot of money, and exposes some of the practices that go on.  I believe it’s all about the money and the secrets.

09 Sep 2011 4:34 PM
Paula Higgins

Karen in Texas thanks for the link. Read the report and it is pretty clear where the responsibility lies. Pletcher, McCarthy (if Pletcher saw something amiss you can be sure he did too) and Velazquez. Really surprised they never did blood work until he next day (Pletcher's vet.) Unbelievable they are going after Veitch for anything.

09 Sep 2011 5:43 PM
PipeDope

Why must we constantly deal with incompetent news reporting and incompetent comments here?

The Life at Ten incident DID NOT cost the public any money, no matter what "ezbreeze" said up above.  Any idiot knows that wagering on horse races is pari-mutuel, and thus the net effect on the public was exactly zero dollars and zero cents.

(in fact, the public potentially gained money as the result of the incident, when considering breakage)

Nowthen, the only wrong in the whole picture was the ESPN talking heads (Gary Stevens in particular) having told a world-wide audience about his having "just gotten the word" from a jockey (Velazquez) who then appeared to that audience to go out and 'stiff' his mount.

Velazquez himself did no wrong in protecting an animal who was unwilling to perform to her abilities.  Veitch certainly did no wrong in playing by the rules, and in improvising when and where those rules allowed.

Lets stop pussy-footing around and address the real issues in the Life At Ten incident.  To not do so is to continue to allow horse racing to remain the mockery which it has become in modern times.

09 Sep 2011 5:43 PM
Slew

After watching what happened in the BC Ladies, my personal opinion was that the trainer, the jockey, the track vets, the stewards, and the lack of a post race drug test were all responsible.  I considered it mis-management of  the BC by CD.  

Then it took a full commission how long to decide the same thing, and then turn around and say, "Let's just convict the jockey and the steward.  It's just too confusing for us to do anything fair.  Let's just pretend we care about the bettors by dragging this out."

Looks like a black eye for the BC, CD, and the KHRC.

09 Sep 2011 5:43 PM
Runfast159

Even though I really believe that Velasquez should have voiced his concern with the track vets and had them make the call I'm not sure it would have changed the overall outcome. Even though Life At Ten wasn't acting like herself, and didn't warm up like normal, that wouldn't really have been grounds for a vet scratch without any obvious signs of illness or lameness.  

In the end I believe the responsibility for this particular situation lies mostly with Velasquez and Pletcher, the two who knew she "wasn't right".  You have to put the horses welfare as the number one priority regardless of everything else. No one scratches a perfectly fine animal out of a Grade I race so what really was the problem here?

I can only fault Veitch for not sending her to the test barn, but it doesn't sound like that is a punishable offense, just a lack of judgement.

These horses, and the betting public, deserve better than what LAT got on BC day last year.

09 Sep 2011 6:47 PM
Karen in Texas

Paula H.----Yes, you're welcome-- when I linked the report I noticed something I missed when it was first issued. Did you see where the KHRC vet, Dr. Bentz, reported "a subtle abnormality in her gait" pre-race? Later, the group of pre-race examiners met and determined it was not necessary to re-examine her. Interesting, and definitely not Veitch's fault.

09 Sep 2011 7:39 PM
Jon

@Karen in Texas

Thanks for the link

@ Paula

I agree with your point to my post, but, just to it clear something mentioned there I have never mentioned grooms/hot walkers ever in any of my posts. Yes there are some posts that mention them, but, these people (grooms, hot walkers, etc.) they job is to report to the trainer. In something to this reference I have mentioned that the track vets. Should have reported to John Veitch if they had noticed something wrong with LAT the help him make a decision, but, whether they did or not I'm not sure.

09 Sep 2011 8:30 PM
Paula Higgins

GKM that was a hypothetical comment about being on a jury. If I was called to one, and truly held a firm conviction either way, then I would tell them up front. It doesn't mean you will automatically be diqualifed either. There have been several high profile criminal trials where jurors have declared their positions and still made the jury. Go figure. PipeDope, comments are not incompetent, people are.

09 Sep 2011 8:34 PM
sceptre

Ok, you're Veitch-chief steward. You receive word from a reliable source who reports that JV has told the TV audience that LAT isn't right. Well, what then to do? Do you simply scratch her?-no, since the evidence received is insufficient. Do you simply ignore it-as Veitch in fact did? No. Do you try to accumulate more evidence? This would seem the logical approach. Now, do you assume that the on-track vets would have spotted the problem? No, that's an absurd assumption. Rather, you then alert them to "investigate" the matter-which Veitch failed to do...Once Veitch received that heads-up the ball was in his court-and as cheif steward he had the last word. Instead, Veitch chose to ignore the warning-and do nothing. While others involved may, or may not be also culpable, it is crystal clear that Veitch chose to risk the well-being of LAT. He is not a scapegoat, and deserves to be held accoutable for his INACTION. The fact that others, by their inaction, may have placed Veitch in this position does not, in any way, absolve or lessen the flavor of Veitch's irresponsible behavior. For the life of me, I can't understand why so many find it difficult to grasp this train of logic.  

09 Sep 2011 10:16 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Turnbackthealarm,

I said the groom's word should be considered.  I don't care what language they voice their concerns in but if they notice something not right I meant they should speak up and alert the trainer of a possible unhealthy situation.  No one better than them to know the horse's gait, character, demeanor, temperament, breathing pattern, etc.  I didn't mean they run up to the stewards and suggest a scratch, I meant their viewpoint needs to be considered via the respective trainer.  The bottom line is a revision is needed in the rule.  Lasix, itself, seems to be the main culprit and it's side effects and reaction on LAT were overlooked by the responsible parties, trainer and then jockey.

09 Sep 2011 10:55 PM
Needler in Virginia

Gin, you're right; Barry Irwin is, indeed, Barry of Team Valor. Love him or hate him, he's not afraid to say what he thinks, and for that he gets huge props from me.

For Pete's sake, guys, at the end of the day Todd Pletcher is being paid HUGE bucks to do what he does, and if THIS is how he cares for his horses, then I'll send mine to a NOT big-box trainer. . Pletcher proved, that BC weekend, if not since, that being a big-box trainer only guarantees that your horses will live in big barns. I seem to remember that he had another favorite going off on Saturday... errmm, oh, yes! That one was Quality Road who ran only a bit better than Life at Ten ran on Friday.

Since when do stewards bear the responsibility for the condition of horses leaving their stalls and heading to the saddling paddock or walking ring? Todd Pletcher's job is training and caring for Life at Ten, Quality Road, Flibbertyjibit Sam, et. al., AND to do the best job for his owners and horses that he can do. THAT'S ALL. If this is his best, then racing is pretty sad, after all.

LIke I said before: cheers and safe trips to almost all..........

09 Sep 2011 11:23 PM
Paula Higgins

@Karen In Texas, yes, I saw that about Dr.Bentz. ITA with your point totally. @sceptre, the problem with your point of view is that it isn't logical. You jump to where Veitch enters the scene, peripherally, and ignore everything leading up to it. You cannot absolve everyone else of their responsibilities to LAT when they were aware there was some kind of problem. As Lenny entitled this thread, he is being made a SCAPEGOAT. He is not the one who is primarily respsonsible for this situation. He did not even SEE the horse. He had no physical contact with the horse whatsoever, unlike the others involved. They noted something was wrong. Veitch had every right to expect them to act in the best interest of the horse as jockey and trainer. Since they felt the horse was o.k. to run why should he have been the one to say "No?" He expected them to make the appropriate decision and had no reason at that time to think they wouldn't. Whatever information he had was nebulous at best (from the t.v. for goodness sakes) and not enough to make any decision one way or another. In the sequence of events, Veitch was down the totem pole. To single him out of all the people involved, as one of the two people responsible for this debacle, is ludicrous. It's like the powers that be said eeny, meeny, miney, mo, out goes Y-O-U and that's how they decided. What rubbish.

10 Sep 2011 1:11 AM
Alex'sBigFan

Lenny your blog brought out some great people.  We got Barry Irwin of Team Valor, we got bloodstock agent Steve Shahinian who picked Soldat, we got a veterinarian who posted.  Excellent views here.  We all seem to agree the trainer needs to assume responsiblity and draconian laws need to be reviewed.

Time for some proactive thinking in the industry instead of reactions to fiascos.

10 Sep 2011 1:37 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Schulman,

Thank you for keeping this situation in the spotlight.  I was appalled when they loaded Life At Ten (LAT) in the gate that day.  Even I could see that something was wrong.  She did not look like a filly ready to run anywhere, much less in the Ladies Classic.  

Almost a year later and still nobody steps forward to say what was truly wrong with Life At Ten.  Someone must know, surely a valuable filly like her should have been worked up by a vet to Identify Her Ailment especially after that fiasco.  I seem to remember that Life At Ten took a looong time off after that, and I watched her first race back just hoping to see the same filly we saw before the Breeders Cup.  Someone DOES know what happened, and the real investigation should start there, with discovery.  What was really wrong with her?

I don’t even think that Velazquez should have been fined until the truth was discovered, like someone said I would like to see LAT’s REAL vet record.  At least Velazquez had the sense to take the fine and move on.  I have always maintained that Velazquez would have been under too much pressure to race her, and would have been vilified if he called for the scratch.  The fact that he did not prevail, or whatever you want to call it, was the best call made that day.

Before that day I didn’t have an opinion about Pletcher one way or the other.  I just saw him as one of a few household-name, big-time trainers.  Based on the size of his stable he probably delegates most of the actual training to his staff.  Pletcher saw her in the saddling paddock, and I have always maintained that he is responsible.  

I stated in a comment earlier this year that I don’t see  

***What Part of Training Involves Sitting There In The Stands, In An Expensive Suit, While A Sick Horse Goes To The Gate***?  

It really burns me up that Pletcher has gone unpunished for this.  I felt this way before I learned, in your article today, that state law that holds him responsible.

Veitch has already shown class because he has not thrown Pletcher under the bus where he belongs.  Nobody loves a lawyer unless they need one, and right now even 50K in legal fees has not discovered the truth.  

I am with Barry Irwin regarding politics on this one, and steve shahinian makes some good points, too;

“…authorities should instead revisit the protocols that attend scratching horses during the last 30 minutes before a race to see whether a repeat of the underlying event can be avoided…”

Dennis said it best; “the game needs a scrub brush, with powerful detergents, and good clean  rinsing water...”

Slew pointed out another thing in writing that the situation was “mis-management of the BC by CD.”

About the grooms and hot-walkers, they knew that something was wrong.  I bet they even told Pletcher, or whoever Pletcher delegated to do his job.  The problem grooms and hot-walkers face is the same one Velazquez faced, taking a stand to scratch her could have cost them more than they could afford.

Sceptre-I don’t agree with everything you wrote, but I do grasp your train of logic, and while it isn’t the light at the end of the tunnel, you make a good point in saying that Veitch should have done something, even if it was wrong.

10 Sep 2011 9:22 AM
SUNNY FARM

ALEX'S BIG FAN; Excellent comment.

The original racing rule was NOT followed. IE: Trainer is responsible.

In lieu of that I am thinking : "Why not fine everyone involved, from the owner on down & make that $5K  each party.''

Give the money to B.C. charity, Disabled Jockeys fund et al.

It would avoid a lot of hassles and ensure that everyone paid a small part in the fine AND the blame.

Next time enforce the rules and laws that have always been in place.

10 Sep 2011 9:54 AM
Matthew W

It was incredible television, I watched it live and was fortunate to have the winner of the race--how that's not the jock's fault I cannot fathom! He SAID she was NOT right--then he walked her out of there--and she's a speed horse, so it looked like this: Jock tells everybody his horse isn't right/jock loads into the gate/jock procedes to take her out of the race immediately! I mean, we're talking about a professional--right?! Then BE one--Johnny V needs to own this, and own it ALL! And that's Johnny V--not John V!

10 Sep 2011 1:48 PM
Paula Higgins

Dawn in MN don't agree that Veitch bears responsibility for this at all. One person "should have done something" but didn't and he has gotten off without so much as a mention. The other one got fined, but the fine was excessive. Veitch had very little information to make any decision one way or another. They need to look at procedures in place whenever there is a question about a horse's fitness. As it is currently, it is too vague and not quantifiable. Make the guidelines/chain of responsibility crystal clear, formalize them on paper, make sure a vet. has input, and put the horse first. That would be a positive outcome from all this and one everyone could respect. The sport could do itself alot of good by using this as learning experience to improve the safety of the horses and the profile of horse racing instead of prolonging this witch hunt.

10 Sep 2011 3:01 PM
WildKat

I, as a Trainer, have never let my horses run without making sure they were ready. In March I had one scratched as he banged a shin on the stall gate at Turfway and it was "suspect". Heartbreaking as he was, as he was ready to run. It took a lot to get him there! But I chose to call in 2 other vets after the state vet looked him over, and chose to scratch. That was MY job as a trainer! End result, the injury was minor but could have been major if he had run. I have even scratched one 2 yrs ago that had a hair line fracture that other vets had missed, but I had noticed something slightly off. There was no heat or swelling, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It took an old vet with sharp eyes and mind to find it (fracture was only 2 cm long). I had to smile as I knew if he had ran that next day, his cannon bone would have split and I was able to prevent it. It's not always easy to catch everything, but a trainer makes the call on most counts. Better to put the horse on the Vets list than to risk hurting the horse.

10 Sep 2011 3:57 PM
Paula Higgins

Well said Wildkat. Nice to see your comments.

10 Sep 2011 9:45 PM
nedjohnsonsux

Scapegoat my gluteus maximus. He knew she wasn't right and didn't scratch her. He wasn't bold or noble, he was at best lazy and inept and at worst crooked. Either way he should be summarily dismissed as he defrauded the public and hurt a defenseless animal he had a duty to protect.

10 Sep 2011 10:06 PM
Bellwether

"SHE WAS A BIT OFF"...HOW BLIND CAN humans BEE???...AFTER ALL THIS TIME IT STILL $MEEL$ VERY BAD HEAR N VIRGINIA!!!..."IT WAS A PUBLIC $CREW N"!!! LIVE ON TV BABY!!!...ty...

11 Sep 2011 5:33 AM
Bellwether

ps...& TY WILDKAT FROM THIS CAMP...TIME IS ON OUR SIDE...

11 Sep 2011 5:36 AM
Dennis

Personally,I would like to think that John Veitch is a respectable

man, and not knowing him, only saw him at New York racetracks training

horses,I always respected him, as he carried himself as most of us should, and appears to be positive

and generally a good person.

a few years ago, John Veitch was the chief operation steward at the same Kentucky Circuit, and that year during the Kentucky Derby, he had all derby runners subjected to a saliva test, and no one gave him credit for this, he is a good steward, and should not be blamed for this Life At Ten "Fiasco"

this is your homework racing fans..

just look up the year when John Veitch had these tests conducted, to prove my argument..probably the year when Pletcher ran 5 horses, in that year's Kentucky Derby, and they all finished off the board

like 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th...

do we all now remember?

John Veitch is a great Steward, and the only thing why they are now fighting him could be when he initiated those drug tests before

the Derby,and they were not happy, and were awaiting for something to try to hang John Veitch with, but even this cannot find John Veitch Guilty of not doing his Job properly, and it now seems that someone is carrying a grudge for John Veitch, apparently one of those in high places, whose horse was tested, and want to now return the favor to John Veitch, but I am

in JOhn Veitch's corner and as a public Steward, I will now declare

all clear for John Veitch, Mr.John, have a nice dinner this evening, and keep smiling,as they cannot touch you, for their own

incompetence, and failure to report to the track veterinarians

(the Jockey riding this Horse)

that the horse was sick, or ate too

much, and had a full stomach, and probably had no interest to race on that day, and therefore should advise to have the Filly scratched..this now by me., ends this......

and sends this witch hunt back to the Barn where this all started..

12 Sep 2011 12:50 PM
Giddyup

For his part in the LAT fiasco the industry presents Pletcher with the Eclipse award. Is it any wonder fans of the NFL, NASCAR or MLB look at thoroughbred racing's attempts to gain mainstream respect and giggle?

13 Sep 2011 7:41 AM

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