(CN) – The former chief steward for thoroughbred horse racing in Kentucky is seeking to reopen the case that led to his suspension and ultimate dismissal for actions he failed to take during the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs.
The Breeders’ Cup is a series of races held over two days that constitute the world championships for the sport.
While the annual “triple crown” series comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes is better known to the general public in the U.S., each of the Breeders’ Cup races is a multi-million dollar stakes race that goes a long way to determining everything to eventual breeding fees to which juvenile horses will be steered toward the derby and international championships like the Epsom Derby in Britain and the Dubai World Cup.
The Breeders’ Cup is held at a different thoroughbred track each year, and in 2010, its 27th edition, the event was held at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs, where John Veitch served as chief steward.
Immediately after the event, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission suspended Veitch for allegedly violating four rules of racing involving Life At Ten, a highly-regarded competitor in the Ladies’ Classic.
Life at Ten was the winner of multiple stakes races prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and going into the race, expectations for her were high.
But as the horses headed out to the track, Jockey John Velazquez told ESPN analyst Jerry Bailey during an on-air interview that the filly was not warming up properly.
Veitch, who was informed of Velazquez’ comments, did not alert state or Breeders’ Cup veterinarians stationed around the track to examine the horse. Life At Ten was never a factor in the race. She was retired in 2011, and is now a prized breeding horse.
Veitch has always maintained that the rules he is accused of violating are discretionary, and that all he was guilty of was exercising his own judgment.
He was suspended for one year, began serving it immediately, and filed an appeal to have it either over turned or reduced to a fine.
In a petition filed in the Franklin Circuit Court June 9, Veitch asked the court to reopen the case, after the commission vote to uphold administrative hearing officer Robert Layton’s original finding.
The commission did agree to reduce the suspension, which Veitch has already served, from one year to nine months, but he continues to contest the case, believing he was unfairly sanctioned.
The commission’s decision said each of three remaining violations carried a three-month suspension.
But in the petition, Veitch’s attorney, Tom Miller, of Miller, Griffin & Marks in Lexington, Ky., argues the commission did not meet the apportioning standard by giving three months for each individual violation.
Miller and Veitch content the commission made no effort to allocate the penalties to the individual alleged violations.
The petition also notes that two of the five original violations Veitch was facing were thrown out by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
“Veitch gets the credit for the time he served,” Miller told Courthouse News. “The commission suggested the sentence be reduced to nine months. A judge said go back and reconsider your decision and break it down among the violations. The racing commission now came up with a third order, again, a nine-month suspension. They allocated the time three months for each of the violations, and that’s what I’ve appealed.”
This is the third appeal Veitch has filed over his suspension.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission respond to a call from Courthouse News requesting comment.
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