By Ray Paulick
John Veitch, chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, told Thoroughbred Times that stewards plan to take no action against jockey John Velazquez or trainer Todd Pletcher in the matter of Life At Ten, who was eased in Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic after both Velazquez and Pletcher admitted during a live pre-race ESPN telecast the multiple Grade 1-winning daughter of Malibu Moon was behaving abnormally.
Life At Ten never ran a step in the race, and she was found to have an elevated temperature and white blood cell count the following morning.
“Apparently it was incubating and it showed itself at race time,” Veitch told the Times. “Todd had told (Velazquez) that she seemed dull in the paddock. He said to warm her up and see how she feels.”
Veitch told reporter Frank Angst the mare's connections speculated Life At Ten was “distracted” by the atmosphere (new track, large crowd, lights) and they hoped she would regain her focus when the race began.
“When that didn't happen, Johnny made the right decision in protecting her,” Veitch said. “At that point he was sure something was wrong and he took care of her. We do our best to protect the public, but this is an athletic competition and her connections wanted to give her every chance.”
More than $7 million was wagered in win-place-show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets on the Ladies' Classic, with millions more wagered in multi-race wagers.
Veitch did not address whether the stewards erred in not calling the commission veterinarian stationed at the starting gate, after being alerted to the on-air comments of Velazquez by ESPN producer Amy Zimmerman. Velazquez told Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey, now working as an ESPN racing analyst, that Life At Ten was “not warming up the way she normally does” just minutes before the race. ESPN analyst Randy Moss said the mare was “choppy” and “stiff” during her warmups, and Pletcher admitted some concern to ESPN reporter Jay Privman that Life At Ten was abnormally quiet in the paddock. He left his usual position in the horsemen's lounge in the Churchill Downs tunnel and went trackside to observe Life At Ten. Velazquez repeated his concerns a few minutes later in a second interview. Neither Pletcher nor Velazquez asked one of the eight veterinarians on-track to examine Life At Ten.
Presumably, the decision by stewards not to take any action against Pletcher or Velazquez does not mean the investigation is over. Dick Brown, spokesman for the KHRC, told the Paulick Report on Tuesday that “multiple people within KHRC are actively involved in the investigation. All reports will ultimately come to Lisa Underwood,” the commission's executive director.
The Paulick Report has urged the Breeders' Cup to conduct its own independent review of the events surrounding Life At Ten. Breeders' Cup CEO Greg Avioli could not be reached for comment.
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