LIFE AT TEN: Kentucky Stewards to Take No Action

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:48am

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.

Read about the stewards' decision at Thoroughbred Times


  • Shuvee

    The fox guards the hen house. ESPN producer TOLD Veitch what they’d learned via broadcast yet Veitch never relayed that info to any vet. This is a travesty! I hope whomever has a mutuel ticket on LAT thinks to sue (on behalf of all bettors out here) the KHRC for fraud.

  • Lost In The Fog

    This is ridiculous!

  • josh lamp

    Shouldn’t the track vet be the one at fault for letting the horse load if it looked bad on the track?

  • Margrethe

    Stewards, trainer & track vet are responsible.
    Stewards were warned and took no action.
    Life At Ten should have been scratched.
    Since they ran her anyway, she should have been declared a non-starter and the gamblers refunded.
    She just hobbled around the track and took their money. And that didn’t begin in the saddling paddock.

  • How is it that JV would not take Jerry Bailey’s comments to heart? Although Bailey wasn’t on the horse, way too many people came to the same conclusion. This shameless tragedy was exacerbated by the stupidity of the horse’s connections. Did they state their claim with straight faces? The ‘lights’ distracted her – what, did she go into a trance or lapse into depression? From the lights? WTF? I wonder if this horse will eventually be spit out and disgarded to slaughter because the connections certainly don’t care about her welfare: GREED led this ridiculous situation. Veitch: why don’t you grow a pair of balls? How about a class-action lawsuit by the $7mm pool to force these knuckleheads to wake up.

  • Steve Zorn

    quis custodiet ipsos custodios?

  • A little home cooking I guess let’s sweep it under the rug people will forget , well guess what your just going to lose betters you fools . Stewards wear ties , they must be choking the oxygen Off to there brains . These retards sure know how to drive people away from the game. Didn’t this retarded steward train horses . Think they call it the old boys club, you watch my bad test I’ll watch yours.

  • tonyaz

    I had hope Secretariat would bring new people to the “GAME”, I hoped Zenyatta would win and bring racing back to its wishful days of the past. Now I understand why there are so few bettors left, and why tracks count on slot machines to support their little operation. Even on Breeders Cup day where the best of the best are supposed to be involved, things like the LAT situation are allowed to happen. No drug test, no investigations, millions lost, and nothing happens. This industry cannot fail soon enough for me! God bless the horses who give their all for our greed. And racing wonders why their grandstands are so empty? Got my heart broke for the last time and I did not even have a wager on LAT. Racing you are a fraud. Time to focus on the things that really matter in life. Better to fund disabled veterans, abused children, etc etc to live the real dream, rather than rely on the false hope of horse racing who is in total denial.

  • MikeD

    Disgraceful. There should be an OUTSIDE investigation into this matter, not one done by the stewards, who were part of the screw up.

  • tonyaz

    PS with the new take out rate in California, will the Doug O’Neill hearing ever take place for his last positive? Or are they just waiting for Steve A to send his trainer out to Santa Anita to stable a bunch of horses in case O’Neill plays hard ball and decides not to run his large stable to fill race cards?

  • Aunt Bea

    Lou Reed: “Stick a Fork In It, It’s Done.”

  • dray33

    I used to think it was all foolproof, the Stewards, trainer & track vets who are responsible. I had a filly YANKED out of a race for no reason, all the while the track vet claiming “she’s off”. She was PERFECT, not sorta perfect, but PERFECT… and 5 days later went on to win a stakes race at a different track. You wonder who paid the VET that day?

    The asylum is run by the inmates. What does that make me as I continue to play this game? Just an idiot, that’s what. Another Fool on the Hill.

  • Fred

    Nothing to see here -says the great OZ

    Thank you Ray Paulick for being the only Media guy to really shed light on this.
    Post race drug test results anyone??

    what a travesty

  • high stakes

    What about Quality Road??? The press reported all week the horse was not traveling well! Why wasn’t he scratched? Does Todd know what he’s looking at in the mornings?

  • ThomasMc

    The Paulick report has urged the breeders cup to have its own independent review.So now the stewerds are supposed to do what tv personalitys tell them or what an internet blog says. You don’t believe velazquez and pletcher? If every horse that acted quiet in the post parade was scratched you would be scratching 3 or 4 a day. What do you think they were trying to do?These horses are living creatures they don’t always do what we hope’ that’s why they call it gambling.

  • Trappeddownontherail

    Predictably stupid outcome. Veitch et al were investigating themselves really because they seem to have known as much as Pletcher and JV about what was going on and let LAT run anyway.

    If total betting on LAT, when you include the exotics, totaled $10 million then you have suspected fraud on a scale large enough to interest the FBI, surely?

  • joe

    “…this is an athletic competition and her connections wanted to give her every chance.”

    B.S. Give her every chance to do what? Run with an unknown ailment, knowing full well how fast horses can fall apart and even die when stressed while ill? The truth is that they wanted to give themselves every chance… To grab big purse + championship. The mare was miserable long before she was loaded in the gates. That race could have turned out much worse.

    A BC inquiry cannot be independent.

    An independent inquiry can only be conducted by outside investigators hired by outsiders to bring justice to the abused LAT and cheated bettors. Would the outcome of the KY RC have been different if LAT had collapsed or triggered a catastrophic spill? Will racing get away with that too because all of them were lucky? How long can racing continue that way?

    How is LAT? Did John Veitch and members of the KY RC visit her?

  • Rotund Haberdasher

    This is from the Ky Racing Commission’s press release in yesterday’s Paulick Report story.

    “The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission takes seriously the safety of horses and jockeys – before, during and after each race. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission firmly believes its veterinarians and racing stewards acted properly in all instances regarding this race.”

    The battle has been lost before it ever began.

    Ray, you might as well go back to baying at the moon. You’re not going to get anywhere. And as far as the Breeder’s Cup is concerned, don’t look for any decisiveness from them. They will claim that “we’re just tenants renting Churchill Downs and borrowing their stewards.”

    The crime was bad enough. The cover-up is worse.

    What are they afraid of finding out?

  • joe

    high stakes: Pletcher learned the training business primarily under a do or die trainer. He saw it all, he did it all. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t quit, he didn’t blow the whistle, he built his business upon that experience.

  • Steve Zorn

    Based on Life at Ten’s odds of 3.9-1 and the sum of money in all pools involving the race, there was probably about $1.8 million in tickets that included Life at Ten. Shouldn’t that be enough to interest some lawyer in bringing a class action?

  • ThomasMc

    Let’s sue every trainer owner and jockey of every horse that ever pulled up in a race.I don’t think you people have any consept of what goes on when your riding a horse.Because this was a breeders cup race and a lot of money was bet the rules change.We need a little more common sense here.

  • Don Reed

    “Breeders’ Cup CEO Greg Avioli could not be reached for comment.”

    I believe he can be contacted by looking under Churchill Downs management’s pet rock.

  • alobano

    stay after them Ray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ray Paulick


    First, let me say there are extremists who are out of line suggesting without any proof that Life At Ten was doped, drugged, etc. I have no reason to believe this whatsoever and wish people would avoid making such speculative comments.

    I also understand, having been covering this sport for the better part of 30 years, that we can never prevent every mishap or scratch every lame or sick horse from a race.

    The point here is that the stewards received notice from a very credible source that the second wagering choice in the Ladies’ Classic was not warming up normally. All the stewards had to do was communicate what they had either been told or saw or TV (the Velazquez interview with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey) with the team of eight veterinarians on the ground. What on earth were those vets there for?

    If the vets had been told to take a look at Life At Ten, and they determined that she was fit or sound to race, at least we could say the system worked to the extent that it could. We have to trust their judgment, because they are the professionals. But for them not to be alerted to the situation is, in my opinion, inexcusable and puts those equine veterinarians in a very bad light unnecessarily and unfairly.

  • J

    This decision is not surprising. It’s a sham, though.

    Johnny V. should have thrown in the towel. Raised the white flag.

    One of my favorite Johnny V. rides was on a Richard Dutrow claimer at Saratoga back in the mid 2000s. It smelled like a rat, but this runner was the public’s choice. The horse ran at most a quarter of a mile and was pulled up.

    How about a spreadsheet of all the trainer positives? Not talking the minor league trainers, but those on the equivalence of AAA and Major League Baseball. Trainers who run on NYRA, Churchill and the major California tracks. There is little punishment. Steve Asmussen’s operation never wavered when he was gone. It was status quo.

    Look at Rudy Rodriguez on the NYRA circuit. If he was a Major League Baseball player, you’d be talking a guy who sits the bench for a decade and appears in a handful of games as a base stealer. He has won an astounding number of races. What’s been interesting, though, is Gary Contessa has not won too much in the past 6 months. He’s about to rev up on the AQU inner. His runners help to pad the NYRA balance sheet during the cold climes.

    Castellano and Borel were sent to the principal’s office and told to go write their names on the board ten times instead of being suspended and/or expelled. A ride like the one on that Friday should warrant being banned from the second day of the Breeders’ Cup, not some go sit in the corner punishment. The former head of NYRA has Castellano signed, sealed and wants delivery in Hong Kong.

    The best analogy I can give about racing is that it’s Wall St., Enron, AIG and all the rest on an oval. The slots feeders are the bailout people, not exactly the federal government. Another analogy could be it’s like Major League Baseball with McGwire, Sosa, Palmiero, Clemens and the rest of the chemistry corps before the Mitchell Report.

  • Marilyn

    now tell me folks, did you really expect something to actually be done about this? I didn’t. this is the racing deals with problem situations: they don’t deal with it. sad; very sad.

  • Ciela

    I’m calling my Senator…seriously.

  • equine

    Not all vets are excusable Ray. Let’s face it, there is supposed to be a vet watching those horses warm up & loading in the gate. When non-horse people can tell that there is something wrong with a horse, the vets would have to be the three blind mice.

    As anticipated, there will be no responsibility or accountability here; a thorough investigation by the AG’s office would have to occur and that will not happen.

    I concur speculation re drugging is inappropriate but the trainer’s reference to the reaction to the lasix injection given 4 HOURS before post time indicates there was plenty of time and opportunity to determine if LAT was in a condition to race. No. 1 rule is “trainer responsibility.” That the stewards did not request a post race test which at the minimum would indicate if lasix was inadvertently administered at too high of a dose resulting in electrolyte imbalances and muscle cramping suggests their suspicions may have been elsewhere.

  • I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: The Breeders’ Cup races will NOT be a “world championship” until they are run free of race-day medication. The excuse “she must have had a reaction to the lasix” should never, never be allowed to be used as a crutch for a trainer like it is being used here.

  • ThomasMc

    Well said Ray.

  • Equinevet


    Post 24 was very well stated. I really hope that a dialogue is ongoing because this was first and foremost a huge and very public error in communication, that as you say, it places the vets involved at a disadvantage.

    I was very uncomfortable watching the coverage (to the point of letting a string of expletives “fly so free”). In my opinion and based on my experience, this should not have happened. Having said that, it is possible that the view from the camera coverage gave a slightly different picture than what was observable live down on the track. If that is the case, it even more clearly underscores the need for COMMUNICATION AND RESPONSE.

    It is very true that we cannot eliminate all unfit entries in racing. Medicine in any case, and certainly rapid clinical diagnosis, are not perfect endeavors, but we must really try to understand WHY those of us watching, with many lifetimes of experience managing racing and other athletic horses (Christ just add my years plus Jerry Bailey’s) saw a picture that was different from what the gate vets saw. Further, for reasons of safety and integrity, THE WHY MUST BE ADDRESSED in a manner that minimizes the possibility of this happening in the future.

    An issue raised in comments from an earlier PR post on this (in reference to a blog post by Garret Gomez commenting on a gate vet blowing off concerns he raised about one of his mounts) is really concerning. Although the chain of events in the BC was a bit different, a similar scenario evolved. One hopes that rider concerns are being taken seriously by the vets (the GG post suggests this may not always be the case). They certainly should prompt immediate and thorough evaluation of the horse-if no problem is identified, then so be it, but they should be taken seriously. As we have see, failure to do so compromises safety and integrity.

  • BigMike

    Guys, did anyone EVER think they were going to take action against golden boy pletcher? Todd can do NO wrong at any track in the country. If he would ever have a charge leveled against him, he will take his barn of horses and head out of town. NO track wants that as there continues to be a shortage of horses across the country. Lets just say it the way it is, trainers and racetracks do NOT care about the betting public. They say they need us, but this event certainly will make me take my $ elsewhere.

  • David

    You know that fence around the perimeter of CD and other tracks isn’t there to keep anyone from getting in . . . it’s there to keep the inmates from getting out.

  • I. Davis

    You can rest assured this wouldn’t have happened to a horse trained by John Shirreffs. Definitely someone, Todd, JV, or whomever, should have alerted the vet and have LAT checked out before loading in the gate. It’s a slap in the face…total disrespect for the bettor, let alone the disconcern for the safety of the horse.

    One other thought…….with Quality Road not running well and LAT not running at all and appearing in a trance, is it possible someone deliberately drugged these horses to knock them out of their respective races?? Stranger things have happened, and I recall Larry Jones having these type of issues at Delaware Park a few years ago…….a disgruntled employee or whomever could be behind these two horses doing so poorly during the BC. A full investigation needs to happen and full disclosure of the results. I also agree w/the writer above….do away with ALL race day drugs…including Lassix!

    Bottom line is this………….racing sorely needs, MUST HAVE, a Racing Commissioner…….just like every other legitimate sport in the world. If this doesn’t occur very soon, racing will continue its down-hill spiral. I love racing, and I’d hate to see that happen. However, there appears to be no one out there listening or caring enough about the sport to save it from going over the cliff…..very sad.

  • eeebayou

    Is there any doubt that in countries such as England, France, Japan, Hong Kong, etc. that this incident would be a front-page scandal? I’m well aware of the significant differences in race day medication laws, but at least these countries are aware of the fact that GAMBLING stirs the drink and what happened in the race was a border-line crime.

  • matt m

    #32.. you don’t know Todd, or the way he runs a stable. This issue has nothing to do with Todd. Todd and his staff are tremendous caretakers. You are just yapping to yap.

  • Sam

    Posters 1,3,4,5 must have lost money. (It’s called gambling, kids.) Then I stopped reading. No. 5 says it was a “shameless tragedy”, so he must have lost the most. Puhleeze. JV tried to fault the vets at first and then backtracked. The whole incident was unfortunate, but to put the onus on the KHRC vets to gate scratch LAT, absent any input from rider, trainer or pre-race exam concerns, puts them in an impossible position. I’m pretty sure they are not hanging on Jerry Bailey’s or Randy Moss’s words. Their primary concern is and should be for the horse not the gambler. JV should have asked the horse to be scratched or looked at and when he did not do so, should have kept his mouth shut. Bailey should not have sensationalized it either by his comments. Lots of athletes play hurt. You never know what will happen. I still remember Unbridled in the 1991 classic coming in third but looking very lame while doing so. Boy, I loved that guy.

  • D. Masters

    Mr. Veitch, vet, jock and trainer:

    Thank you for another contribution to the death of American TB racing. It appears you won’t pay in this life. I hope you all pay in the next because dirty, unethical, greedy, pseudo-stupid people are supposed to pay….eventually. Have a safe and great trip.

    #34…exactamundo….but you won’t get any status quo trolls or government to acknowledge the principle.

  • Glimmerglass

    @ #37 “Sam”: yes wagering on horses is a gamble. However it isn’t and should not be some three card monty experience where by you are a sucker just for playing.

    It is absurd to suggest whatsoever that the wagering public shouldn’t have bet on LAT. To defend a system for not giving the wagering public a fair shake (by pulling her from the field) is asinine. While the nuance may be lost on you there is a tremendous difference from the LAT circumstances vs. waging on a long shot and losing.

    Further as you said “[the KHRC vets] primary concern for the horse not the gambler” – I don’t have an issue with that statement. So it makes it all the more insulting that such a pro would send out that horse who was eased and didn’t finish. It certainly wasn’t in LAT’s best interest to break from the gate.

  • Leslie

    I’m so glad the discussion here continues and hope that Mr. Paulick will continue to shine a the brightest possible spotlight on this incredible travesty. It was, in my view, among the most appalling and inexcusable displays of incompetence and ineptitude by every person involved that I’ve ever seen.

    I did not have a bet on any of the races, but I do know horses and I am completely astounded that the vets on site did not discern the very obvious physical distress that this filly was in during her warm-up. The minute Jerry Bailey called attention to her during the broadcast and I looked at the TV screen, I saw classic symptoms indicating she was tying up. The fact that the vets claim they didn’t simply boggles the mind. Mr. Pletcher’s and Mr. Valenzuela’s actions are equally suspect.

    It appears that most of the people responsible for the misjudgments and poor decisions that were made here are licensed professionals. There should be severe consequences for all of them, and if the racing officials in the commonwealth of Kentucky aren’t willing to fulfill their obligation to protect the safety of the horses and the interests of the betting public by ensuring that its employees and licensees fulfill do their jobs, then an entity outside this industry and outside Kentucky with the power to oversee the sport nationally, enforce its rules and mandate the responsible performance of those authorized to participate needs to be established to ensure that they do.

  • LetItRideMike

    As someone whose best plays come from being able to spot horses who arent warming up well and betting against them, I would like to point out that no horseplayer who took the time to watch the horses was harmed, they actually had a great advantage by being able to throw out a 7/2 shot with confidence. And if they had access to the ESPN sound, it was a huge advantage. Anypne who bet on Life At Ten couldnt be bothered to learn the craft of horseplaying includes watching the horses and what to look for. As such, they dont deserve to be treated as wounded. The way it worked out, all sharp players were given a big edge, imo. No complainta from this corner. And if you start scratching all horses on the basis of bad warmups, ypu are going to see handle drop and have alot of upset owners who brought all their friends out to see their horse run, only to have him scratched when nothing is wrong with him in the vast majority of cases.

  • Glimmerglass

    #41 ‘LetItRideMike’ said “Anypne who bet on Life At Ten couldnt be bothered to learn the craft of horseplaying includes watching the horses and what to look for.”

    Are you serious? So is everyone, everywhere is supposed to wait for the last minute to place a wager based upon the post parade? Have you ever been to a race track in person for a big race? I’m not talking Turf Paradise on a Tuesday afternoon but say Saratoga on Travers Day. You cannot get to a window or mutual machine on a moments notice. Its logistically impossible so don’t be so quick to bash you fellow punters for having wagered minutes before you.

    I for one do not sit at home with TVG on waiting until the last second to make a wager “just in case” I see something amiss on tv. Further to bash those people who put money into a wager like a Pick Six, Three, etc which has to be done before the post parade is dumb.

  • Daniel

    We demand justice now! Ray keep pressing, the public, the horses, the owners deserve respect! For the sake of the game!

  • J
    Well said – this IS the same as AIG, Enron, Worldcon etc.

    Mr. Paulick
    Come on – are you kidding? The first thing out of Todd’s mouth was a comment about Lasix which reveals a drug mindset. Perhaps you are right about about extreme comments but I AM speculating without proof – Pletcher gets no slack from me, he was busted-in-the-2008-Breeders Cup as you reported in 2008. For Todd to mention Lasix reveals the sick mindset of this sport. Of all things he mentions a DRUG that is banned by every country on the planet EXCEPT THE USA – it is a bad signal to a public that already holds the ‘perception’ that we are all dopers and the game is rigged. If anything he certainly inspired my speculation as much as the fact that the horse WAS NOT EVEN TESTED.

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