Life At Ten: Did Stewards Ignore ESPN Interview?

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:48am

By Ray Paulick

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is nearing completion of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Life At Ten, who was eased as the 7-2 second betting choice in Friday's $2-million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic just minutes after her jockey, John Velazquez, said during a live horseback interview with ESPN that she was not warming up normally.

Life At Ten was not drug tested after the race, though blood was drawn for TCO2 testing and could be used for testing purposes. KHRC spokesman Dick Brown said trainer Todd Pletcher disclosed that the morning after the race Life At Ten's temperature “was well above normal” and that a subsequent blood test showed an “elevated white blood cell count.” According to Pletcher, Life At Ten's temperature was normal before the Ladies' Classic. Pletcher previously speculated Life At Ten may have had a reaction to her Lasix shot or tied-up (cramped) prior to the race.

The KHRC spokesman said chief steward John Veitch, a former trainer, has interviewed Pletcher, track veterinarian Dr. Bryce Peckham, and the track's starter and outrider. He has yet to interview jockey Velazquez, who according to the KHRC did not bring the filly's condition to the attention of the three veterinarians positioned near the starting gate. Pletcher was quoted immediately after the racing as saying Velazquez did say something to the vets about Life At Ten.

“I told (Velazquez) when we left the paddock that I was concerned about the way she saddled. She was abnormally quiet; almost sedated-like. I told him to make sure and warm her up well. … That's a tough position for Johnny to be in. He asked the vets to look at her. It's unfortunate because of all the horses we brought over here today none were doing better than her. At the last minute, something went wrong.”

Brown also confirmed that ESPN producer Amy Zimmerman called the stewards prior to the start of the race and alerted them to the Velazquez interview. “When the stewards watched the feed, the interview with Velasquez was ending,” Brown said. “Velasquez was only heard by the stewards to say that she wasn't warming up well. No mention was made by ESPN to the stewards of any possible issues with the horse.”

UPDATED 7:00 p.m. … According to Amy Zimmerman — who has been involved with racing telecasts for 25 years, has worked on 13 Eclipse Award-winning broadcasts, and is executive producer of HRTV — the KHRC stewards said “they were watching the show”  when she called to alert them about the first of two horseback interviews ESPN did with Velazquez prior to the Ladies' Classic. Her statement would seem to contradict what Brown told the Paulick Report.

Pletcher, who apparently saw the interview while in the horsemen's lounge in the Churchill Downs tunnel, became concerned and went trackside. He told ESPN reporter Jay Privman Life At Ten was very quiet in the paddock and that he asked Velazquez to warm her up well.

Jeanine Edwards, also reporting for ESPN, asked Dr. Larry Bramlage, a member of the “on-call” veterinary team from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, about Life At Ten and Velazquez's comments, and he responded that nobody had said anything to the veterinarians stationed at the starting gate.

About three minutes after the first Velazquez interview, ESPN then went back to him a second time. “I wanted Jerry (Bailey) to ask him how she is approaching the gate,” Zimmerman said. “His response was that she had not warmed up out of (whatever was bothering her).”

Shortly after that second interview, Life At Ten was led into the starting gate.

“I couldn't believe what I was watching,” Zimmerman said. “It was a huge communications breakdown.”

There was no consideration given to scratch Life at Ten, Brown said, as there was “no dialogue with the track veterinarians or the stewards from the outrider, Velasquez or Pletcher indicating a problem with the horse that would have led to her possibly being scratched.”

The three veterinarians at the starting gate were: Dr. Bryce Peckham of the KHRC; Dr. Debbie Lamparter of the New Jersey Racing Commission, who is also the chair of the Breeders' Cup Veterinarian Panel; and Dr. Robin White, who has been on Breeders' Cup Panel 10 years and is with the British Horse Racing Authority. Eight other regulatory veterinarians were on the track.

Life At Ten broke last, was not persevered with by Velazquez, quickly lost contact with the field, and was eased before reaching the stretch. More than $7 million was wagered on the Ladies' Classic in win-place-show, exacta, trifecta and superfecta bets. That amount does not include multi-race wagers (i.e., Pick 3, PIck 4, Pick 6).

UPDATED: Late Monday afternoon, the KHRC released the following statement:

LEXINGTON, Ky. – (Nov. 8, 2010) – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) issued the following statement regarding the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic race on Nov. 5, 2010.

“The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is continuing its inquiry into the incident at the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic Friday Nov. 5, 2010, involving Life at Ten.

From the time Life at Ten was brought to the paddock, saddled, led to the track for the post parade, warmed up and loaded into the starting gate, neither trainer Todd Pletcher nor jockey Johnny Velasquez voiced any concerns they may have had regarding Life at Ten to any racing officials, veterinarians or the outriders prior to the running of the Ladies Classic.

Should a trainer or jockey have concerns about whether a horse is fit to race, they know the proper protocol is to notify a KHRC veterinarian who will talk to the jockey and observe the horse and then make a recommendation to the Stewards regarding any scratch.

After the race,  Chief State Racing Steward John Veitch interviewed Mr. Pletcher as well as the head outrider Greg Blasi and KHRC chief veterinarian Dr. Bryce Peckham. An interview with Mr. Velasquez is pending.

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.”


  • Jim C.

    I guarantee you that the Blood Horse will not cover this in any depth, or at all. They gave no coverage at all to the Burna Dette episode. Thanks for putting light on this, Ray. It is a crime that filly ever left the starting gate.

  • Fred

    This is getting interesting. Could organized crime be involved?

  • Thanks for tracking down the official confirmation of what all of who were watching ESPN knew; the stewards had been informed in time to scratch the horse. As for “…..when the stewards watched the [ESPN] feed, the interview with Velazquez was just ending” — hasn’t anyone in Kentucky heard of a rewind button? I sympathize with KHRC’s Doug Brown; his bosses screwed up, and he’s the one who has to stand out in the lights and take the heat.

    BTW, for my take on this and other evidence of incompetence at the BC this year, see

  • Jim Davis

    lol, hardly.

    just an organized disregard for the betting public.

  • This is a joke, racing has the never ending search for something new to attract new spectators. The microphones were too much information for the public. And besides the state vets are a joke, if they were real vets they would be making a better living practicing for themselves rather than their politically appointed jobs. They would not have know unless ESPN told them.

  • Rachel Anderson

    I am livid about this. I had money on her, too, but it’s risking her life that really tees me off…

    Oh well, she’s just an insured filly, not like she’s got stud potential.

  • Lost In The Fog

    This is starting to sound VERY fishy!!!!!!

  • Ted Mudge

    I happened to be watching the ESPN2 show, and not the track feed, and I was stunned when she actually went in the gate. The conversation between Velasquez and Bailey certainly led me to believe she would be scratched. Obviously, somebody is mistaken. Pletcher says Valasquez told the vets and the KHRC says he didin’t. If he didn’t, I would think he would get a minimum of 90 days, and if he did, the vets need to be excused from any future big race meets. not only was this a danger to a very nice horse, but an injustice to our fans. Personally, I did not use her in any of my bets, but, obviously, a lot of people did. Another very black eye for racing, in any event.

  • Ted Mudge

    By the way, a very nice call by Amy Zimmerman. It’s too bad the Stewards didn’t have the sense to at least radio the vets at the gate to say there was concern.

  • michaelH

    When a eclipse award winning trainer and jockey notice a horse is acting very strange when she is in the paddock and warming up on the track for a Championship race and nobody alerts the vets at the starting gate, this is unbelievable !!! Especially when millions of people saw and heard all of this strange news on a live TV coverage? And they say protect the public at all costs?

    there better be an investagation big time into this….!!!!!!!!

  • concerned

    cost me a grand. was very unfair to the customer.
    no wonder we are leaving this business.
    no regard for the source of all revenues in racing,( the gambler ).

  • C Bea

    There’s plenty of blame to go around here. The trainer had a responsibility, the jockey did and the stewards. I was going to include her in some last minute exotics, saw/heard the interview and thought better of it. How many at the track and elsewhere didn’t have the benefit of this info? Trainer and Jockey were closest to the situation. She should have been pulled.

  • rbrewster

    Life at Ten, Watch the race on TV , she look like she was trying up to me. She could hardly walk during the post parade. Was very surprised the tracks vet didn’t scratch her, I had commented to my wife, before the race she looks like she was tied-up. When she broke from the gate, there wasn’t anything there.
    She should have been scratched, and it should have been notice by all that where on the track.

  • Glimmerglass

    Also money lost on the Classic-Classic double.

    Such a blatant miscarriage of justice to the wagering public and for the horse’s condition too.

    The AAEP should also get dressed down on this as well.

  • Vicki

    It did not even enter my mind that I had Life At Ten tied to my Trifecta and Super wagers, I too thought for sure after watching the ESPN2 telecast that she should and would be scratched. My first thought was that it sounded like she could be tying up, she should not run! They do indeed need a big investigation into this story, once again the integrity of our sport is on the line. Need I remind you that the Breeders’ Cup is at the same venue next year, do we want the same veterinarians and stewards working the event next year? Way to go Amy Zimmerman, you done good girl!

  • rbrewster


    I would agree, very unfair to all. They should have had a hold on all tickets after the race and issued a refund on tickets that included Life At Ten in their wagering.

    One of the strangest things I HAVE EVER SEEN!! Hope she is doing ok!!!

  • MED

    “Not my fault!” – Everybody involved.

  • Al

    Horse betting involves gambling and on BC Days, BIG gambling. So, of course, one can reasonably expect “organized” folks to be involved. It’s what they do….

  • michael bronzino

    Never realized before that Bloodhorse is totally controlled by the Kentucky establishment, when I looked at their board it’s a who’s who of all the Kentucky blue-bloods.

    Now I understand the puff-pieces they constantly do.

    But realize in the end “their world” is collapsing as documented by Rob Whitely. Power corrupts!

  • Mary Lathrop

    Why didn’t Pletcher do something besides telling the rider to warm her up well? I only train ponies to drive but if one of my trainees was acting as off as Life at Ten was acting in the paddock, I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would merely tell the driver to “warm her up well”. IMO that is outrageously negligent behavior on the part of the trainer.

    It still sickens me that the horse wasn’t scratched (and I didn’t have any money on her). And I’ve completely lost respect for Pletcher.

  • Bucky In Kentucky

    Pletcher is ultimately responsible for the horses welfare, shame on him for letting her leave the paddock.

    Shame on the stewards fo ignoring the call to alert them.

    Shame on Pletcher for sending out this fine filly and endangering her welfare and putting the call onto Johnny V.?

    You will never see any of this in any publication besides the Paulick Report.

    The KHRC should firing the stewards, the vets and suspending Pletcher.

    Yes the public deserved better but so did the horse.


  • This a huge disgace and black-eye to racing for the people around this country and world betting these races. Shameful.

  • PWK

    I too watched ESPN2 and could not believe it when Velasquez did not say anything and mentioned to my SO that this is wrong for the people that bet on her. When she entered the gate I was almost scared to watch it because who knew what the problem was, was she going to collapse during the race or what? A lot of people dropped the ball on this one and it is another blemish on our sport that turns away the public when ESPN is laying out all the “inside info” that the public doesn’t usually know leading up to a race and nothing is done about it and the filly is never in the race. If I had my money on her boy would I have been PO’d.

  • Aunt Bea

    No Balls

  • eeebayou

    Many kudos to Amy Zimmerman for making the call to the stewards. Deaf ears?

    However, this is yet another glaring example as to why gamblers are flocking to poker, sports betting, etc. versus horse racing. Drugs play a huge part in determining a horse’s performance in a race. Did this horse even need a Lasix shot? Was she given anything else?

    How could this horse NOT have been subjected to a post-race test in light of her performance?

    Pletcher, who has a history of drug positives during the Breeder’s Cup events (Wait A While), must not have given the horse the same cocktail that he gave his three winners on the BC card.

  • CG

    I wonder how much you had to lay at Betfair to book Life At Ten. I wasn’t watching that board. But those who booked him, probably were happy the track vet let her run.

  • I don’t understand how the didn’t draw blood. A horse shows no interest in racing and nobody checks to see if there’s something in her blood to indicate what happened?

    Veitch needs to be investigated.

  • tonyaz

    #24 exactly correct…..and on live TV to boot. No new fan would ever place another wager on a fixed game. I can’t believe with the take outs, tracks are still lose money! They wonder why? And just think, California is raising its take outs to help the horseman/owners. LOL gotta pay more to support the crooks who could care less about the fans(who support with $$$$$$$$$) and the horses who support us all with their lives. Way to go WONDER KID TAP and CHURCHILL DOWNS!! Outstanding work!! I think its great to see racing act like nothing is happening, and they are right, nothing is happening but the same trend of slow but sure death to the sport.

  • LJBroussard

    #10, you said it perfectly.

    Can you imagine being forced to run laps in the early stages of the flu? That’s what Life at Ten felt like. Poor creature. Shame, shame, shame on the connections who allowed this to happen.

  • bob Hope

    The epitome of horse racing! An $800K pic 6 carryover from BC1 involving a classic filly Life at Ten that is eased, coming back into the second leg where Haynesfield and Quality Road finished last and next to last. These were touted as world beaters coming out of the Saratoga meeting. But no comment from ESPN. How can a horse that you spend 5 minutes on be totally ignored when he finishes last? C’mon guys, you want t make it all about gambling but you don’t talk about gambling results! No word out of Betfair! Are we over our heads here?

  • Craig S

    For whatever reason she wasn’t scratched, it was a disgrace. Life at Ten looked very ill physically prior to the race. Like a child with a bad case of the flu. Luckily a major tragedy was averted when Life refused to run her heart out. She very likely would not have survived.

  • Ida Lee

    I’m royally, royally pissed. My beautiful Life At Ten being forced to race in a major race like this when her connections knew she wasn’t feeling right. I am just disgusted. And then passing the buck ….somebody should have grown a pair and said SHE IS NOT RACING TODAY…and then maybe today we would have some respect for her connections and for the sport. As of now, they’re all at the top of my crap list.

  • Equinevet

    Sorry to raise ever more wrath, but the ESPN coverage really did suggest a horse that was not normal. I didn’t see ok to run-I saw a horse that looked like she was tying up/colicky/otherwise uncomfortable/painful. in practice I see a population of horses in which tying up is likely more frequent than it is in racing TBs. Perhaps it is the difference of seeing a few close up shots versus watching the whole field immediately prior to loading? I can only say, I’ve seen this type of presentation before and it is not compatible with normal athletic performance for the horse involved. In addition to gate vets should a second group be monitoring from video feed? It is unfortunate that communication between the trainer/jockey and gate vets failed. I concur with Steve Zorn, that on several levels this was a big fail.

  • David

    The ’10 BC was truly remarkable. The highs included GOLDIKOVA’s greatness, an unforgettable Classic and a scene at Churchill Downs that was as impressive as any sporting event that has been conducted in this country. For me the Borel/Castellano fisticuffs wasn’t even a bad thing; it demonstrated the potential dangers and the fact even the best of professionals lose their cool when it (safety) is compromised. The lows certainly was a benign-looking incident that turned fatal and the negligent actions by connections of a former Derby winner. But, by far, the worse aspect of the otherwise magnificent two days was the LIFE AT TEN incident. If the Stewards had any questions the public and runner were compromised they should check with Jerry Bailey; he said in no uncertain terms that something was amiss. Fact is they, the vets possibly the trainer and jock blew it big time.

  • Ratherrapid

    My opinion is as follows: I believe Plecher and the jock probably did all they could. The problem comes at the starting gate when the jock explains concerns to the starting gate vet. Traditionally, I believe, in most races, if the vets find something obviously wrong they will scratch. If otherwise, they will send the horse into the starting gate regardless of the jock’s opinion..

    Do the rules (model rules) with regard to this need to be changed.?

    Horse’s should be scratched on a jock’s mere suspicion. If a jock get’s apprehensive for any reason, that should be respected even if the starting gate vet is unable on spur of moment to detect a problem. Additionally the rule should be (and very much needs to be) changed, that jocks need not persevere with a horse that they feel is finished in a race–breathing lock ups, bleeding, even the slightest suspicion that something is wrong –see K. Desormeaux and Big Brown–should permit the jock to make the unilateral decision to decline persevering with the horse. I think this is other than the rules as they exist now.

    Plecher and the jock appear to be blameless, on the facts as they’ve been reported. They handled the situation well, and it ended with no harm done.

  • Rotund Haberdasher

    Is the state vet who was looking at Life At Ten through rose-colored glasses the same one who refused to scratch a horse at Keeneland a few weeks ago when Garret Gomez said the horse was lame?

    What’s with these Kentucky yahoos?

    Was there pressure to get the Ladies Classic run before the bewitching hour when ESPN would turn horseracing into a Friday night pumpkin? Reminds me a little of those last-race stewards inquiries that take about 30 seconds and you see the judges fleeing their stand while the “no change” announcement is being made. Happy hour can’t wait!

  • I agree that Life at Ten should not have run in the race. God forbid she somehow broke well and then broke down in the middle of a of a pack, everyone around her life would be in danger. I don’t totally blame Johnny V, he tried to make it known she wasn’t right but what he should have done was what Garrett Gomez did one time, when he got to the gate he asked the vet to scratch the horse cause something was wrong but they wouldn’t so he got off the horse and refused to ride him. IMO most of these vets at the track couldn’t take care of a cat much less a horse.

  • Margrethe

    She should have been scratched.
    Since she was not, she should have been declared a non-starter and wages returned.
    The vet, stewards, and trainer (who is not new to sore horses) should be fined.

  • Steve K

    If I were the owner, I would jerk Life at Ten away from Pletcher and make sure Johnny V. never rode her again. And as far as the stewards, they should all be fired. What a travesty and a black eye for racing. Every fan in the nation watching on TV knew something was wrong, but the jockey, trainer and stewards didn’t think it was seriously enough to mention to the vets at the gate. Shameful!

  • B. Greene

    Hopefully the investigation will lead to some kind of established protocol because it was clear that something was definitely wrong with the filly. When Jerry Bailey first asked Johnny V. about Life At Ten it was one of the most compelling pieces of live journalism I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been watching 50 years. The potential was there to show the world just how caring and aware these professionals are. That never happened. Pletcher knew his filly wasn’t ready to run. He’s the one who first suggested cramping or even her response to the lights (no really he said that). He knew. When she went into the gate the resultant no response was no surprise to anybody who was watching that telecast beforehand.

  • Equinevet

    @ Rotund Haberdasher,

    Thanks for posting GG’s link. He made the right decision in not riding (in the end horse and rider lives can actually be at stake-big surprise). This is an area that would benefit from further RECEPTIVE dialog between jockeys and veterinarians. It is in the best interest of safety for horses and riders, as well as the integrity of the sport.

  • Looks like John Veitch still doesn’t get it. To the extent his comments address the issue at all, they’re only about safety issues. Not a word about the $1.8 million (my estimate — see my blog) that the failure to scratch the horse cost the unknowing public.

    Not quite as bad as the BC Pick Six scandal some years back, but still a nasty example of the lack of concern for the folks who make it possible for all the rest of us — the bettors.

    Thanks for the dogged reporting, Ray & Brad.

  • Al

    Trouble is, in our industry we don’t have an official, steward, executive, spokesperson or opinion leader with one big ball between them! Lots of folks that have been sucking off the proverbial horse teet for far too long though. I challenge any of “them” to come forward with a plan to punish the offenders, objectively investigate the crimes and make all those that participate in our great game play by the rules.

    Let’s see how many and who comes forward first………..

  • joe

    Has anyone seen Life At Ten since this her race? Is she really okay? Was she out grazing the next day like Zenyatta for all to see if indeed she was well? Have members of the KY Racing Commission paid a surprise visit to the mare and insisted that she walk and trot in front of them? Will they super-test her blood sample? Will the KY RC publicly disclose who her attending vet was up the race?

    Is LAT owner Candy De Bartolo outraged by the complete failure to protect her mare from racing? Was she consulted about scratching her? What was her answer?

    This is allowed to happen in a BC race in front of the whole world; just imagine what goes on every day, coast to coast, year around to poor claimers, and in front of empty grandstands.

    Pletcher is responsible for the horses he trains and should have scratched her instead of saddling her. Something was wrong, and even without knowing what it was, she should have never been saddled.

    Velasquez endangered LAT, himself and could have endangered all jockeys and horses in that race if she had not broken last. LAT tried to stop two or three strides out of the gate and Velasquez urged her forward. He should not be praised for only galloping her around, she couldn’t have moved faster. He should be blamed just as much as Pletcher and LAT’s owner.

    The stews, the regulatory vets & Co. What the hell? Too big to scratch? Having too good a time down there? Not horsemen enough to spot a horse in distress? Told not to scratch a big betting interest?

    I hope bettors who lost money for this failure to protect horses and bettors start a class action suit and set a precedent. LAT is not an isolated case, just a high profile one. Only public outrage, huge scandal and tragedy, ugly litigation that actually goes on trial and exposes the ugly underbelly of racing and serious threats from Congress will force racing to begin to seriously protect horses and bettors.

    Amy Z, thank you for what you did, it didn’t change a thing but at least you took action and tried to stop the abuse of LAT and a potential grave accident. You did far more than those in charge combined did for the mare and the integrity of that race.

    “Life At Ten was not drug tested after the race, though blood was drawn for TCO2 testing and could be used for testing purposes.”

    In TC, BC races and at least all graded stakes races, all horses should be tested off-competition and on race day, placed under surveillance for days prior to each race, tested for blood-boosters and all of them super-tested before their Lasix shot. It would be best if all stakes races were drug free to begin with.

  • joe

    Yes, racing commissions are in bed with racing insiders and states that pay them and want revenues. Big scandals = loss of revenues. A “sport” cannot and should not police itself, especially when live animals and gambling are involved. What a mess!

  • Garrett Redmond

    I know a few vets who have done racetrack work. If they dare question the fitness of a horse entered by a big-time trainer, they will not be employed much longer.

    It should be obvious to all that track vets are mainly looking for lame or sore horses. They cannot be so familiar with every horse to know if it’s demeanor walking behind the gate is or is not normal for that horse.

    The trainer who knows the horse knew she was not ‘her usual self’. He got the message. He ignored it. Never mind – the ‘BIG’ people send him herds of their horses.

  • Albany

    I can’t believe that a blood test would not have been routinely conducted on any horse that fails to perform to form, as well as on all the horses in the money for that matter, in such an important venue. Wow. And all the earlier notices about lifetime suspension for anyone caught cheating. Another paper tiger, I guess.

  • Cris

    There is not one excuse for any of these guys. She was not right in the paddock. The trainer should have never allowed her to leave the paddock without a vet check. Jerry Bailey could see it from his seat, why not the vet? Shame on them. Stiff fines for all of them. That horse should go to another trainer.

  • Jack

    Life At Ten should have been ruled a non-starter. The public has been deceived by Racing Officials who allowed a compromised horse start. It’s absolutely amazing that this could take place with THREE Vets on hand and internationally televised interviews exposing an issue. Those watching television apparently knew more than the so called “experts” on the scene. What the heck were those VETS doing? It was apparent to me via my TV that Life At Ten was in distress! Were these VETS basking in the glory of having the honor of workng the BC. Apparently the newly installed lights at CD have a very “dim” area where the VETS were at the start of The Ladies Classic. CD should get rid of their VETS and hire Amy Zimmerman as she obviously is more interested in the BC than the VETS!

  • Jack

    The VETS were probably paralyzed by the $60K in Entry Fees that the Owner would have lost if she were scratched at the gate. THEN they would have had to defend their decision……they took the “chicken route” and allowed her to (kind of) break. These VETS are incompetent or ALL suffered from temporary blindness at the same time.

  • Debbie

    Organized Crime? Please! This is NOT the movies! You have to be a complete idiot to think organized crime had something to do with this. Focus your thoughts on tying up!!!! Every horse has done it some time or another. Idiots!

  • wabstat

    I canceled my tickets just in time. Thanks ESPN!

  • Dundee

    Where is an “iron fist” like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when you need him? Investigations and punishment in this game are a joke. This is a huge integrity issue, that shouldn’t be treated lightly, and somebody should be punished. But chances are, if any punishments are handed out then its going to be the standard $500 fine for the parties involved.

  • js

    Gosh…do you think a “top” trainer like Pletcher gave that filly something other than lasix? Nah…..

    Some “horseman”.

  • Russell

    I bet in advance and had no choice but to watch my selection limp on national television! This is the last bet I will place on this sport! I’ve been to the races enough to know Todd Pletcher is treated different than other more “hands on trainers”. When you have trainers with horses spread out to every major track in the country stuff like this happens!

  • ThomasMc

    The whole bunch of you obviously don’t know much about horses, or racing.First the stewards can,t scratch a horse because someone on T V calls to tell them to. Many many times horses go to the post more agitated or more sedate then usual. Often just when you think they will run terrible they go out and win. This unfortunatly wasthe opposite.Pletcher is an excellent horseman and knew his horse was different but made his decision. When horses seem too quiet warming them up well is the right answer 90% of the time. The vets at the gate are very capeable and did not see anything wrong. Im sure john thought she would be alright in the race.However she wasn’t and he did the right thing. All this talk of betting investigations etc is just that talk. I used her, i’m not happy with the results but thats why they call it gambling! If this wasn’t a breeders cup race with thousands of monday morning quarterbacks watching the histeria level would be much lower. Pletcher takes excellent care of his horses and runs to win. Get over it.

  • Marilyn

    to say i was shocked that LAT was loaded in the gait, is an understatement. There is alot of blame to go around but i think the buck stops with the trainer; everyone who touched that filly failed her and put her life in danger; in addition, millions were bet on a filly who was essentially walked around the track; this filly could have died right then and there; tying up is serious; she should never have been allowed to race; I WANT SOMEONE OR SOME SOMEONES TO BE ACCOUNTABLE AND PAY FOR THIS; IT IS A DISGRACE

  • Dave

    Quality Road must have had the same Lasix shot.

  • Mary Lathrop

    ThomasMc, since you seem to think yourself such an expert, please tell us all here – exactly when was it that a vet even glanced at that horse? In case you missed it, the camera stayed on her from the time her jockey said she wasn’t right. Not once from that moment until she loaded did a vet even approach her. So did they use binoculars to determine she was fit to race?

    And that horse displayed symptoms beyond “more sedate” than usual. I’ve been training & breeding equines since I was 12 years old and it was obvious from just looking at her that she was in significant discomfort. Think about this for a moment – what if she’d had some sort of fatal event like a heart attack and fell in front of other horses on the track?

    But again since you seem to think yourself such an expert, please share with us your horsemanship credentials.

  • Too Many Ponies

    If Pletcher is correct, and the filly “had a reaction” to the Lasix shot and that was just so perfectly natural to expect per his demeanor on ESPN2 – maybe he should consider running his horses off Lasix?

    Oh, wait. That’s right. 95% plus of American bred thoroughbreds are apparently known bleeders. Good for Lasix! Great product! Great breeding program, America!

    Lasix – good for vets, good for cheaters, great for horses…

  • Shuvee

    Life at Ten was on Lasix in every one of her starts ( including BC LadIes Classic), so for The Toddster to shrug and say “oh she must have had a reaction to her Lasix” is complete bunk. I’d be interested in seeing what comes up in LaT’s post-race bloodwork. Keep up the intrepid reporting, Brad and Ray! And then it was reported that LaT was “just fine” the next day BUT she was yanked out of Sunday’s Fasig-Tipton sale. This also smells fishy to me. Does a horse going to auction have any blood work done before it goes into the sales ring. If so, was Pletcher/owners trying to avoid something?


  • Shuvee

    Oh, and I’ve previously posted here that Jonny Velazquez was having deja vu all over again — remembering his gate scratch of Quality Road in last yr’s BC Classic. Maybe he didn’t want to lose first call on Pletcher’s horses by doing the right thing in opening up his mouth and telling the gate vet(s) what Pletcher told him and repeating what he told to millions of viewers.

    And maybe John Veitch is both bald AND deaf?

  • Fred

    Debbie (#50) : Hate to burst your bubble but where there is money there is crime. ..and yes organized crime has been involved in horse racing before, why would it stop in the 21st century.

  • Lost In The Fog

    I just watched the ESPN tape again and it’s clear that neither Pletcher or Velazquez said a damn thing to the vets prior to LAT being loaded into the gate. She was obviously out of it in the minutes leading up to the race. A top trainer, a top jockey and the vets on the track all failed to do the right thing for the safety of the horse and essentially defrauded the bettors who had collectively wagered hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions on the horse (taking into account the P3, P4 and P6 tickets). While I know this kind of thing happens regularly in $10K claiming races I’m shocked that it could happen in one of the biggest races of the year with even the television crew questioning the situation for all to see.

    Heads should roll over this! But of course they won’t…

  • Don Reed

    A very long time ago, I had had a completely weird experience dealing with John Veitch, & I’ve been wondering ever since if the ears on his head are capable of functioning.

    It was back when he had lost his job with either NYRA or some other notable racing concern, & to me, it seemed completely unfair. His previous reputation was solid gold – the epitome of class & good judgment, as a trainer & in all other aspects of the racing game, and in life itself.

    By accident, I passed him at Belmont not long after & – having never met him before – quietly offered my condolences as to what I considered to be his undeserved fate.

    To my shock & utter embarrassment, he abruptly acted rudely – as if I had imposed on him in some fashion, or had understood that I had said that I was glad that he had been canned.

    Needless to say, it was stunning. And disgusting.

    And now the issue is whether or not he heard correctly what had been said PUBLICLY, ON TELEVISION, QUITE AUDIBLY, about Life At Ten’s condition prior to the race.

    Aside from the above, it is obvious that an immediate inquiry – with the Inquiry Sign lighting up even before the race had concluded – should have been held, with an immediate decision then being made to refund all wagers involving Life at Ten.

    Regardless of the level of racing, this is Standard Operating Procedure.

    Obviously, that didn’t occur to any of the stewards.

    Now, their only defense is that they are incompetent.

    Hey, Churchill: Still wondering why, when the financial inflation of the last 50 years in factored in, your handle/profits in 2010 look like a rounding error on the spread sheets of an ordinary, major corporation?

  • tmh

    I felt TAP gave Johnny V an “out” when he told him he didnt like the way she was acting. I dont think he would have been fred for scratching a horse the trainer didnt think was 100%. Of course if this was lesser connections the stews would ave been all over it. I also thought that Kentucky has put into place a rule where questionable performances of a horse would cause some extra cause for concern and blood tests.

  • Rachel

    I read that her white blood count was up the morning after…anyone else hear anything?

    I hold only one person responsible for sending her out knowing she wasn’t acting normal.

  • D. Masters

    How about an update on the horse?

  • Deon Schnetler

    Who were running the show(pun unintentional), ESPN or the stewards/vetenarians?

    Let’s get to the bottom of this all, who communicated what, and what to whom. As usual the punter/public got the raw end of the deal.

    Ultimate responsibility lay foremost with the trainer and the jockey, and from all accounts, it doesn’t seem that they ever communicated their concerns to the on-track vets.

  • unbelievable

    Betting on horses is not only about the numbers. Look at Quality Road. Anyone watching him walk over for the Classic could have thrown him out like I did. Sadly this kind of thing hurts the numbers, and, new-to-the-sport, bettors. It is extremely hard, after pre-race medication, to see when a horse is coming down with something. Her attitude alone could have been reason for a jockey’s opinion/vet scratch, but the stewards are most likely, more concerned about pre-race injury, leg-soundness, and safety. I personally, was once worried about my horse, who had become quiet and confident over his races, being unusually quiet in one race. I told the jock to feel him out and ease him if he felt necessary. He did, and the horse later spiked a temperature. It would have been tough to scratch in the receiving barn with no temp. and being perfectly sound. I was thankful to that classy jockey who never touched him with the stick. A “special”(blood test) is the stewards option if they feel that a horse’s performance is under some outside influence. Sorry to all of the betting public, but horses are living beings.

  • South of the Border

    Can we get a copy of the ESPN video up?

  • Trappeddownontherail

    It might not end all incidents such as this, but banning all race-day medication in line with international guidelines would certainly reduce the number and make it easier to detect chemicals in the blood stream.

    What a fiasco this was!

    The number of people who were paid to do a job and did not do it covers just about everyone in authority before that race. In any other profession or industry, they would be severely punished if not fired.

    1. How many vets were on the staff that day (I have heard eight or ten – and what did Bramlage know and when did he know it and why didn’t he step in after ESPN apparently told him what was going on?)

    2. The trainer Pletcher, in any other civilized racing jurisdiction, would be banned for life on humanitarian grounds for starting a horse clearly in distress.

    3. Jockey Valenzuela, knowing what he knew, seemed to show extraordinary carelessness with the safety of his own mount and the lives of the other horses and jockeys around him. In a place like Australia or Hong Kong, he would be in for a long holiday.

    3. And what were the stewards thinking? That this would not affect the integrity of the race and betting? Firing would seem the only appropriate penalty, given the circumstances and the number of horses, jockeys, bettors and the volume of money involved..

    Honestly, sometimes the stupidity displayed in this industry is just breath-taking. Some industries attract smart people. We specialize in dumb, apparently.

  • MyBigRed

    All I can say, 1st of all, Thank God Life at Ten didn’t get injured or injury any other horses during the race. 2nd of all, How on earth could her trainer, Todd Pletcher, let her race knowing full well something was wrong. She could have broke down & endangered the other horses & jockeys. He of all people should KNOW his horses, & be aware when something isn’t right and MAKE the call to scratch them from a race. 3rd, it was said during the warm up on national TV that she wasn’t warming up like she should be. This is a disgrace to racing & it was on national TV for all to see and hear. If we are going to improve the safety of horse racing, we must ALL work together. There is NO room for mis-communications. This really could have been a disaster if Life at Ten had broken down. Once I again, I thank God for protecting this horse. 4th, as an owner, I would have insisted the blood that was drawn, be tested. There could be something wrong other than a reaction to the Lasix. Better safe than sorry………Please, can we get an update on Life at Ten?

  • Michelle

    When I saw her go into the starting gate, I said a little prayer. I really thought we were going to see a catastrophe. Although I think Todd and John are very much to blame in this fiasco, I have to give a little credit to John for not pushing and whipping her into the race. Doesn’t excuse his not getting the horse checked. However, he was obviously concerned, and continued to voice that concern, and I can’t understand WHY the outrider didn’t bring her to the vets, NOR why the stewards didn’t do anything. Who cares if they saw the last few minutes? They were still talking about LAT’s condition, up until they cut to the track announcer! And Bramlage? Was he so busy being interviewed that he couldn’t radio the track vets and have her checked? A big FAIL to all involved.

  • Bucky In Kentucky

    The bottom line is this; Pletcher is no Horsemen, he may seem like CEO material, but a Horsemen he is not, sure he sits on a pony every morning but what he did was negligent and callous.

    Maybe he should be the CEO at a hair gel company? That would be a great fit; Todd Pletcher, CEO of Dippity Do Hair Gel Company. Nice ring to it.

    He failed to protect his charge and should suffer a lengthy suspension and hefty fine.

    Numerous failures and the horse paid the price, the public paid the price now Pletcher should pay the price.

    Where is he today??

    Out buying more high priced horses at the sales..

    Let’s see if the KHRC can get this one right.

  • Tracy

    Tis my humble opinion that she was tying up pretty much the whole time. You can see it when she was sort of jogging to the ESPN booth and Jerry is saying he doesn’t like what he is seeing. You can really see it when they turn and start off again. If you all remember she left her race in the paddock at Saratoga. She is probably fairly nervous and the whole thing pretty much overwhelmed her. She has looked great during the week when I have seen her shown on the works. She had that look on her face with her ears sort of to the side, like she was zoning out. I am surprised Johnny V didn’t figure it out, it does happen, they can tie up when they get in the gate, when they come out, when they are running. It’s nerves. When they showed her in the saddling stall she was standing very quietly, her ears were up, but I remember thinking, she’ s really being good? Hmmm and then seeing her on the track, whoa, not good! I feel the vets should have spotted it even if Johnny didn’t, yes there was a lot going on, but I don’t think they should have missed it. Just my opinion (20+years on the backside and ponied too @ Churchill) She shouldn’t have run. I’m glad no one got hurt, except the public, not good for the bettors or racing.


  • Kim Howell

    The crime came when she left the paddock. Pletcher knew the mare wasn’t right. He could see she wasn’t warming up right when he did send her out. He had plenty of time to contact the vets or stewards and scratch her. Regardless of why she acted the way she did, which we may never know, a charge of neglect should be brought against Mr. Pletcher, and, were I Life at Ten’s owners, I would be backing a van up to Mr. Pletcher’s barn.

  • Tracy

    One more thing, JMHO, in Todd’s defense, he is a horseman and he has some very good people working for him. He knew something was off with LAT but that’s one of those things you can’t put you finger on. Was she just being good in the paddock? She more than likely didn’t show him enough or do enough in the paddock for him to see. There was not enough for him to go on that she wasen’t quite right, but what was wrong? He told Johnny, whether he should have something to a vet, I don’t know. It’s an intangible. Johnny went out knowing to be looking for something, but he’s kinda the one that missed the call, but I still think the vets should have seen it and called him over. A whole lot of jocks have no clue when it comes to soundness or anything else except getting around there, Johnny should know and should have known. Big race or not you don’t go. I am not defending or accepting the fact that she ran. She should not have run, who dropped the ball?


  • Kim Howell

    I would like to address some rather acerbic comments posted above. First, my credentials. I am an RN, first and foremost. From that aspect I will discuss Lasix. I have been involved in horses for 39 years, in racehorses as a fan for 34, as a gambler for 20 and as an owner for 12. I have worked on the backstretch and at prep farms, as well as with other breeds and disciplines in the equine industry.

    Lasix is, as we all know, a diuretic. It causes the kidneys to excrete more water, thus reducing the volume of blood circulating and the pressure of the circulating blood. This supposedly reduces the amount of capillary rupture in the lungs during heavy exertion (racing) thus reducing pulmonary bleeding. It also causes an excess excretion of potassium from the body, due to the area of the kidney it acts on. This lowering of available potassium can cause muscle cramping (tying up). It can also cause cardiac dysrhythmias and, in extreme cases, cardiac arrest. Were LIT’s potassium levels tested before Lasix administration? Were they tested after the race? I will not speculate on anything else administered to the mare. I have little enough respect for Mr. Pletcher.

    Fortunately I didn’t bet this year, I wasn’t able to attend the Breeder’s Cup. The betting public has a right to be up at arms, those responsible for their interests were looking the other way. As a horsewoman, the blatant disregard for the welfare of the horse sickens me the most. ThomasMc: The Stewards can scratch a horse at ANY TIME. If they saw the feed from ESPN2, that should have triggered an immediate investigation on their part. Sitting on that set were some of the most respected horse people in the country. Jerry Baily has ridden for us, and I personally respect his opinion immensely. Were he to say to me “your horse isn’t acting right” I would not think twice about unsaddling her myself and having her gone over with a fine tooth comb. To blindly ignore a multitude of comments regarding the fitness of the mare for racing was the act of people who cared more about the TAKE than the HORSE. Mr. Pletcher is NOT an excellent horseman. He has some excellent people working for him, no doubt, but what he is is an excellent salesman. Were he an excellent horseman, the mare would never have left the paddock much less entered the gate. You, sir, need to get over it! Thank you to Mr. Paulick and all the others who are putting the welfare of the HORSE first, the BETTOR second, and the EGO OF A TRAINER where it belongs…nowhere!

  • D. Masters


    It is obvious to the majority posting here feel that something terribly wrong happened and the system that is in place is to blame and yet, continues to ignore ethics, morality and the welfare of the horse, the rider, the fans and the bettors.

    And they wonder why they have the Sport of Kings dying one of the most documented, recorded and witnessed spiral slow death rattles? Talk about arrogant, selfish, amoral morons…not sure anything comes close except the Charge of the Light Brigade (note, it includes equines)….but that went to destruction much more quickly due to human arrogance and stupidity. Crap, it wasn’t even good military logic.

    Racing in the US won;’t even die with the proverbial “death with honor”. Trolls!

  • Dave

    Breeders Cup people run the Cup like morons . Once they sell the over priced tickets they could give a rats ass about the horses. They load the wrong horses in gate, they over water turf for Euros and a horse slips and dies, they can’t pick up on TV that a horse is not moving well from the jockeys mouth, the dirt track looked like an uneven deep loose goat trail that jockeys would not go near the rail ( not even Borel). They have a jockey fight that they play all day, they only talk about Zenyatta all day like the other horses are chumps. They end up running at night with lights not knowing how horses will react. You call that Championship Racing? I don’t think so. They better take it back to California or New York where it was is more of a class act.

  • Sysonby

    Todd testified that the mare had a fever on the MORNING OF THE RACE!!!! Mandella called the vets to scratch Crown of Thorns and Dutrow had Rightly So scratched the day of the F/M Sprint because they were not right that morning, yet TAP found his mare had a fever and didn’t report it?

    The vets on track are looking for unsoundness and not sickness. They are not taking temperatures or shining light in the eyes. They work from the assumption that anything they might find occurred between the last time they trainer had the horse (paddock) and the gate. The work on the assumption that the horses presented are HEALTHY, but could have injured themselves since being checked by vets in the morning.

    If I recall, Baffert announced after the Haskell that Lookin at Lucky spiked a fever after the race and would miss the Travers (4 weeks away) as a result, yet TAP send out a mare at 7/2 in a $2m race that afternoon? Holy crow, my son’s school insists children with a fever be kept home for 24 hrs after the temperature returns to normal.

  • MyBigRed

    I, did not like the racing under the lights for the Breeder’s Cup when I noticed the fillies & mares on Friday evening warming up at the post parade for the Ladies Classic acting like they were spooked at their shadows from the lights. Plus, I can’t help but wonder about, after the race when they are so hot, & the air temp is so cool, if that would affect them as well. I prefer racing in the daylight hours. But I know… is all about the mighty $$.

  • Expofilly

    Not much to say that hasn’t been said already, other than #39 pretty much sums it up. This is a perfect example of why horse racing is going down the tubes. Poor Life at Ten! Almost got re-named Life at Zero. Pletcher is a moron when it comes to care and caring about the horse. Maybe the TV producers thought showing the Borel/Castellano fight a million times would attract some Nascar fans, they love that kind of stuff.

  • joe

    All those who knew about LAT’s fever, lied about it and withdrew vital information should be banned from horse racing FOREVER.

    Abusers and cheaters cannot be reformed. They may lay low for a while after being caught or someone else is caught, but unless punishments are feared, they will not change. I hope that the FBI gets involved here. Only fear of permanent bans, six-figure fines and criminal prosecution will force horse racing to clean-up.

    What did LAT’s owner know and when did she know it?

  • tonyaz

    and the end result is…..absolutely nothing will be done about this ordeal. Churchill Downs will not address this to the public, all we can hope for is ESPN does an “Outside the Lines” show about it. Funny how an ex jock, now bloodstock agent can pick this up but nobody else at the track could, at least as far as people who had the ability to do the right thing. Same ole story, horse gets treated bad, fans get treated worse, and of all things nothing will happen. At least PR will publicize this, but just like the pending hearing with D. O’Neill in California, the Burnadette fiasco etc etc nothing will be done and the degenerate horse players will still plunk down money because we are all hopeless. Well I was hopeless except for the big stake races…….now even those have turned out to be for profit only and who cares about the fan/bettor. And I did not even have cash on LAT. Mullins was so correct….”only idiots bet on horses” LOL.

  • Debbie

    Fred #63
    You should call CSI! Do you understand, this is horse racing? Tying up happens everyday. It doesn’t have to be “organized crime”. What’s the point in having stewards -vets – jockeysor trainers for that matter. They all have a say in whats in the best interest of the horse. if organized crime was involved, does everyone in “authority” not have an ethical problem? Are you saying “everyone is involved”. Get real!

    #61 And would you put a horse in the sale if you just ran dead last? What kind of price would you get? Your the genius that “smells something fishy”!

  • Outraged

    What a joke! A favorite with that amount of money wagered is eased and no testing is done?
    Pletcher and the jock don’t say anything before the race even though they both notice something is not right? Who did they bet on?
    It is pretty clear why horseracing will never regain it’s glory days. Too many dummies and crooks!

  • Brett Lindenbaum

    As a co manager of a racing syndicate with 15 horses in training, including one with Todd Pletcher, to blame Todd for something like this totally ludicrious. Todd didnt become racings top trainer year in year out by accident. If Todd thought or knew something was seriously wrong with Life at Ten he would of never led her out to the track. He mentioned that she was abnormally quiet and instructed Johnny to give her a good warm up. I have been in the paddock on many occassions where my trainer told the jockey to give the horse a good warm up. For many different reasons. The blame here should go to the track vets and the stewards for lack of communication and allowing this filly to enter the gate, especially after Johnny told the vets and Jerry Bailey that she still didnt feel right.

  • Fred

    Debbie #87

    If everything is on the up and up, show me the post race drug tests…Oh, I though so, Keep your head in the sand. Again, thanks to the Paulick Report for shining light on this.

  • Kim Howell

    I’m sorry to disagree with you Mr. Lindenbaum. Mr. Pletcher had ample opportunity to see the mare wasn’t warming out of her distress and contact any racing official or Dr. Bramladge to order her withdrawn. The responsibility for the horse’s wellbeing was ultimately his.

  • Temple Bailey

    I also lost a bundle on that Pletcher horse Life at Ten and the betting parlor where i was would not allow cancellations. I saw that horse was a cripple on the track; track commentations aside. I was furious and got the whole bar going. I knew it was a throw away. Like seing your horse break the gate and you know how I will race to the window to cancel. It was like being trapped in a dead man’s zone and could not break free.

  • Temple Bailey

    Its a real shame that she was not scratched but then Churchill would have had to return all that money wagered on her. They should all be barred for a year. Vets included. I saw she was a cripple in the track and was not walking well at all.

  • Ellen

    This is horrendous for the sport, which is already in a downward spiral. Someone has got to get some answers, and I’m so glad you’re taking a stand, Ray! The animal’s soundness should be at the top of the priority list when the horses are getting ready to load into the gate. If there isn’t a serious inquiry about this incident, many bettors, including myself, will back away from wagering on horses. As much as I love racing, I’m not betting another dime on it until this matter is addressed by the KHRC.

  • ThomasMc

    Mary Lathrop ‘This really isn’t about horsemanship credentials it’s one person’s opinion vs another.But since you asked i’ve worked at the track every year of my life since 1964.I’ve held a trainers license since1972 and I’m a licenced steward.But i don’t think that will get me any fans in this conversation. I’ve also ponied horses for the past 30 years and while that may be nothing to brag about it gives me insite into what goes on in the post parade and at the gate.Belive me I’ve seen it all.The jocks and vets work hard so something like this doesn’t happen.But some times it all goes wrong.I’ve taken thousands of horses to the gate that the jock and I didn’t think was acting right and 95% of them ran ok and a bunch won. You may not think that a vet checked her on the way to the gate on saturday but they are stationed all along the track and at the gate and yes they do use binoculers if they need to.This was a bad deal but it seems they were trying to give the horse a chance,she did not appear to them to need to be scratched.You should try that job for a while.

  • Abbey

    A house jockey at a Kentucky track once quipped that he had three agents. “Those state vets never scratch anything, so I get a lot of mounts that way.”

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