U.S. Horse racing is riddled with hypocrisy, especially when it comes to the punishments and rewards it metes out to its two-legged participants. We will save our remarks on how it treats its four-legged participants for other posts.
A case in point is the Life at Ten controversy, a prime example why American horse racing needs governing by a Commissioner empowered by Congress.
Jockey John Velazquez accepts punishment for “his part” in the disappointing showing of 7-2 second favorite Life at Ten, who he eased up and eventually finished last with in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Churchill Downs. Velazquez’s part, according to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, is talking about the mare’s lackluster disposition before the race to the press but none of the attending army of veterinarians, and then having the nerve to go easy on her during the race for no good reason.
RON MITCHELL, writing for Blood Horse reports:
Jockey John Velazquez agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to settle the complaint filed against him in the Life At Ten case regarding the mare’s participation in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I).
According to the agreement worked out with Velazquez’s attorneys and approved by the commission March 6, half the fine will be paid to the Disabled Jockeys Fund.
The agreement brings to a close the commission’s case against Velazquez that was precipitated by the lackluster performance of Life At Ten in the Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. The commission began an investigation after the race due to the lack of effort by the second favorite in the race. Prior to the race, Velazquez told an ESPN reporter on horseback that the mare did not warm up like she usually did. An ESPN producer relayed that information to the stewards, but Life At Ten was permitted to run.
In the Ladies’ Classic, Life At Ten broke slowly and was eventually eased by Velazquez. A day later, trainer Todd Pletcher said Life At Ten apparently had an allergic reaction to anti-bleeder medication.
On March 16, the commission charged that Velazquez had violated Kentucky’s rules of racing by making comments to the ESPN broadcasters about the condition of Life At Ten, by his failure to notify veterinarians of his concerns, and by failing to ride Life At Ten out and easing her without adequate cause.
In their report, the Commission found probable cause that Velazquez violated three rules, and chief steward John Veitch violated five. Not surprisingly perhaps, they placed no blame on Life at Ten‘s trainer Todd Pletcher.
In 2004, one of Pletcher’s horses tested positive for the anesthetic, mepivicaine. Mepivicaine can numb pain in horses. Pletcher received a 45-day training suspension and fined $3,000. Naturally, Pletcher appealed the suspension. However, it was upheld. Pletcher received an Eclipse Award in 2004 for outstanding training.
Pletcher won similar Eclipse Awards in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010. So a five time Eclipse Award winning trainer cannot tell when a horse he has running at one of the most important (and heavily and internationally bet on) race meetings of the year is not herself?
Two days after her last place finish in the the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic on November 5, 2010, Life at Ten was part of a consignment of horses for the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale. Cataloged as a racing or broodmare prospect, she was withdrawn and did not go under the hammer.
Life at Ten, who has career earnings of $1,127,267.00, is owned by Candy DeBartolo.