Lawyer: Officials made jockey Velazquez scapegoat
Friday, March 11, 2011; 12:13 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- An attorney for jockey John Velazquez said the rider has been made a "scapegoat" by Kentucky racing officials looking to assess blame for Life At Ten's lackluster ride in last fall's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission ruled Thursday there is "probable cause" for a hearing officer to determine whether the Eclipse Award-winning jockey violated three state racing statutes during the race.
Attorney Maggi Moss in a statement released Friday said the charges "chilling and now sets an unworkable standard for all jockeys."
Velazquez told TV announcers before the race he was concerned Life At Ten wasn't warming up properly. She loped behind the rest of the 11-horse field, finishing last.
Officials claim the jockey either should have alerted veterinarians about his concerns over the horse's health or given her a normal ride. For doing neither, he was cited for engaging "in conduct that is against the best interest of horse racing."
"By electing to proceed with such a charge, the regulators are essentially setting a precedent that jockeys should scratch every horse that warms up sound but sluggish," Moss said in the statement. "Otherwise, they could potentially be to subject to sanctions or other penalties."
Velazquez told investigators in December that while he was curious about the horse's quiet warmup but he's not sure telling the on-track veterinarian would have changed things.
"How (were) they going to scratch her?" he said. "She's not lame, I mean. She's not limping. What were they going to say, she's too quiet to run?"
Though a summary of the 161-page report determined there was "no evidence of intentional wrongdoing or nefarious or fraudulent activity." Investigators said there was a "systematic breakdown in communications" and a "failure of common sense to prevail."
Kentucky chief racing steward John Veitch was also cited for five violations stemming from the incident, most of the charges stemming from a lack of proper oversight of the matter.