By: Natalie Voss
At the first meeting of the newly-appointed Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday, members released several decisions about pending cases following an executive session.
The long saga of John Veitch acquired another entry when the commission requested that the former chief steward’s suspension be apportioned, with three months recommended for each of the three violations handed down against him. Veitch has already served that nine months, and according to commission executive director Marc Guilfoil is working as a paddock judge and “is in good standing” as a racing official with the commission.
The case traces back six years to Veitch’s handling of Life At Ten’s warm up and race in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Tuesday’s vote took place because a Kentucky circuit court had remanded the matter to the commission for a decision on apportioning.
The May meeting was the first for 12 members of the commission, which was recently reorganized by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.
The commission also agreed to uphold the original stewards’ sanctions in the case of trainer Edward Frederick, who received a 45-day suspension and $500 fine for a stanozolol positive on Night League, who finished third in a race at Turfway Park in 2015. Frederick was also given a 90-day suspension on the same date for violating Kentucky’s rules against possession of injectable drugs, syringes, and needles by a non-veterinarian.
Trainer Tevis McCauley, who was charged in 2015 with milkshaking a horse at Keeneland on the same day it was scheduled to run at Ellis Park, requested to meet with commission personnel and attorneys to hash out a deal on sanctions, rather than fight the case in court. The terms of the agreement were not made public, as they had not been signed off by McCauley, but McCauley’s desire to reach a deal was accepted by the commission. McCauley maintained in the press at the time of the charges that the horse was receiving fluids due to an illness the night before and was scheduled to be scratched.
Other items on Tuesday’s agenda included the passage of a new rule regarding mount fees for jockeys of losing horses. The fee structure had not changed since 2011, leaving Kentucky with the lowest mount fees in the nation, according to meeting materials. The increase amounts to about $10 across all purse levels and will no longer be driven by purse percentages for riders finishing outside of the top four. The new structure was agreed upon by the Jockeys’ Guild, Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.
The commission also unanimously agreed to grant a probationary license to Sportech Racing tote systems. The probationary status will run through the remainder of 2016 and was added when commission members and staff voiced concerns about a recent mistake in which a horse was accidentally scratched from a race in the Sportech’s system for a few minutes ahead of a race. (The horse was later added back before the race went off, and the mistake was blamed on “human error” per Sportech vice president of sales and business development Michele Fischer).
Finally, the commission heard a presentation from Equilottery founder and CEO Brad Cummings, explaining the structure of the game, which is aimed at combining horse racing and lottery play. The commission was not required to take any action regarding the quick-pick style lottery game, but members did have questions about how the game would work from the racing industry’s perspective. The bulk of revenue for racetracks and breeders’ incentive funds would come from the $.20 on each $2 ticket that is earmarked for game management costs, Cummings explained, with the specific percentage depending upon contract terms. Part of the game’s value to racing would be getting new people exposed to the sport.
“We’ve never pretended this is a revenue panacea for the racing industry,” said Cummings. “We’re a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ kind of company. What we do better than anybody else is expose the sport to people.”
Equilottery announced its partnership with IGT Global Solutions, a lottery game services company, earlier this year. The game has yet to be implemented in a racing jurisdiction.
Additional new faces at the meeting included John Forgy, who replaces Susan Speckert as general counsel to the commission. Steve May, formerly of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, was also introduced as the new director of pari-mutuel wagering for the commission.