The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission determined Thursday after a four-month investigation that there is probable cause that the state's chief steward and a top jockey violated racing statutes at last year's Breeders' Cup championships in Louisville.
Chief Steward John Veitch and jockey Johnny Velazquez, who rode Life At Ten at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, could face sanctions by racing regulators.
Charges have been referred to a hearing officer, who will determine whether a violation has occurred.
No charges were referred against any veterinarians or Todd Pletcher, trainer of Life At Ten, who started as the second-favorite in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic but finished last. More than $300,000 was bet on her to win, with millions of dollars more in "exotic" wagers.
The mare's troubling race results were investigated first by the commission's director of enforcement and then the inspector general from the Transportation Cabinet. Both found no evidence of wrongdoing; no drug violations were alleged, and no betting irregularities were found.
But the investigations found a troubling lack of communication and direction among those in authority.
"In some instances there was not a specific rules violation but, rather, a failure of common sense to prevail," according to the report, which made several recommendations for clarifying the roles of vets and jockeys, and raised the possibility of banning post parade jockey interviews.
The Breeders' Cup, which will hold the 2011 championships at Churchill, said in a statement that it "will review the report findings in detail to address communications issues and on-track protocols moving forward. As always, the safety and welfare of the participants in our races and the protection of the betting public are foremost."
Velazquez did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment.
Veitch, who appeared upset by the vote, said he would make no statement. Asked whether he was still the chief steward, Veitch said, "I don't know."
Lisa Underwood, the racing commission's executive director, said Veitch has his job.
"The next step is, this will go to a hearing officer for a finding of fact," she said. The commission will vote on any potential sanctions.
Underwood would not speculate on when the hearing officer will make a report or what the range of penalties might be.
On Velazquez, the racing commission voted 9-1, with Dr. Foster Northrop voting against referring charges. On Veitch, the commission also voted 9-1, with trainer John Ward voting against charges.
The three charges against Velazquez include that the horse was not "ridden out." Statutes require every horse to be ridden "so as to win or finish as near as possible to first and demonstrate the best and fastest performance of which it is capable at the time."
Life At Ten was never in contact with the field and was visibly eased.
In pre-race interviews, Velazquez said his horse did not appear to be warming up normally. But he never approached state vets about the problem, and the vets were not told of the comments, although stewards knew about them.
The racing commission vets told investigators that, had the jockey or stewards approached them, they would have recommended scratching the horse.
Velazquez could be sanctioned for "conduct that is against the best interest of horse racing," which could result in the suspension or revocation of his jockey's license.
The five potential charges against Veitch include that he failed in his duties as steward to investigate potential infractions, to scratch a horse not in "sound racing conditions," and to collect a post-race sample from a horse.
Stewards, who are charged with enforcing the rules of horse racing, have sweeping authority to scratch any horse and may designate any horse to be tested for drugs.
Despite her poor performance in the Ladies' Classic, a championship race for female horses, Life At Ten was not sent for post-race drug testing, something the investigators faulted.
A sample of her blood drawn before the race was screened, and no prohibited substances were detected, according to the report released Thursday.
Pletcher released a statement before the meeting, criticizing the racing commission for not presenting the report publicly. The commission met for almost three hours behind closed doors before taking a public vote on the findings and releasing the report.
While the report found many areas that the racing commission should look at, investigators were unable to answer the question of why Life At Ten ran so poorly.
Pletcher, in his statement, said: "As I've stated publicly, while she was quieter than usual before the race in the paddock, there was nothing else that I observed that concerned me whatsoever."
After the race, Velazquez told state vet Bryce Peckham that "she just wouldn't put out any effort" but that the horse "felt OK."
Her treating vet found after the race that Life At Ten appeared to be suffering from an undiagnosed infection.
Reports on the investigation were released Thursday and are available at the racing commission's Web site, KHRC.ky.gov.