April 13, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Sidelined for nearly half a year, Kentucky's former chief racing steward John Veitch is looking to make a comeback in the horse racing business at age 66 after a judge blocked his suspension.

Veitch is a Hall of Fame trainer perhaps best known for prepping Alydar, who finished a close second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978. He is still fighting to reclaim his job as racing steward. He held that role from 2005 until his firing last November.

But in the meantime, he's looking for work in the business that supplied him a career for more than 40 years.

"I am open to almost anything right now," Veitch said in a phone interview Friday. "I do need to work, not only financially but also mentally. It's been a terrible strain, not only on myself but my family. I need to start over again."

A Franklin County Circuit judge this week issued a stay of his one-year suspension approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The judge's ruling means Veitch can seek a license to work again at a racetrack.

"This is the first step in what I hope will be many victories," he said. "This opens the door for me to be employed so I can start defraying some of my expenses that this legal process has consumed."

Veitch said he's looking for work and will seek a license if he finds a job requiring one.

"For the last 42 years, I've done nothing but be involved in the racing industry, and I would like to continue," he said.

Veitch, who lives in Lexington, said he would prefer staying in Kentucky.

Marc Guilfoil, interim executive director of the racing commission, said that if Veitch seeks a license, "his application will be treated the same as anybody that applies for a license. It will go through the normal review."

The state Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the racing commission, fired Veitch without cause last November.

He is challenging his dismissal with the state Personnel Board but no hearing date has been set.

Veitch came under intense scrutiny for his handling of the 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Churchill Downs regarding the filly Life At Ten. During that race, the horse was uncompetitive and eased. That sparked a debate as to whether Veitch should have scratched the filly from the race or ordered her to the test barn following her poor performance.

Racing officials claimed that Veitch and the other two stewards on duty failed to carefully monitor the situation.

A state investigator's report had recommended the one-year suspension for Veitch.

"The initial mistake of refusing to contact the veterinarians before the race was gross negligence," hearing officer Bob Layton wrote. "After the race, Veitch refused to designate Life At Ten for sampling and refused for two days to do investigation. Veitch's post-race conduct shows he was aware his original actions were wrong, and shows he was unwilling to investigate the situation around his wrongful actions."

Veitch said Friday he was wrongly accused and singled out for punishment.

"I worked all of my life to keep a good reputation, which I think I've achieved," he said.

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