By Bill Finley
John Veitch, a Hall of Famer who trained numerous stars, including Alydar, whose legendary battles with Affirmed were part of one of the sport's greatest rivalries, passed away Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky. He was 77.
The news of Veitch's passing was first reported by the Blood-Horse.
Veitch's training career ran from 1974 through 2003. According to Equibase, he had 410 career winners and his stable amassed earnings of $20,097,980. He won 76 graded stakes and 93 stakes races overall.
Veitch's best years came as the head trainer for Calumet Farm. For Calumet, he trained three champions, Before Dawn, Davona Dale and Our Mims. But he was best known for being the trainer of Alydar, who finished second behind Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978.
“At this point, I'm not going to concede anything to Affirmed,” Veitch told the New York Times prior to the 1978 GI Belmont S. “Affirmed is a damn fine race horse. We're looking forward to meeting him again in the Belmont, and I'm confident it will be the most favorable race for Alydar.”
In what many regard as one of the best races ever, Alydar battled Affirmed all the way to the wire in the Belmont, but lost by a head.
Alydar went on to become one of the greatest sires of his generation.
In 1982, Veitch parted ways with Calumet and became the private trainer for Darby Dan Farm. For Darby Dan, he campaigned Proud Truth, the winner of the 1985 GI Breeders' Cup Classic. While with Darby Dan, he also won the GI Florida Derby with Brian's Time and the GI Yellow Ribbon S. and the GII Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup with Plenty of Grace.
The son of Hall of Fame trainer Sylvester Veitch, Veitch was born in Lexington in 1945. After attending Bradley University, where he was a member of the football team, the trainer worked as an assistant to his father and Elliott Burch before going out on his own.
In 1998, Veitch closed his small public stable and took the job of racing consultant to a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family. He returned to the United States in April 2000 and trained for Calumet Farm's new owner Henryk deKwiatkowski in 2001.
He stopped training in 2003 and accepted a job as the chief steward for the Kentucky Racing Commission. His tenure as a steward ended in controversy after Life At Ten was allowed to compete in the GI Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Churchill Downs even though jockey John Velazquez told a televised audience that he was concerned with the way his mount was warming up. Life At Ten trailed the field throughout as the favorite and was not selected for a post-race test. The KHRC charged Veitch with five administrative violations for not reacting appropriately to Velazquez's comment. Some seven years later, Veitch reached a settlement with the commission and his one-year suspension was removed from his record.
He was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 2007.
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