Several high-profile jockeys filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, arguing that Kentucky law prohibiting them from wearing corporate advertising violates their right to free speech. A second group of jockeys filed a similar suit, because they want to wear the Jockeys' Guild patch on their pants at the Kentucky Derby. Last week Churchill Downs warned that jockeys in violation of the state law, wearing logos conflicting with Churchill's on-site sponsors, would be prohibited from riding and may be ejected from the premises. Attorneys for the KHRA said Tuesday they worry that letting jockeys wear ads could lead to corruption. Other jurisdictions such as New York, California and Florida permit jockeys to wear ads and the Guild patch.
Jockey wearing the Jockeys Guild patch.
Jockey wearing advertising.
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Pollard's Vision, gave his rebuttal: "Whether or not the jockey would actually refuse to ride in the Kentucky Derby, I don't know that, either. I'm sure that if some of these guys chose not to ride, there would be other guys that would choose to ride. The bottom line is I'm not concerned about it." Pletcher also trains Limehouse, who is to be ridden by Jose Santos, also involved in the lawsuit along with Jerry Bailey, Shane Sellers, and Alex Solis.
On Thursday, two days before the famous race, Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the jockeys can wear the advertising patches. However, the ruling only applies to the jockeys who sued, which include Bailey, Sellers, Solis, Velazquez, and Jose Santos, winner of last year's Kentucky Derby aboard Funny Cide. Bailey, who rides Wimbledon on Saturday, said after the ruling, "We are very sensitive to the traditions of our sport and our goal is not to offend anyone. Jockeys work very hard and risk our lives on a daily basis. We have earned the right to make additional income." Sponsors had offered jockeys up to $30,000 to wear their logos in the race.
Jockey Pat Day, not in the suit, said, "The industry is going through some dramatic changes. It would be nice to stick with tradition, but we also have to do what's best for the game and for the longevity of the game."
Prior to the ruling, Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said, "We believe this is an opportunity for jockeys. We're OK with it. I don't believe it will cheapen the event, as long as the parameters are defined and followed. We can make it work. We don't want it becoming too much, and that's discretionary. But we'll be reasonable."
In a separate ruling, the judge also ruled that all jockeys in Knetucky can wear the Jockeys' Guild patch, the patch that had most of last year's Derby jockeys fined $500 for wearing.
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