Friday, April 30, 2004

Judge awards jockeys right to cash in on advertising

Decision blocks Ky. rule against issue

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - A judge's ruling has won jockeys the right to wear advertising in the Kentucky Derby.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II on Thursday blocked a state rule barring such corporate sponsorship. Five jockeys brought the suit, contending the rule violated First Amendment rights.

Though the judge's decision applied only to the five jockeys in the suit, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority later said all jockeys could wear the ads.

"We're opening the endorsement door in America," said jockey Shane Sellers, one of the plaintiffs. "It's a big win for all riders."

Heyburn said he would schedule another hearing within 30 days to decide whether to make Thursday's ruling final.

Ads could be lucrative. Sellers, Jerry Bailey and Jose Santos testified that they were offered up to $30,000 each to wear ads on their pants leg in the Derby.

Bailey will wear a Wrangler patch Saturday, as he has before in New York and Florida, and other jockeys are still weighing endorsement offers. Jockey advertising is permitted in New York, California, Florida and Maryland.

A statement from the jockeys in the suit said the riders plan their ads to be tasteful.

"We are very sensitive to the traditions of our sport, and our goal is not to offend anyone," Bailey said.

Churchill Downs laid out rules, including barring sponsors it deems "inappropriate," companies involved in gambling or companies that compete with track sponsors.

In a separate case, Heyburn ruled all jockeys could wear a patch with the name of the 1,100-member Jockeys' Guild. Some jockeys had theirs stitched on in time for Thursday's races at Churchill Downs.

Fourteen riders were fined $500 each after wearing guild patches during last year's Derby. Their appeal is pending in Franklin Circuit Court.


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