The helmets arrived in the nick of time.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority's new regulations on safety helmets for jockeys took effect with the Sept. 6 opening of Turfway Park, and three hours before the first post of 7 p.m. EDT, a shipment of regulation helmets hadn't arrived. Turfway president Bob Elliston said he was in contact with an individual who said they were on the way.
It isn't known what would have happened had there not been enough of the regulation helmets when racing began.
"They're here, and everyone is happy," KHRA deputy executive director Patricia Cooksey said after the first race. "Everything went smoothly. The jockeys traded the old ones in, and we have someone here to make sure the new ones fit properly."
The new helmets must meet American Standard Testing Materials regulations. Cooksey said the KHRA is making an effort to "get the helmets on their heads as cheaply as possible."
Jeff Johnston, who recently retired from riding to become Midwest regional manager for the Jockeys' Guild, said jockeys need at least two helmets, which could cost a combined $400. He said some of the Turfway riders already had the regulation helmet.
"I haven't heard anything negative so far," said Johnston, who was on hand for Turfway's opening night. "Everything is going smoothly."
Johnston said he had spoken to riders in other states to make sure they were aware of the new Kentucky rule. Many out-of-state riders come to Kentucky in September and ride through the Keeneland and Churchill Downs meets.