Although the first Triple Crown race is still six months away, negotiations continue to try to reach agreement on how to handle revenue from advertising on apparel worn by jockeys in the three races.
The issue was discussed Dec. 1 during a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s rules committee, which tabled any recommendation to the full commission because representatives of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and the Jockeys’ Guild had not agreed upon a proposal.
TOBA president Dan Metzger told the rules committee members that his organization and the Jockeys’ Guild are attempting to arrive at a revenue split that would be applicable to jockey advertising for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Metzger explained that an agreement between owners and jockeys on jockey advertising would help in trying to attract a sponsor for all three races.
Metzger and Jeff Johnston, regional manager for the Guild, said the two parties were in the process of working with a tentative agreement that provides for a split in which 40% of jockey advertising revenues would go to the horse owner, 40% to the jockey, and 10% each to two charitable organizations – the Disabled Jockeys’ Fund and Thoroughbred Charities of America.
Even if TOBA and the Guild agree on terms, the agreement would have to go through several hurdles before it would be binding on the owners of horses participating in the Triple Crown races.
Metzger said the final agreement would have to be approved by the TOBA board and the organization’s membership. "We have a basis for an agreement, but my challenge would be to take it to the TOBA board and the owners to get them to agree to it, and that’s not the easiest thing in the world to get. There are differing opinions... What makes it difficult is that TOBA can’t directly represent all the owners. We can try. But when it comes down to it, that owner has to make his or own decision. We’re hopeful that if we bring in a national sponsor because of the efforts of the Guild and us working together, the owners would recognize that a sponsor would not come to the sport without some negotiations and flexibility on the ads."
One reason an attempt is being made to work out a revenue split on the jockey advertising would be to some confusion arose this year during Derby week when NetJets and the Jockeys’ Guild entered into an agreement pertaining to participants in the Churchill Downs race. Once they entered into the deal, then they was a flurry of activity to get consent from all of the owners of horses in the 20-horse (later reduced to 19 due to a late scratch) Derby field. The result was a lack of knowledge about how the $300,000 from NetJets, plus an additional $50,000 from WinStar Farms owner Bill Casner, was to be distributed.
According to a breakdown provided by Johnston at the KHRC rules committee meeting, the money was divided this way: $125,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, $75,000 to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and $150,000 to the jockeys who rode in the Derby. The owners of the Derby horses, all of whom consented to the deal between the Guild and NetJets, did not receive any of the advertising revenues.
NetJets entered into similar agreements with jockeys who rode in the BlackBerry Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I), with different charities benefitting from the sponsorships. Johnston said the company’s $97,500 Preakness sponsorship, based on a fewer number of horses and fewer number of jockeys, was broken down with $45,000 to the Jockey Club Foundation, $7,500 to the Susan G. Koman Foundation (at the request of Jess Jackson, majority owner of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, and $45,000 went to the riders. In the Belmont, NetJets paid a sponsorship of $75,000, with $18,750 to the Backstretch Employees Service Team, $18,750 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and $38,000 to the jockeys (with John Velazquez designating $3,750 to benefit of paralyzed rider Rene Douglas).
What are trying to do is have the owner share in the revenue, from which they were essentially excluded from in the past," Metzger said. "There are some owners who would like to think they should get more since they are paying the bills. But what we’re trying to do is bring a sponsor into racing and get it off the ground."
David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, said there was some confusion on the part of owners about where the money was going, with many left with the understanding that all of the advertising revenue was going to charitable purposes.
"We have made our proposal from our association that we would like to have some transparency... on the Thursday before the Derby some owners believed that 100% of the money was going to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and they had no problems with that. When they learned that was not the case, it was too late to do anything about it," Switzer explained, adding that he did not hold the Guild or anyone else responsible for the misinformation. "They should know what the distribution is. We’re looking at transparency."
“We’ve been upfront with everybody who asked,” Johnston said of the 2009 Triple Crown jockey advertising revenue distribution.
If a revenue agreement is worked out well in advance of the first Triple Crown race – the Derby – and sponsorship is secured, as the field for the race on the first Saturday in May takes shape, the owners of horses that might possibly run in the race would be contacted in an effort to secure their consent, Metzger said.
Rules committee chair Ned Bonnie said it is more important for the parties involved in the jockey advertising negotiations to work toward a solution that can be used for future Triple Crown races, even if an agreement is not worked out in time for the 2010 races, rather than rushing into a decision.
Along with guidelines stipulating the types and sizes of logos that can be worn by jockeys on their clothing, the KHRC regulations on jockey advertising stipulate that the rider must have consent of the horse owner, association conducting the race meet, and the stewards in order to display the logos.