Kentucky Authority Denies Helmet Waiver to International Riders

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority unanimously voted to deny a waiver of the state's new helmet rule for international riders participating in the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

"Our hands are somewhat tied," KHRA chairman Bill Street said of the authority's power to waive the regulation during its Sept. 25 meeting. "We don't have the leeway to waive that rule. It seems to me that we should notify the horse owners in advance so they can notify the jockeys, and the jockeys can get here in advance and know they have to be sized for a regulatory helmet."

Representatives of Churchill Downs, in a letter from Jim Gates, Churchill Downs general manager, and members of Breeders' Cup, had asked the KHRA to consider issuing a waiver to the rule that would allow international riders to wear the same helmets they wear in their home countries.

KHRA general counsel Lisa Underwood advised the authority to consider the liability to the state and the KHRA if an international jockey were to sign the waiver and then become injured while riding in Kentucky.

"I think what we need to consider is the potential liability for the authority for waiving something for one day that is strictly and very directly in our regulations," Underwood said. "The helmet is supposed to be (American Society for Testing and Materials) approved."

International riders who ship into Louisville for the one-day event will be required to wear the same type of helmet all riders in Kentucky now wear. In an effort to make that possible, the KHRA, in conjunction with the Breeders' Cup, plans to notify the connections of all foreign-based horses of the state's helmet regulation.

The KHRA adopted a new helmet regulation in August requiring all riders to wear a helmet which meets the standards of the ASTM. The enforcement began at the Sept. 6 opening of Turfway Park.

Under the new KHRA rule, the racetracks' clerk of scales will determine whether a jockey is wearing an approved helmet before the rider weighs out prior to a race. If it is determined the rider is not in compliance with the rule, he or she will not be permitted to ride. Though the rule has been in effect since 1999, enforcement has not been pursued due to the limited number of helmets being manufactured that meet the standard.

The KHRA also discussed bulking up its division of racetrack security and adding two new positions, one to oversee pari-mutuel operations and one to oversee the state's new breeders' incentive program.

Jim Gallagher, outgoing KHRA executive director, said increasing the size of the current staff is currently in the talking phase. "We need to flush out the positions, do a cost analysis, and talk to the governor's office and the tracks," he said.

In other business, the KHRA approved 274 Thoroughbred racing dates for 2007: Turfway Park will run a 68-day winter meet from Jan. 1-April 5; Keeneland will conduct its 15-day spring meet from April 6-April 27, with the track closed on Easter Sunday, April 8; Churchill Downs will offer a 52-day spring meet April 28-July 8, with the track dark the Sunday (May 6) following the Kentucky Derby (gr. I); Ellis Park will host a 46-day meet from July 4-Sept. 3; the 22-day Turfway fall meet will run Sept. 5-Oct. 4; Kentucky Downs will run six days, with racing Sept. 15, Sept. 17, Sept. 18, Sept. 22, Sept. 24, and Sept. 25; Keeneland will host a 17-day fall meet from Oct. 5-Oct. 27; Churchill will host a 21-day fall meet from Oct. 28-Nov. 24; and the Turfway holiday meet will run 27 days from Nov. 25-Dec. 31.