Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Name of Filly

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a Thoroughbred racehorse owner who sued to name one of his fillies after Sally Hemings, a colonial era slave who was reputed to be a mistress of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

In a ruling dated Sept. 16, U.S. District Senior Judge Karl Forester sided with The Jockey Club and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, two groups that had asked that the suit be thrown out.

Garrett Redmond, a Paris, Ky., farmer, sued the racing authority and The Jockey Club in May after a request to name the horse for Hemings was denied. The Jockey Club regulates the naming of Thoroughbred racehorses.

Redmond had argued the denial had deprived him of his rights under the U.S. Constitution. Redmond said he plans to appeal Forester's decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Everything I've heard is I've won the case in public opinion, so The Jockey Club is going to do its damnedest to keep it from being heard (in court)," Redmond said.

In order to be eligible to race at a track in Kentucky, a Thoroughbred must have a name that has been accepted by The Jockey Club, said Jim Gallagher, executive director of the racing authority. Redmond claimed the rule amounted to an improper delegation of power by the state to The Jockey Club, because the authority was relying on that organization's Thoroughbred registration information, but Forester rejected that argument.

Jockey Club president Alan Marzelli said Forester's ruling "upheld our right as a private organization to make and enforce rules. Those rules are for the integrity of racing...and the responsibility falls upon us to enforce those rules."

Gallagher had no comment on the decision.

The dam of Redmond's 2-year-old filly is Jefferson's Secret, whose sire is Colonial Affair. Redmond believes the name "Sally Hemings" would be a natural for a horse of such lineage.

The Jockey Club claims Hemings was a famous or notorious person, and such names require special approval. The organization's rules also say "names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups" won't be approved.