Decision on Allowing Jockey Ads in Derby Pushed to Wednesday

After hearing final arguments Tuesday morning, a federal judge said he will rule on whether to allow jockey advertising in this year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) Wednesday morning.

Final arguments were presented to Judge John G. Heyburn II by representatives for the jockeys and attorneys for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, which is intent on enforcing its rule that bans any advertising that is "not keeping in the traditions of the turf."

The focus of the KHRA's argument has been that allowing jockeys to wear advertising on their pants would distract stewards when trying to determine foul claims. However, attorneys for the jockeys countered states that already allow jockey advertising, which includes California, New York, and Florida, have not had such problems. Jockeys' attorneys have maintained the "traditions of the turf" rule is vague and a violation of First Amendment rights.

Kelly Weitsma, president of Equisponse, a marketing firm that represents the jockeys, said Heyburn did not appear swayed by the KHRA's argument.

"The KHRA really buried themselves on that issue," Weitsma said Tuesday morning.

Attorneys representing the KHRA were not immediately available for comment.

After final arguments wrapped Tuesday, Heyburn said he would give both sides until Wednesday morning for any follow-up before ruling on an injunction. The jockeys seeking the injunction are Jerry Bailey, Jose Santos, Shane Sellers, Alex Solis, and John Velazquez.

A similar but unrelated motion was filed the week of April 19 by jockeys Robby Albarado, Brian Peck, and Sellers. That filing seeks permission to wear Jockeys' Guild patches during the Derby. Several riders wore the Guild patch in last year's race and were fined $500 by the Kentucky Racing Commission. Both suits are being addressed by Heyburn.