California Board Delays Approval of Advertising Plan

A proposal to allow advertisements on jockeys' and horses' equipment is having a hard time getting off the ground in California.

The trial project has received support among owners, jockeys and some racetracks but the California Horse Racing Board delayed making the needed changes at its meeting Friday in Cypress, Calif. Changes to a state regulation that would clear the way for advertising was delayed until the CHRB's next meeting in January.

While many board members said they support the plan, they were cautious about approving the change when the general manager of three California tracks said he hadn't received the draft agreement.

"I've never seen a copy of the agreement," said Jack Liebau, general manager of Magna Entertainment, which owns Santa Anita, Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields. "We don't even have a position on this. It would be a mischaracterization to say we are opposed to this plan."

Board Chairman Robert Tourtelot said it appears the groups that met over the summer in Del Mar hadn't reached an agreement. He added the board shouldn't amend the state code, which currently prohibits endorsements on clothing and equipment, unless everyone is on board. "It's the cart before the horse," he said. "I thought you had an agreement but you don't."

California would be the first state to allow advertising on clothing and horses' saddlecloths if approved by the racing board. The sponsorship program was conceived by horsemen to infuse new revenue into a struggling industry.

Advertisements from sponsors could be displayed on clothing with the permission of the owner, jockey or racetrack. Products that couldn't be promoted under the proposed guidelines include tobacco, weapons, pornography and items that are "detrimental" to horse racing.

Revenues from the sponsorships will be split between the jockeys, owners and race tracks with a small amount given to a jockey's health fund and a state horsemen's foundation.

Some board members were concerned about potential conflict between parties if an advertisement doesn't suit their taste. Proponents said those issues will be resolved long before a race begins.

"This is all going to be worked out far in advance," said attorney Barry Broad, who represents the Jockeys' Guild. "This is something new for a very conservative industry. It's going to take some getting used to."

Supporters were confident the racing board will make the appropriate changes to allow the ads but said the delay was a setback. John Van de Kamp, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California was hoping to attract sponsors during the upcoming Santa Anita meet but now is unsure when the plan may take effect.

"We want to get up and running as soon as possible," he said. "But right now we have these shackles on us."

Other items that were approved at the board's meeting included:
-- The board approved a modest increase for off-site stabling and vanning companies. The fund that offsets the cost for those expenses would only have $33,908 by next September if the increase from .56 to .60 wasn't approved. According to figures presented by Southern California Off-Track Wagering, Inc., the fund balance by next September will be about $470,000.

--The board also amended a state code that requires exercise riders to wear safety vests. Jockey and apprentices are already mandated by state law to wear the gear. However, the new regulation doesn't protect

--Santa Anita will race 83 days during its upcoming winter meet, four days less than last year. There will be 61 stakes races held during the meet with purses totaling $10.4 million. The meet's two main events the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Anita Derby will be held Sat., March 3 and Sat., April 7, respectively.