Ruling Favors Jockeys Over Derby Logos

Ruling Favors Jockeys Over Derby Logos
Photo: Benoit
Corey Nakatani is one of three jockeys who challenged a ruling against him stemming from the 2005 Ky. Derby.

A circuit court judge in Kentucky has ruled in favor of three jockeys who were fined and suspended after wearing ads during the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ruled that the emergency rule implemented by the then-Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (now Commission) to prevent the riders from wearing the logos did not meet the state’s requirements for an emergency regulation.

Jockeys Jeremy Rose, Corey Nakatani, and Kent Desormeaux were each fined $5,000 and handed seven-day suspensions for wearing the advertisements.

In March 2005, the Authority passed a rule setting out a pre-race approval process between a horse’s owner(s) and stewards for jockey advertisements. The Authority advertising rule came about as a result of a ruling by U.S. District Judge John Heyburn that permitted jockeys to wear logos during the 2004 Derby. In his ruling, Heyburn suspended the state ban on ads and promotional logos on attire worn by five jockeys who originally sued, according to the Courier-Journal.

The March 2005 rule is now in effect, but at the time it was passed it did not take effect until after that year’s Derby due to the state’s rulemaking process that allows for public comment and legislative review. In order to have it go into effect before the Derby, the Authority used the emergency regulation to have it implemented immediately.

The jockeys went to court challenging the emergency nature of the Authority’s action, according to the newspaper, and the Authority countered that the implementation was justified under provision of the law that allows for the emergency action if it is justified on the basis of “public health, safety, and welfare.”

The Courier-Journal reported that Shepherd determined the amount of time between the federal judge’s ruling in April 2004 and the March 2005 passage of the rule precluded the Authority from being able to use the emergency provisions.

“It was the months of delay and inaction on the part of the KHRA after the federal court ruling that created the so-called emergency in the first place,” Shepherd ruled. “Simply stated, no emergency existed that justified an emergency regulation prior to the 2005 Kentucky Derby.”

KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood said no decision had been made on whether to appeal the ruling, according to the newspaper.

In a footnote to his ruling, Shepherd also questioned the Authority’s challenge to the jockey ads because of the effect it would have on the “time-honored traditions and splendor of Thoroughbred racing” for a race that is now sponsored by Yum! Brands.

“The KHRA regulation simply promotes one economic interest group (the tracks) over another (the jockeys) in the field of advertising,” Shepherd wrote. “While this may be a rational regulatory choice, it in no way rises to the level of an emergency threat to ‘public health, safety, and welfare’.”

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