A committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is close to finalizing changes in how jockey advertising is regulated. However, members of the rules committee drafting the changes and representatives of The Jockeys’ Guild, which has been involved in the process, appear at odds on the key point of how the money, primarily from advertising on the riders’ pants, should be distributed.
During a Dec. 22 meeting of the rules committee, the groups involved in negotiations over jockey advertising agreed on two key points: that revenue should be evenly divided between jockeys and horses' owners and that any contracts with advertisers should be entered into three weeks prior to an event (with some leeway for stakes, for which entries do not close until less than three weeks before the race).
However, they remained apart on whether the regulations should stipulate where the money goes once it’s distributed to the jockeys and owners.
Representatives of the owners involved in the negotiations — Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Owners and Breeders Association, and Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association — believe all the money should go to equine-related charities. Guild representatives say the riders would also contribute to charity but do not want a state racing regulation to dictate it.
While Kentucky Derby advertising is the focal point, the rules finally drafted by the committee and full commission would apply to all major stakes races in the state.
The parties are seeking to stiffen the existing jockey advertising regulations and to avoid the hectic situation that arises annually prior to the Kentucky Derby. Over the past several years, the Guild has entered into advertising agreements with major sponsors — this year it was NetJets — during Derby week. Once the advertising deal is arranged, guild representatives then hustle to obtain the necessary permissions from the riders prior to the classic. Usually, this process begins the Wednesday before the Derby, when the entries are taken and it's known which owners have horses in the race and who is going to ride them. Another reason for revising the regulation is to stipulate that owners receive some of the advertising money, according to the rules committee members.
At an earlier rules committee meeting, Jeff Johnston, Guild regional manager, explained that $350,000 was received for this year’s Derby advertising package — $300,000 from NetJets and $50,000 from WinStar’s Bill Casner. Of that, $125,000 went to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, $75,000 to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and $150,000 to jockeys who rode in the Derby.
Johnston said Dec. 22 that jockeys want the flexibility to determine where their portion of the ad revenues go, and he believes some owners would also like to do the same.
“I like where we’re headed,” Johnston said of the negotiations, “but it’s going to be more difficult when you get to an individual owner, an individual trainer, or an individual jockey (who doesn’t agree with the revenues going to charity). Eighty to ninety percent (will support it) but you’re going to have that one person...”
But it is apparent that rules committee members want it all to go to charity.
“I don’t think the owners want this money and it ought to go to charity,” said rules committee member and horse owner Tom Conway. “This is a chance to raise revenues to fund these charities.”
“There may be isolated cases of small owners wanting this money, but I believe 99% of them would want it to go to charity,” said Dan Metzger, TOBA president.
“I can’t imagine that if you dedicated 50% of the money go to the Disabled Jockeys’ Fund any jockey objecting,” said Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky HBPA. “I can’t imagine if we dedicated 50% of the money go to Thoroughbred Charities of America or the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund that any owner would object.”
“It’s clear that the consensus of a majority of the people at this table representing their various parties is that they want 100% of that money to go to charity, and they want that agreement to be done weeks before any particular race where this comes up,” said Ned Bonnie, rules committee chairman.
Bonnie said the rule would be written based on the consensus of views presented to the committee and not to accommodate a minority of interests.
David Switzer, executive director of the KTA/KTOBA, said anyone objecting to the revenue distribution would have the option to run their horse.
“If we write the regulation this way (stipulating the advertising revenues go to charity), then it becomes law and the owners and jockeys then have the option not to participate in the Derby,” said Switzer.
If the rule is passed with the charity requirement, Switzer said TOBA and KTA representatives would reach out to owners likely to have starters in the Derby to explain to them where the money is going and see if they had any other preferred charity. Metzger noted that TCA has distributed money to more than 150 organizations, so any preferred organizations would likely be included.
While the ad revenue distribution is the biggest change proposed to the current regulations, another proposal would add caps promoting a for-profit or non-profit entity to the list apparel that cannot be worn within one hour before, during, or after a race unless it is consistent with other aspects of the regulation allowing such material.