By Craig Hoffman
(LOUISVILLE, April 26th, 2004, 5:30 p.m.) -- A showdown continues in U.S. federal court. Jockeys riding in the Kentucky Derby this Saturday want to wear advertising logos and a Jockeys' Guild patch. The Horse Racing authority is against the idea, saying it would hurt the sport. WAVE 3's Craig Hoffman reports.
On Friday, five jockeys filed suit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority in U.S. District Court in Louisville seeking to suspend the rule against advertising. They want a ruling in time
for next Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
A week earlier, three other jockeys filed suit against the authority seeking to wear patches supporting the Jockeys' Guild in Kentucky thoroughbred races.
In both suits, jockeys claim a state requirement that forbids them from wearing advertising or promotional logos on their uniforms restricts their right to free speech.
The jockeys who filed suit Friday include Shane Sellers, Jose Santos, Jerry Bailey, John Velazquez and Alex Solis. The other suit was filed by Sellers, along with jockeys Robby Albarado and Brian Peck.
Shane Sellers, who will be riding early Derby favorite, Cliff's Edge, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits. The veteran jockey explains why he wants to wear an advertisers logo. "I know in my case -- at least the Derby -- it's $30,000. We have some very lucrative contracts some of us had to walk away from."
Sellers says wearing the Jockeys' Guild patch will raise money and bring awareness to disabled jockeys. But, J. Bruce Miller, an attorney for the Horse Racing Authority, believes wearing such logos hurts the integrity of the sport.
The people need to know across the country, and world, when they bet on this race. There won't be any competing interest, that no one is paying the jockey, inappropriately, by advertising, or other means.
Sellers and Albarado wore Guild patches last year, and each was fined $500. They call that a free speech violation.
Darrell Hare with the Jockeys' Guild says horsemen deserve the same opportunities as other athletes. "This is something that is only right -- give them the opportunity -- that's all there is to it. These are great athletes. They should have the opportunity to make a little extra money, too."
Bill Emrick with the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority seemed sympathetic to the jockeys' feelings, but was disappointed with the timing of the lawsuits. "This is a new authority -- all regulations have to be revisited, that is a point we wanted to get out to them. We are going to look at this in the future. It's unfair to do this right before the Derby."
The judge will issuing a ruling by Derby day -- possibly as soon as Tuesday. The loser will likely appeal.
Online Reporter: Craig Hoffman