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Judge: Derby Jocks Can Sport Ads

Jockeys can wear advertising patches during the Kentucky Derby, a judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II's decision two days before the country's premier horse race applies only to seven jockeys who sued, including Jerry Bailey, Alex Solis, Jose Santos, and John Velazquez.

They cited the First Amendment in successfully asking that the judge grant a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of a state rule that bars jockeys from wearing advertising, promotional or cartoon symbols during races.

The jockeys issued a statement after the ruling, saying the ads would be tasteful.

"We are very sensitive to the traditions of our sport and our goal is not to offend anyone," said Bailey, a two-time Derby winner who will ride Wimbledon on Saturday.

"Jockeys work very hard and risk our lives on a daily basis. We have earned the right to make additional income," he said.

In a separate case, Heyburn ruled that jockeys can wear a patch with the name of their union, the 1,100-member Jockeys' Guild. That ruling applies to all jockeys riding in Kentucky.

Attorneys for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, the state agency that regulates the sport, argued during a two-day hearing that letting jockeys wear ads could lead to corruption. They also argued that the presence of ads or other patches could hamper racing officials' ability to determine a winner in a tight finish, or whether a foul was committed.

Other states, such as New York, California and Florida, let jockeys wear ads and the guild patch.

The jockeys pointed out that advertising is abundant at Churchill Downs during Derby Week, down to the goldenrod saddlecloths worn by the horses.

Ads could be lucrative for jockeys. Bailey and Shane Sellers, who will be aboard favorite The Cliff's Edge in the Derby, said corporate sponsors offered them up to $30,000 to wear a logo during the race.

Jockey Pat Day, not part of either lawsuit, said before the ruling that the case could have a major impact on the sport.

"The industry is going through some dramatic changes," said Day, Churchill Downs' winningest rider. "It would be nice to stick with tradition, but we also have to do what's best for the game and for the longevity of the game."

Mark York, a spokesman for the state Cabinet agency that oversees the racing authority, he had not seen Heyburn's ruling. He said the agency, the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, would make a statement later.

By Bruce Schreiner

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