10/26/2010 4:00PM

Kentucky commission approves increased schedule for 2011

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved a total of 209 Thoroughbred dates for the state’s five racetracks in 2011, a slight increase over the 202 dates that were approved last year.

Under the requests, Turfway Park will race a total of 82 dates, a five-date increase over the track’s request last year, and Ellis Park will race 31 dates, four more than last year’s request. Churchill applied for 60 dates, two fewer than last year, while Keeneland applied for 32 dates, identical to their request last year. Kentucky Downs applied for four dates.

The dates requests were approved unanimously by a commission that has raised concerns over the past two years about the dwindling number of live race dates on the year-round Kentucky circuit. Horsemen, tracks, and commissioners have cited competition from tracks in neighboring states with slot-machine subsidies for luring horses out of the state, although the impact of the recession and long-running declines in racing’s popularity are also factors.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved rules that will allow stewards to use electronic foal certificates to verify the identities of horses entered to race. Those rules will likely take effect in approximately six months, after the regulations have been vetted by the state legislature.

The commission met on Tuesday one day after the it reached a settlement with the Jockeys’ Guild that suspended an emergency regulation that had required jockeys to disclose the financial terms of any sponsorship agreements to the commission.

Last week, the Guild had filed a lawsuit to suspend the rule, in part because of concerns that the new requirement would impair riders’ ability to reach the agreements in advance of the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Mindy Coleman, the attorney for the Jockeys’ Guild, said that the settlement will remove the disclosure requirement from both the emergency regulation and formal regulations that are currently being reviewed by legislative committees. The settlement, however, does not address a separate request in the lawsuit that seeks to overturn emergency regulations requiring the use of more expensive safety vests. The guild has objected to the way the commission adopted the safety-vest requirements under the emergency regulations, and has also raised concerns about the data the commission used to assess the new vests, Coleman said.

The commission had adopted the disclosure requirement after a flap between some owners and riders erupted during this year’s Kentucky Derby. According to the commission, jockeys will still need approval from stewards, owners, and racing associations before they will be allowed to wear any advertising materials while riding.