05/10/2010 11:00PM

Kentucky delays mandatory vest use


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday agreed to delay the effective date of a rule requiring safety vests for anyone riding a horse at state racetracks and training centers until June 15.

The rule was scheduled to go into effect on Saturday, but members of the commission's safety committee recommended that the effective date be pushed back one month after backstretch workers complained vociferously about the rule at a meeting at Churchill Downs on May 5, according to Elizabeth Lavin, a commission member.

Lavin said the commission would not back down from implementing the rule despite the complaints. She said the committee wanted to delay the rule to "address availability issues on some of the vests," which cost at least $180 and can run up to $400.

Complaints from backstretch workers have centered on the high costs of the vests, along with criticism that the requirement infringes on an individual worker's rights.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved a request by Keeneland Racecourse to run a stakes race for Arabian horses at its fall meet this year. The purse for the $50,000 race will be put up by the government of Abu Dhabi, according to Rogers Beasley, Keeneland's director of racing. The race will be the first held by Keeneland for Arabian horses.

The commission also said that it has asked Churchill Downs, the Jockeys' Guild, and several state horsemen's and owner's groups to provide written accounts within seven days about the two organizations' efforts to line up a deal for advertising on jockeys' riding breeches during the Kentucky Derby. The request was made after a commission member, Tom Ludt, accused the Guild and Churchill of failing to comply with commission rules put in place several years ago to regulate advertising on jockeys' equipment.

Ludt, who was a member of the committee that drafted the rules, is the president of Vinery, the central Kentucky farm that is a part owner of Awesome Act, who ran 19th in this year's Derby.