11/07/2003 1:00AM

Riders file suit over logos worn in Kentucky Derby


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Thirteen of the jockeys who wore a Jockeys' Guild patch on their pants during the Kentucky Derby last May have filed a lawsuit requesting that a stewards' ruling against them be overturned and that the Kentucky Racing Commission regulation that governs advertising on jockeys' clothing be declared an unconstitutional implementation of the state's regulatory powers.

Shortly after the May 3 Derby, the jockeys who wore the 3- by 5-inch patches for the Derby were fined $500 each by the Churchill Downs stewards for an alleged violation of a regulation that prohibits the wearing of any items that "in the opinion of the commission are not in keeping with the traditions of the turf," according to state regulation 1:009, Section 14, Subsection 3.

Following an appeal by the jockeys before a Kentucky Racing Commission hearing officer on June 25, the commission ruled on Oct. 3 to uphold the fines. The jockeys' lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville by attorney Michael Goodwin, calls the regulation governing jockeys' wear "arbitrary and capricious," and is "unconstitutionally overbroad on its face." It further states that the regulation is "susceptible of being enforced in an arbitrary manner." The suit does not ask for specific damages.

Sixteen jockeys rode in the Derby. All but Pat Day and Jerry Bailey wore the Jockeys' Guild patches, which the lawsuit said were worn to "promote their labor union, to increase membership in the union, and to bring to the attention of the public the unconscionable plight of disabled jockeys." Another jockey, David Flores, wore a patch but did not join the 13 others in the lawsuit.

The riders whose names appear on the lawsuit are Robby Albarado, Tyler Baze, Calvin Borel, Eibar Coa, Kent Desormeaux, Tony Farina, Rosemary Homeister Jr., Edgar Prado, Jose Santos, Shane Sellers, Alex Solis, Gary Stevens, and Cornelio Velasquez

Advertising or other promotional items on jockeys' wear has been a hot-button issue for years in a number of racing jurisdictions throughout North America. Regulations vary from state to state, but, generally, racetracks and government regulators have been able to control advertising rights despite the collective protestations of jockeys and their representatives.

J. Bruce Miller, a Louisville attorney who is representing the Kentucky Racing Commission in this case, said Friday that the lawsuit "is about constitutional issues. This is a case that might ultimately have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. There are some very interesting and unique issues in play here. While the regulation may deprive jockeys of some source of revenue, the commission feels there are very legitimate reasons for its existence."

Miller said he had not yet determined whether to ask for dismissal of the suit.