Jockey ads make cruel cut in sport's whole cloth

June 21, 1994|By Chris Lazzarino | Chris Lazzarino,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

The New York Legislature passed a bill last week allowing jockeys to sell advertising on their personal clothing.

That means turtlenecks, pants and boots. Silks are the property of horse owners and are not included.

In racing's big picture, this might seem to be a minor item. It is not.

The issue of advertising anywhere near a horse or rider cuts to the heart of racing's marvelous heritage and the direction racing will move in the future.

It's virtually impossible to find precise, analytical reasons why jockeys should be barred from wearing advertising on their own clothes. It's a free country based on capitalism, and if a company wants to pay a person money to do its advertising, so be it.

Tracks advertise all over their facilities, including the occasional corporate sign tacked to the rail at the finish line of a big race.

And all sorts of athletes, from tennis players to golfers, are shameless in their quest to sell advertising on their clothing.

But those links are weak.

Golfers and tennis players are truly independent while jockeys ride horses owned and trained by others. And if it's tacky elsewhere, there is no reason the tackiness should be allowed to expand.

There are also sentimental reasons to oppose this change, and in racing, sentiment should count.

When it comes down to horse and rider, the elegance that is so much a part of racing can't coexist with blatant commercialism. Which is why the Jockey Club long has banned any type of advertising on silks.

Just because other athletes are allowed to sell advertising space shouldn't translate to jockeys' being allowed to do the same.

This opens a door that has been closed for more than a century, and the reach of advertising on horse racing only can lengthen.

Eventually the ban on advertising on silks will be dropped, probably based on a need to pump corporate money into a

sagging sport.

And that means that on some first Saturday in May, gates will open at Churchill Downs and fans will search for their favorite 3-year-old by looking for the corporate logo carried by horse and rider.

AT&T will battle IBM into the first turn, with Burger King gaining strongly down the backstretch.

Patrons holding the right mutuel tickets will jump for joy when Texaco noses Chevrolet at the wire, winning the Run for the FTD Roses.

Racing simply does not need this cheesiness, and racing's leaders (as weak as they are) should act quickly to halt the latest changes in New York.

The New York bill will help only a few jockeys -- Mike Smith, Jerry Bailey and, most of all, Julie Krone.

And some New York trainers and owners are rightly upset at the prospect of jockeys' selling advertising space while the people who supply the riders' mounts are spending thousands of dollars to provide worker's compensation policies for jockeys.

As it is, the New York bill will allow the rich to get richer at the expense of racing's unique style and heritage. And that stinks.

* A bizarre and potentially tragic incident marred Thursday's racing card at Royal Ascot.

An infield spectator apparently accepted a dare to -- across the grass course after runners in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes passed the eighth pole. But the man apparently did not see two trailing horses, and was struck by the filly Papago.

The collision brought down the horse and her rider, Michael Kinane, who both were unhurt. The man was taken to the hospital in stable condition.

The accident reportedly occured directly in front of the Royal Box, where Queen Elizabeth II was watching the races.

* The latest thoroughbred poll still has Santa Anita Handicap winner The Wicked North as the top-rated race horse in the country. Paradise Creek, who swept the three-race Early Times turf series, is second. Belmont and Preakness winner Tabasco Cat is third. Holy Bull is fifth, two spots higher than Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin.

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