Judge says neigh: Horse can't be 'Sally Hemings'

LEXINGTON, KY– A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a thoroughbred race horse owner who sued to name one of his fillies after Sally Hemings, a slave who was reputed to be a mistress of Thomas Jefferson.

In a ruling dated September 16, U.S. District Senior Judge Karl Forester sided with The Jockey Club, the breed registry for thoroughbred horses in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, two groups that had asked that the suit be thrown out.

Garrett Redmond, a Paris, Kentucky, farmer, sued the racing authority and The Jockey Club in May after his request to name the horse after Hemings was denied.

The Jockey Club regulates the naming of thoroughbred racehorses.

Redmond had argued that the denial deprived him of his rights under the U.S. Constitution. Redmond said he plans to appeal Forester's decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

"Everything I've heard is I've won the case in public opinion, so The Jockey Club is going to do its damnedest to keep it from being heard,'' Redmond says.

In order to be eligible to race at a track in the state of Kentucky, a thoroughbred must have a name that has been accepted by The Jockey Club, says Jim Gallagher, the Kentucky authority's executive director. Redmond claimed that rule amounted to an improper delegation of power by the state to The Jockey Club, because the authority was relying on that organization's thoroughbred registration information. Forester rejected that argument.

Alan Marzelli, the president of The Jockey Club, says Forester's ruling "upheld our right as a private organization to make and enforce rules. Those rules are for the integrity of racing... and the responsibility falls upon us to enforce those rules.''

Gallagher had no comment on the decision.

The mother of Redmond's two-year-old filly is Jefferson's Secret, whose sire is Colonial Affair. Redmond thinks the name "Sally Hemings'' would be a natural for a horse of such lineage.

The Jockey Club disagrees, saying Hemings was a famous or notorious person. Names of such people require special approval. The organization's rules also say that "names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups'' won't be approved.

Garrett Redmond with the two-year-old filly he wants to name Sally Hemings.