Churchill Downs, Guild Settle Suits Over Walkout

Edited release
Churchill Downs Inc. and the Jockeys’ Guild announced settlement of legal claims filed against each other in U.S. District Court related to jockey boycotts of races at two Churchill Downs-owned racetracks in November 2004. 

The settlement, filed in Louisville on March 21, is subject to the approval of Chief Judge John G. Heyburn. It bars the Guild from walking out or going on strike until 2011 and forbids the track from taking further disciplinary action against the riders.

In exchange, Churchill Downs-owned racetracks will resume making contributions to the Jockeys’ Guild in the form of “per starter” and “per race day” fees that help support the Guild’s programming and operations. Additional terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The case stemmed from a jockey walkout at both Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind., in a dispute over health insurance and safety issues. The walkout in Indiana prompted cancellation of a 12-race card.

CDI sued the Jockeys' Guild, claiming it violated antitrust laws by ordering the walkout. The Jockeys' Guild, based in Monrovia, Calif., counterclaimed, saying Churchill Downs trampled the riders' rights with the ban.

Jockeys in Kentucky and Indiana are not covered through workers' compensation. Hoosier Park and Churchill Downs had been offering up to $100,000 in medical insurance for jockeys.

Riders claimed that amount was not nearly enough. As a result of the dispute, Churchill Downs stopped contributions to the Guild. Churchill Downs gives about $375,000 a year to the Guild, part of more than an estimated $2 million the Guild receives from all North American tracks.

“Churchill Downs and its racetracks remain committed to the health, welfare and safety of the jockeys who compete at our facilities, and we have made progress on issues important to our company and to the Jockeys’ Guild since the Guild’s new management team was installed,” said Steve Sexton, who serves as an executive vice president for CDI as well as president of Churchill Downs.

“We are very excited about the resolution of this issue with Churchill Downs and look forward to moving ahead with what we believe will be a very progressive relationship between the Jockeys’ Guild and one of the nation’s largest racing companies that owns and operates the world’s most prestigious sporting event, the Kentucky Derby,” said Dwight Manley, national manager of the Guild which represents 1,300 riders. 

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