Former jockeys associated with the Disabled Jockeys' Fund, which will be terminated at the end of the year, on Dec. 6 said they're comfortable with a plan by the Jockeys' Guild to make payments to disabled riders from the Guild's primary account.
Gary Donahue, who co-chairs the Disabled Jockeys' Fund, said he met with the Guild board of directors the evening of Dec. 5 and received assurances that even though the fund would no longer be used, payments would continue as usual. Donahue and Phil Ernst have been asked to devise ways to actually increase benefits for disabled riders.
"The board answered 95% of my questions," said Donahue, who had joined a lawsuit filed by former Guild treasurer Eddie King over release of financial information. "I'm satisfied disabled riders will still get their monthly benefits. We've been asked to come up with plans to increase those benefits."
When asked if he would drop his lawsuit, Donahue said: "I'm thinking about it. All of my questions were answered."
Donahue said he didn't know when the Guild executive committee voted to begin paying temporarily disabled riders benefits from the fund, which was formed to take care of permanently disabled riders. Donahue learned of the fund's impending termination from an Internal Revenue Service form.
Ernst agreed the explanation from the executive committee sounded plausible. "To be honest, everything they're saying sounds kosher," he said. "It actually sounds like it's going in the right direction."
Donahue and Ernst both said they plan to carefully track dispersal of the funds. "If something goes wrong, we'll be on their tail," Donahue said.
Gladys Oliveras, whose husband, Jose, is a disabled rider, said she would prefer a return to policies under the Guild when it was run by national manager John Giovanni. She, too, said she was surprised to learn the Disabled Jockeys' Fund would be terminated.
"We never are advised of anything," said Oliveras, who was asked to leave a Guild session Dec. 6 because she isn't a member. Oliveras, who volunteers for the Guild, was on hand as a representative for her husband.
Ernst said money for disabled riders would now go into an endowment fund. That money, he said, "can't be touched." Donahue noted it might be difficult to get people to contribute to the endowment right now given concerns within the industry over Guild finances, but Ernst said that could change given better publicity.