Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens said Tuesday he will not participate in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 30 or in any other state without workers' compensation to cover complete medical expenses for injured jockeys.
The 41-year-old rider's decision also means he has declined to participate in the International Jockey Championship at Lone Star on Thursday, Oct. 28.
"I won't ride the Breeders' Cup or any other state without workers' comp," Stevens said. "That includes Texas, Kentucky, Florida and several others. Had I known that was the case in Kentucky I wouldn't have ridden there last weekend. I wasn't aware I wasn't completely covered."
Stevens said he made his decision to restrict his riding to states that cover jockeys under individual trainers' workers' compensation policies, including California, New York and New Jersey, several days ago but decided against traveling to Texas after two days of negotiations with Lone Star Park track president Corey Johnsen over securing sufficient insurance to cover Stevens should he be injured while riding at the track failed.
Stevens explained that jockeys injured at most North American racetracks currently face a $100,000 cap on medical expenses when they're injured on the track.
"Because of the money involved in the Breeders' Cup, they are the roughest run races the whole year," Stevens said. "Nobody gives you a shot (and) it's dangerous. It's ironic that we're riding for a million dollars and we're only covered up to $100,000.
"I was invited to participate (in the International Jockey Championship) and was on the phone (with Johnsen) for the past two days. He initially said the track would cover (riders at Lone Star) up to $500,000 from Oct. 28 through the end of the Breeders' Cup and then came back late (Monday) night and said they could go to $1 million. I wanted unlimited medical coverage and he indicated no insurance company would cover that, so I declined. I'm happy to be riding here in California and happy to have the coverage we do out here; I don't worry about me being taken care of out here. "
Stevens said that his decision has as much to do with protecting all riders as much as himself and feels all tracks need to look into helping fund sufficient insurance for all jockeys.