Jockey Alex Solis, who was instrumental in bringing sports agent and rare-coin collector Dwight Manley to the attention of the Jockeys' Guild, said he's committed to turning around the Guild and hopes to bring it back to prominence in the Thoroughbred industry.
Manley, who admittedly has little knowledge and no direct involvement in horse racing, was selected by the Guild senate following a presentation at a two-day meeting June 26-27 in Louisville, Ky. Solis was introduced to Manley through Thoroughbred owner Michael Bello, and following several conversations regarding the state of the Guild and its previous management, the veteran rider and Guild senate member found the 37-year-old Orange County, Ca., businessman to be a good fit to help improve the Guild, both financially and in reputation.
The Guild was virtually decimated and nearly bankrupted by previous chief executive officer Dr. Wayne Gertmenian and his Matrix Capital Associates. Gertmenian was ousted from his position with the Guild in November, and former jockey Darrell Haire has served as interim national manager since that time.
"He's a very successful businessman; he has some very good ideas," Solis said of Manley. "We're still working out the details of his contract but expect it will all be completed sometime (the week of July 10)."
Solis, 42 and a member of the smaller Guild board of directors, said Manley would work for the Guild for the first year without compensation, and then would be given a salary based on his "performance" during his initial year. He also explained that Manley would loan the Guild up to $500,000 of his own money interest-free for the first year, with a repayment schedule "the same interest as a bank would charge" after the initial year. Exact repayment details are still being worked out, Solis said.
Solis during an interview with The Blood-Horse
also addressed the controversial involvement of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was a surprise guest at the Guild's June meeting and who many believed would be employed by the organization. According to Solis, Jackson will simply serve as Manley's consultant and not be involved in any day-to-day operations.
"The media is going to write what they want to," Solis said in reference to several "incorrect" reports that Manley and Jackson would serve as co-managers. "They don't want to know the truth. Jesse Jackson will only serve as a consultant to Manley and not make any decisions (for the Guild). We want to work with the industry to improve things for jockeys. We're not going to boycott anything because that wouldn't benefit anyone."
Solis said the Guild's immediate goals include establishing a national minimum on-track accident insurance policy, raising the minimum jockey mount fee, and establishing a pension fund for all riders. He met with many members of the Southern California jockey colony both at his home and at Los Alamitos recently to explain some of the Guild's ultimate goals.
"Insurance is number one," Solis said. "That's always the priority. And jockeys haven't had a raise in the minimum mount fee in years. At the big tracks here in Southern California--Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar--the minimum fee is $65. At Los Alamitos, it's only $50. After they pay their valet, agent and buy the tack and supplies they need, there's not even enough money for gas to get to Los Al.
"And it's that way around the country. Very few riders break even on the losing-mount fees. Everyone who has a job gets a raise and the jockeys should get them, too. And what happens when jockeys retire? They have nothing; no money and no income. We're all a big family in horse racing, and we need to take care of each other, including the jockeys. And I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about the riders at the smaller tracks who don't make ends meet. When their careers are over, they have nothing."
Solis said more details about the Guild's long-term plans for the organization would be unveiled once Manley's contract is in place.