Jockeys who ride regularly in New Jersey could begin receiving an annual grant of $150,000 to help pay for health insurance if a deal is finalized during a December meeting between the New Jersey Racing Commission and the Jockeys' Guild.

On Nov. 19, the commission gave New Jersey-based riders permission to use a newly-formed committee for their New Jersey Jockeys Health and Welfare Fund. Though legislation for the annual grant was passed more than seven years ago, the money has been held in escrow by the racing commission because of financial problems within the Jockeys’ Guild.

Thus far, more than $450,000 has been amassed from the grant, with most of the money coming from the state’s off-track wagering operations.

New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president Dennis Drazin said the NJRC had not signed off on the deal yet, but things look promising.

“There are still a lot terms that have to be decided,” Drazin said. “The riders will have to be primarily based in New Jersey, but since we only have racing from the end of May through November, there will have to be some parameters put in place as far as determining who is eligible.”

Drazin said also said that assuming final details are worked out, “This is a wonderful thing for riders. They have been trying to get this passed for a long time now. (New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority medical director) Dr. Angelo Chinnici deserves a lot of credit for making this happen.”

The newly-formed committee, which consists of Chinnici, Drazin, Jockeys' Guild manager Terry Meyocks and jockeys Joe Bravo, Chris DeCarlo and C.C. Lopez, are asking the commission to accelerate the release of the funds. Also during the meeting, the NJRC passed a motion raising minimum jockey fees in New Jersey to $100 per mount. Previously, the fees ranged anywhere from $50-$80.

Drazin said that since health insurance could cost as much as $250,000 per year, jockeys are considering taking $15 of the mount fee and using it to help fund the annual grant. The Jockeys’ Guild had a Nov. 20 meeting planned to finalize details of the fund.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the horsemen, racing commissions and track managements that have finalized agreements with us,” Meyocks said. “In many states, the jockeys have not received a meaningful increase in decades. We are currently negotiating with representatives of a number of other jurisdictions to reach similar agreements.”

Monmouth Park, Meadowlands, and Atlantic City Race Course are the three Thoroughbred racetracks operating in the Garden State.

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