Jockeys' Guild Seeks Contracts With Tracks

Organization wants other racetracks to enter into agreements.

On the heels of signing a contract with Churchill Downs Inc. that ended a protracted stalemate, the Jockeys’ Guild is preparing to launch an initiative to get other tracks to enter into agreements with the organization that represents about 950 riders.

Following the guild’s annual assembly in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 30-31, the organization said it would focus its efforts in 2012 “on educating the industry and the public about tracks that are not participating” in the agreements that provide funding for programs such as life insurance, AD&D insurance, temporary disability, and other benefits for jockeys.

Earlier this month, CDI reversed course and announced it would continue its annual payments to the Guild, for its tracks--Churchill Downs Racetrack, Calder Casino & Race Course, Arlington Park, and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The Guild receives the money in exchange for granting the tracks that participate “media rights” to use jockey images for promotion of the sport and CDI had previously said it would terminate the contract that totaled $330,000 annually.

The dispute resulted in jockeys who ride at the CDI-owned tracks presenting a petition to the CDI board calling for renewal of the contract. Also, two states—California and Illinois—temporarily withheld ratification of advanced deposit wagering licenses to CDI-owned

Although other major racetrack operators, including the Stronach Group and New York Racing Association, have also renewed contracts with the guild, the lack of participation by other tracks was cited by CDI in its reluctance to continue its contributions.

In the guild statement, Jockeys’ Guild president John Velazquez called upon other tracks to make contributions to the guild, specifically calling out Penn National Gaming Inc.

“The challenges of the past several months concerning track participation has really unified the Guild,” Velazquez said. “It’s become clear that some tracks have been shirking their responsibilities and riding on the backs of other tracks who are contributing. Now that the Stronach Group, NYRA, and CDI have reached an agreement with the Guild, it’s time for other tracks, such as those owned by PNGI, to live up to their moral obligations to jockey health and safety.”

The guild said a videotaped interview with Jacky Martin, the leading Quarter Horse jockey who was injured on the track last September and is shown making progress in his rehabilitation, underscored the importance of the guild’s programs.

In addition, Nancy Lasala, executive director of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund that assists disabled jockeys, explained the financial hardships being experienced by injured riders and the consistent shortage of funding for their ongoing living expenses and long-term care. 

Also during the assembly, Dr. Dalton Dietrich, scientific director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami, explained advancements in spinal cord injuries, including stem cell research and how it will affect the future of the sport.

Velazquez said a round table discussion conducted by the guild board to listen to ideas and concerns from the members concerning “short-term and long-term revenue options, safety and unity” was one of the highlights of the assembly. 

“There was a spirited exchange, and a lot of great ideas and suggestions came out of this session,” said Velazquez. “Now we will look for ways to implement many of these ideas for the benefit of our members.”

Others who addressed the guild during the assembly were Tim Ritvo, Gulfstream Park president and general manager; Ed Martin, president and CEO of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; Bobby Clarkson and Chip Atkins, of RH Clarkson Insurance Company; and Dennis Mills, of Racing Future.

Members also learned about new equipment options and research, ongoing communications and lobbying efforts, and plans to better showcase jockeys to the racing public during the two-day meeting.

The Guild membership also re-elected John Velazquez as chairman and G.R. Carter as vice chairman. Joel Campbell was chosen as the new Guild treasurer and Rodney Prescott is the newly elected secretary.