The decision by Churchill Downs Inc. to drop a longstanding insurance agreement with the Jockeys' Guild could have ramifications in California for the company's advance deposit wagering firm TwinSpires.com.
During its meeting at Hollywood Park Nov. 17, the California Horse Racing Board, acting in response to a complaint from an attorney for the jockeys, deferred until Dec. 15 renewal of an application by TwinSpires.com to continue operating in the state.
The board also withheld two-year license extensions for the two other ADW companies in the state, TVG and XpressBet.com, though CHRB chairman Keith Brackpool made it clear the board's objection was over CDI's decision. He said he wanted to give CDI "a couple of weeks" to consider its stance, perhaps leading it to negotiate with the guild.
Current licenses for all three ADW companies expire at the end of the year.
CDI earlier said it is dropping its share of the annual contribution to the riders' insurance fund, which amounts to $330,000 for the company's four racetracks. Brackpool said he was "troubled" by CDI dropping the coverage, which The Stronach Group and New York Racing Association continued to support with a new three-year agreement for the guild's "media rights."
"There was no communication (from CDI)," Brackpool said."It was just a decision they came to. I'm troubled by that. This board is committed to doing whatever we have to do to protect jockeys."
Attorney Barry Broad urged the CHRB's decision, though he said afterward he was surprised the renewals of the other two companies were also affected. He earlier expressed support for both XpressBet.com, including parent company The Stronach Group, and TVG, due to their support of jockeys.
He told the board CDI took its action against the guild even though there "was no precipitating event, no conflict with the guild, nothing." He said the agreement with tracks around the country has been in existence since 1967.
Broad said TwinSpires.com "is carpetbagging" in California, siphoning ADW money while putting nothing back into the game. He said CDI is guilty of undertaking "aggressive cost-cutting on the backs of injured jockeys."
Brad Blackwell, vice president of TwinSpires.com, said the guild insurance issue was being presented in an "improper forum." He noted in response that the company is located in Mountain View, Calif., and that its parent company provides up to $1 million for catastrophic coverage of jockey injuries.
"CDI does take responsibility for the health and safety of jockeys at our facilities," Blackwell said.
TVG argued that since it does not own racetracks, its license approval should not have been included. Afterward, TVG general counsel John Hindman said: "It certainly was a surprise to us. We'll come back next month and have some discussions in the meantime."
On Nov. 14 the Jockeys' Guild presented a petition signed by 240 members to CDI's board of directors in an effort to persuade the company to renew the contract.
In other business, the CHRB approved license applications for the Los Angeles Turf Club to operate a 79-day meet at Santa Anita Park from Dec. 26, 2011, to April 22, 2012. The LATC plans to run four days per week (Thursdays through Sundays) in January and February, and five days per week (Wednesdays through Sundays) in March and April.
"We have a lot of momentum coming off the autumn meet that saw an improvement to 8.8 horses per race," Santa Anita president George Haines said.
The board also approved a 101-day race meet at Golden Gate Fields to be operated by the Pacific Racing Association from Dec. 26, 2011, to June 17, 2012. But the board deferred action on a disputed week of summer racing between Golden Gate and the Humboldt County Fair.
Fair officials said that without host status for Northern California simulcasting from Del Mar, it cannot generate sufficient revenue for purses and commissions during its two-week meet in August. Representatives asked for additional time to resolve the matter.