Jockeys Urged to Promote, Lobby for Action

Jockeys were urged to be proactive in regulation and promotion.

The Jockeys’ Guild, as part of its annual meeting in Tucson, Ariz., was advised of ways it can work within the racing industry to promote riders and push for their causes in the regulatory arena.

The Guild held an open forum after its senate meeting Dec. 7. The organization will figure prominently in panel sessions during the Dec. 8-10 University of Arizona Symposium on Racing & Gaming.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rules Committee Dec. 5 took action on rules pertaining to jockeys. Larry Eliason, who chairs the committee, urged jockeys to attend state racing commission meetings to meet regulators and advocate for their causes.

“(Guild) regional managers can’t be everywhere,” Eliason said.

Eliason also said model rules are in effect best practices and aren’t intended to be cure-alls. “We can’t fix a local problem,” he said.

On the insurance front, riders were told numbers matter. John Unick, president of the Thoroughbred Racing Division of MOC Insurance Services, said an action plan is needed.

“The only way to insure jockeys properly is with critical mass,” Unick said. “Maybe the (NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance) is the best way to do it. Numbers talk, the rest of it walks.”

The industry is said to need more detailed information on jockey injuries. Insurance companies rely on such information for the purpose of developing policies.

On the promotional front, jockey cards similar to baseball cards are being resurrected. John Engelhardt, publicity director at River Downs and a free-lance photographer, and Pat Lang, track photographer at River Downs, Keeneland, and Turfway Park, are working on the project.

Engelhardt called on Guild members to encourage other jockeys to participate in promotions that help the business. He said at River Downs, usually the same handful of riders participate in various promotions.

“We need the guys in the jockeys’ room to get behind what we’re doing to promote you,” Engelhardt said.

Jo Lynn Johnston, wife of Guild regional manager Jeff Johnston and former marketing director at River Downs, acknowledged the sometimes difficult relationship between jockeys and track management.

“Obviously, it’s in the best interests of the jockeys if a racetrack is promoted, and if the track does well, jockeys will do well,” she said. “You need to change the mentality in the jockeys’ room.”

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson, who also spoke to the Guild, called for better communication and mutual respect in the racing industry, especially given the financial difficulties faced by horse racing.

“We’re going to have to come together like we never have before,” Nicholson said. “We have to show a maturity we’ve been unable to show.”