Jockey, Backstretch Worker Insurance Bill Introduced

Two congressmen introduced legislation May 4 that would provide injury insurance for jockeys and others who work in horse racing.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan introduced the measure, which would provide insurance for jockeys, trainers, and backstretch workers. The legislation was first proposed almost a year ago in the form of the Jockey Insurance Fairness Act and met with immediate resistance from many groups in the racing industry.

"We should establish a basic level of injury coverage for workers in the horse racing industry," Whitfield said in a statement. "That's exactly what this bill is intended to do."

"Our legislation creates a safety net for the jockeys, trainers, and backside workers who risk their lives each time they enter the track," Stupak said in the statement.

The legislation would provide at least half of the fees that horsemen's groups receive for approving simulcast agreements to state racing authorities, according to Whitfield's statement. The racing authorities would be required to use the revenue to offer on-track injury and health insurance for jockeys, exercise workers, trainers, and track workers, the statement said.

Whitfield said the bill would also prohibit racing horses that have been given anabolic steroids, which he said would help improve racing safety. Industry groups are currently pushing a model rule that would address the use of steroids in racehorses.

Dwight Manley, national manager of the Jockeys' Guild, said the legislation is crucial. "Many racetracks do not have adequate insurance to cover accidents and injuries, and jockeys and on-track workers are not currently covered by workers' compensation in most states," Manley said in a statement.

Whitfield and Stupak have worked together previously to help racing workers and held hearings concerning past management of the Jockeys' Guild.