Delaware Jockeys Help Pay for $2M Insurance Policy

Delaware Park Jockeys Association president Robert Colton said April 17 a landmark deal that gives riders at Delaware Park the most comprehensive insurance coverage of any racetrack in North America has been finalized.

Colton said the Delaware Park Jockeys Health and Welfare Board unanimously approved a deal that will more than double the current policy for jockeys, “send a strong statement to the horse racing industry,” and set a precedent for jockey insurance coverage.

As of midnight April 18, jockeys at Delaware Park will be entitled to $2 million in on-track accident insurance, up from the $1-million policy that they currently have. Coverage length will increase from 24 months to 60 months.

In addition, the policy will afford injured riders $500 per week in disability pay and $100,000 in accidental death and dismemberment benefits, both double what the original policy offers.

For the first time in the industry, Colton said, jockeys themselves will be financially responsible for some of the insurance coverage. Each Delaware Park rider will pay $4 per mount to offset a portion of the policy. The remainder of the cost will be paid for by the health and welfare board.

“We took a philosophical change in our approach,” Colton said. “In the past, the Jockeys’ Guild tried to take the position that we were employees. But we are not employees. We are independent contactors, and as riders, there is an inherent risk involved. The jockeys had to finally stand up and take part of the financial responsibility and stop pointing fingers. For the first time ever, we were willing to do that.

“We approached Delaware Park and asked if we could add to the current policy that they have in place--really just piggyback on top of what is already existing. We researched it and figured out what it would cost each rider to have the best coverage possible. This is, to my knowledge, the highest level of benefits at any racetrack. Everyone agreed that it was well worth $4 per mount.”

Colton, a retired jockey and former Guild official, said that every jockey who rides at Delaware Park is entitled to the insurance coverage, but that it is optional. He also gave credit to Delaware Park general manager Bill Fasy, Delaware Park Jockeys Health and Welfare Board chairman Ed Stegemeier, and insurance broker John Unick for helping make the deal possible.

In 2004, Delaware Park became the first racetrack to offer $1 million in on-track accident insurance. Colton said as long as jockeys are willing to accept some of the cost, similar deals can be reached at any racetrack in the country.

“I don’t see why it can’t happen anywhere else,” Colton said. “It’s out there and available to anyone. As one of our jockeys said, ‘You would have to be brain-dead not to want coverage like this.’ It is a level of insurance that riders have never seen before.”