Florida HBPA Contributes to Fund for Disabled Jockeys

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is contributing $23,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, but not without voicing displeasure with the Jockeys' Guild.

The Florida HBPA is believed to be the first horsemen's group to contribute--at least with a public announcement--to the fund formed earlier this year by Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment Corp., and others to replace the Disabled Jockeys Fund terminated by former Guild management. The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund stands at about $500,000, far short of its goal of $1.2 million.

Guild officials during their annual assembly in early December noted horsemen's groups had contributed only 1% of the money while racetracks accounted for 67%. The revelation agitated horsemen, who in turn claimed jockeys and the Guild aren't participating in the fund.

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund board has equal representation from tracks, horsemen's groups, and the Guild.

Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling, in a Dec. 27 release, said the board of directors voted Dec. 21 to send the fund a $15,000 check immediately and another worth $8,000 in January. He said board members believe their "obligation" to the fund remains "despite the deplorable actions of the leadership of the Guild both past and present." Stirling also said the fund should "completely separate itself" from the Guild.

Guild officials said plans originally called for mandatory contributions to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, but there was little support. The Guild this year has attempted to broaden participation.

Stirling referenced comments made during the assembly by Guild attorney Tom Kennedy, who questioned the lack of participation by horsemen, and also said the Guild's "recent blindsiding" of horsemen's groups with its pursuit of legislation to amend the federal Interstate Horseracing Act put horsemen in a bad spot.

The legislation would take 50% of the money horsemen earn from simulcasts to fund operations and benevolence and use it for a national insurance plan for jockeys and backstretch workers. Representatives of other horsemen's groups have said the legislation has been a lightning rod in relations between horsemen and the Guild.