Concern Over Guild's Hiring of National Manager

The apparent hiring of the team of sports agent Dwight Manley and civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson as national manager has created uneasiness among some members of the Jockeys' Guild who put their support behind Dave Stevenson, a former rider and consultant with knowledge of the inner workings and politics of the pari-mutuel industry.

According to reports, jockeys based in the Eastern region of the country left a two-day Guild senate meeting in Louisville, Ky., early June 26 because of concerns over the direction the organization may be headed. On June 28, Mike Luzzi, a New York-based rider, told The Blood-Horse he had resigned from the Guild senate for personal reasons.

Luzzi, who attended part of the Guild meeting June 26, was elected to the interim senate after the Guild fired Matrix Capital Associates, its previous management team, last November, and was re-elected to the senate this year. Matrix was headed by Dr. Wayne Gertmenian.

"I resigned for personal reasons," Luzzi said. "It's time-consuming, but (the board) is doing things I didn't agree with. Some of us thought we could have gotten (former national manager) John Giovanni back, or felt that Dave Stevenson was the candidate who should have been hired."

(Giovanni was ousted in a coup that led to the hiring of Gertmenian. Last November, the controversial Gertmenian was tossed out after some of his former supporters decided to go in another direction. Lawsuits in the millions of dollars remain unresolved.)

"It has been a tedious time since December--a long six months," Luzzi said. "I'll remain a Guild member and will support the Guild, but I won't be directly involved anymore. I'm not mad, and I'm not quitting. I will serve the Guild and still believe in the Guild."

Luzzi and Larry Saumell, a Guild member representative based on the East Coast, didn't know whether the nine-member board of directors had in fact hired Manley and Jackson, who said they would serve as co-managers. But Stevenson said June 28 he was told by Guild attorney Tom Kennedy the evening of June 26 Manley had gotten the job.

"He said a decision had been made, and I said I appreciated knowing up front," Stevenson said. "I went up to Manley and wished him good luck."

There hasn't been official word of a decision on the hiring of a national manager. Guild spokeswoman Angie Gimmel said June 27 the board isn't in a hurry to render a decision, but on June 28, Guild chairman John Velazquez told Daily Racing Form Manley and Jackson were hired June 26.

Saumell said he had heard of some concern among jockeys with the recent turn of events. Luzzi said he would know more June 28 when live racing resumes at Belmont Park.

"Some guys expressed disappointment, and I'm sure some people are concerned," Luzzi said. "I haven't been to the jocks' room yet, but I'm sure I'll hear some kind of talk."

The Guild senate listened to presentations from Manley and Stevenson during the June 26 meeting in Louisville, Ky. Stevenson presented a three-year plan and said he intended to serve for only three years to get the organization back on solid footing.

His 15-point action plan includes a recommendation the Guild create affiliations with non-industry associations in major league sports as well as the travel industry, hotel industry, and media outlets. The plan also suggested the Guild build a merchandising program from sponsorship revenue.

Industry sources indicated Manley and Jackson intend to organize jockeys, grooms, hotwalkers, and exercise riders, and would loan the Guild about $500,000 in the first year of the contract. Ultimately, the concern would receive 15% of the Guild's gross revenue for the life of the Guild, the sources said.

Manley has represented such high-profile clients and National Basketball Association standouts as Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone. Jackson, who heads the Rainbow Coalition, spoke to Guild members June 26 and told the media jockeys should pursue collective bargaining and revenue sharing, which are standards in other major league sports.

In an unrelated matter, Jackson, who sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 1984 and 1988, on June 28 called for a 10,000-person Louisville rally to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to allow schools to use race in student assignment, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Jackson told the newspaper he was in the city to oppose a legal challenge of voluntary desegregation at Jefferson County Public Schools.

Also on June 27, U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Bart Stupak of Michigan scheduled, and quickly canceled, a June 28 media teleconference to discuss introduction of the "Jockeys' Insurance Fairness Act." The congressmen serve on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which has held hearings to examine health and welfare issues in the horse racing industry.

Whitfield has told The Blood-Horse he would like to amend the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 to provide committed funding for a national health insurance program for jockeys and backstretch employees. It isn't known if an IHA amendment is part of the Jockeys' Insurance Fairness Act.