Philly Park Jockeys Seek Additional Insurance Coverage

Negotiations are currently underway between jockeys, management and horsemen at Philadelphia Park to have the amount of on-track accident insurance for riders increased from its current $100,000 to $1 million, but so far little progress has been made, according to Tony Black, who is helping spearhead the effort.

"There is no sincere negotiation," said Black, 54, who has ridden at the Bensalem, Pa. oval for nearly three decades. "It's fallen on deaf ears. We're getting the impression that no one really cares."

Black said that the jockeys are trying to get the insurance increased, at least temporarily, to $500,000, and then work on getting it to $1 million, which is in line with what many major tracks now offer its riders.

Philadelphia Park recently rejoined the NTRA, and 90% of NTRA racetracks now offer coverage up to $500,000 or $1 million.
Another Pennsylvania racetrack, Penn National, has $1 million insurance coverage of its jockeys, increased late last year.

Black said the jockeys have sent management letters to get permission to get quotes on the additional insurance from AIG Insurance Co., and met on May 2 with representatives of Greenwood Racing, Inc. He said that the meeting was not productive.

"They keep telling us that they won't consider raising the amount of insurance because of the cost, and also because they don't consider us their employees," he said. "Right now, if a rider gets hurt, he's covered for the first $100,000, and above that he either has to deplete his own funds, become a ward of the state, or sue the racetrack, the veterinarians, the owners and the trainers.

"The amount of insurance has to be increased because of rising medical costs," said Black. "A $100,000 policy 30 years ago would be adequate. It's not adequate today. We're just changing with the times."

Black said the riders are also looking to get the workman's compensation laws in Pennsylvania rewritten to cover jockeys.

With no firm date set for another meeting, Black said he's hoping that the matter can be settled without the riders having to take any drastic measures.

"We want to explore every way we can to settle this, but the only bargaining chip we have is to withhold our services, and we don't want to do that," said Black. "We don't want to affect live racing."

Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Greenwood Racing, said he had "no comment" about the matter.