Ohio Racing Commission officials are pushing for a minimum age requirement of 18 for licensed jockeys in light of the Nov. 16 death of 16-year-old apprentice jockey Josh Radosevich at Beulah Park.
Currently, Ohio, like many racing states, permits apprentice jockeys to be licensed at age 16 with parental or guardian consent.
Commission chairman Norm Barron said he would propose the age change at the next Thoroughbred rules committee meeting in late December.
"We're certainly going to open the issue for discussion and input from any interested parties and then the committee will make a recommendation to the overall commission as to whether or not the rule should be changed," Barron said Nov. 30. "Whenever you have an incident like this (Radosevich's death), it turns focus on re-examination...My mind is open, although I would have to say I'm looking for some strong arguments as to why it shouldn't be 18. It seems to me the time is appropriate to change that."
Radosevich died from a neck injury suffered when he was thrown to the ground after his mount broke down in a $3,500 claiming race.
"In his particular case he was a pretty sophisticated young man, whose father was a trainer and who grew up on the racetrack, but in retrospect, he was still 16 years old," Barron said of Radosevich. "I'm a little bit concerned whether there should be some greater waiting period for youngsters to actually act in the capacity of a jockey."
Commission executive director Sam Zonak told WBNS-TV in Columbus he believes the extra maturity and strength that would come with an added two years would benefit young jockeys.
Barron said at this time there is only one other 16-year-old licensed jockey in Ohio, but he has yet to ride.
Barron also pointed out the Association of Racing Commissioners International model rule upholds a minimum age of 18, and in the past Ohio has adopted many RCI rules, including those related to medication.
"The fact of the matter is the RCI model rule does say 18...it is some compelling evidence of at least one group that has thought it out and has had input and has come up with a recommendation as a significant group," Barron said.
In the WBNS report, Zonak indicated he would also like to see jockeys have a high school diploma, but Barron said he didn't think that would be an appropriate requirement.
"If the rule was changed to 18, it would certainly encourage people to stay in school and finish their high school education, but I wouldn't go so far as to require a high school diploma to become a jockey," Barron said. "I don't think that is an appropriate condition to being a jockey, but it would be helpful, and I think it is good to encourage them to stay in school."