Jockeys' Guild Board Begins 'Internal Investigation'

The board of directors of the Jockeys' Guild will begin examining the organization's financial records at its office in Southern California, but members haven't made a decision on the status of Matrix Capital Associates, the entity that manages the Guild.

Board members held a conference call Oct. 25 and decided to begin the inquiry, which will be handled in part by Guild treasurer Jeff Johnston, who was elected to the post just last year. Another conference call is scheduled for Oct. 31 or Nov. 1.

"The board decided to do an internal investigation and address all questions brought up by Congress, as well as any questions brought up by Guild membership," Johnston said Oct. 27. "I'll be checking my records versus what Congress reported."

On Oct. 18, a Congressional subcommittee held its first hearing as part of an inquiry into jockey health and welfare issues, as well as Guild management and finances.

Also on Oct. 27, board member John Velazquez, also elected last year, said nothing was decided concerning Guild management during the Oct. 25 conference call.

"We just want some answers to some questions," Velazquez said of the internal investigation.

Guild president and chief executive officer Dr. Wayne Gertmenian and his company, Matrix, took control of the Guild in 2001 after former national manager John Giovanni was ousted in what some have described as a stealth attack. Last year, the Guild board extended the Matrix contract through 2009 and left its annual assembly with calls for solidarity.

There appear to be some cracks in that solidarity in the wake of the Oct. 18 Congressional subcommittee hearing at which some lawmakers blasted the Guild. Jockeys have said they remain strong in their support for the Guild and the need for the organization; concerns apparently center on management.

"There's concern from just about everyone, whether it be from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between," California-based rider Paul Atkinson told The Blood-Horse Oct. 24. "I've spoken to riders in a lot of places who are having difficulties (with the current Guild administration). (The situation) makes me sick to my stomach, to be honest."

Jockeys indicated Guild members around the country were being polled to get their feelings on Guild management. Petitions asking for the ouster of Matrix also are rumored to be circulating, though some riders said privately they prefer a systematic examination of management rather than the 2001 overthrow that occurred overnight.

According to published reports, a few Guild board members claimed Velazquez called for Gertmenian's resignation during the Oct. 25 conference call. Velazquez said the reports were erroneous and that he didn't ask for Gertmenian to step down.

Ron Mitchell and Margaret Ransom contributed to this story