'California Jockeys Guild' Formally Announced

A group of California jockeys formally announced Feb. 3 they have formed a non-profit organization to "to improve the health, welfare, and economic status of the jockey community."

Ron Warren Jr., a veteran Northern California rider and a leader of the effort to establish the "California Jockeys Guild," said in a press release frustration with the national Jockeys' Guild over health insurance issues led to the decision. He said active Northern California riders were unanimous in supporting the new organization.

"We were appalled by the arrogant attitude and disturbing actions of the management of the Jockeys' Guild," Warren said in the release.

The new group's board of directors includes Warren, Russell Baze, Roberto Gonzalez, Joey Castro, and Francisco Duran. The California Jockeys Guild was incorporated Jan. 25, according to the release.

The Blood-Horse reported on the initiative Feb. 1. At the time, Albert Fiss, national Guild vice president, said his organization is "enthusiastic" about the California effort and supports it despite the criticism over Guild practices.

A California Horse Racing Board ad hoc committee is investigating the national Guild's use of about $1 million annually in state funds for health insurance, which is one source of the California jockeys' concern.

Warren, who said the Guild recently announced there will be a hike in health-benefit premiums in March, said the national organization has repeatedly refused to "provide an acceptable explanation" for the use of funds.

"Consistent with our commitment to seeking accountability at the Guild, we have sent them another letter requesting comprehensive answers to our questions about these matters in writing," Warren said in the release. "The California riders are deeply concerned about the worsening health and economic welfare of our fellow riders throughout the nation. They, too, deserve clear and complete answers to Guild money.

"We continue to call upon (Guild consultant) Matrix (Capital Associates) and our colleagues on the board of the Jockeys' Guild to provide the answers we need to restore our trust if we are to work together on issues of mutual importance. Actions speak louder than words. We have acted."