Jockeys' Guild, California Regulators Clash

Jockeys' Guild attorney Barry Broad said Jan. 20 he hoped to have legislation introduced this year that would prevent individuals with financial interest in the business from serving on the California Horse Racing Board.

Meanwhile, CHRB commissioner Richard Shapiro, who chairs a committee that's looking into how the Jockey's Guild spends about $1 million a year it receives from the state for medical insurance benefits, said the committee would meet with Guild officers the week of Jan. 24.

Broad told the CHRB it should hire an auditor to do an examination of records but argued the board doesn't have the right to analyze the internal operations of the Guild.

Shapiro has requested a detailed accounting of how the Guild spends the money, which comes from uncashed or refunded pari-mutuel tickets.

"For the last 10 years, there has been talk that this money is not being used for California jockeys," Broad said. "The talk has never turned out to be true, and I have every reason to believe that it's not happening now."

A frustrated Broad, who represents a number of labor interests including the 1,200-member Guild in his Sacramento practice, offered his thoughts on the makeup of the CHRB after the meeting.

"It doesn't make any sense that someone should have a financial interest in the industry and then in so many areas be responsible for telling the industry what to do," Broad said. "They don't allow people involved in track management or any racing associations to be on the board. Then why is it OK for horse owners to serve? In many places, they can't."

CHRB chairman John Harris, vice chairman Bill Biancho, and commissioner Jerry Moss are prominent horse owners. A couple of other members on the seven-person board are limited owners.

"I think it would be unwise to limit who a governor can appoint to a board," Harris said. "I feel we have a strong, active CHRB right now and have gotten a lot accomplished and can do even more over the next few years. I really think that it would be difficult to get people to work as hard as we do for the good of the state and racing if they had no interest at all in horse racing."    

Broad was irritated the CHRB didn't take action on the Guild's request for a relaxed standard of weights for riders, a proposal that first surfaced last summer. He also questioned the jurisdiction of the ad hoc committee that wants to examine medical insurance reports for the past several years to determine if the Guild has properly spent the funds from California.

On the weight issue, Del Mar racing secretary Tom Robbins said during the meeting that in recent months he and other racing secretaries in major racing states have been assigning 118-pound minimum weights (including equipment) for most races. That's an increase of five or six pounds from the previous minimum, he said.

Broad responded by calling that "a sop, a fraud, a gesture." He said he doesn't expect the board to adopt the Guild proposal on jockey weights, which would push the scale in most instances to a minimum of 128 pounds, including 10 pounds for equipment. It also would establish a minimum of 5% body fat for any rider in order to ensure a basic level of fitness.

Broad said he would seek legislation to force the CHRB to adopt the rules, and hopes to have it introduced by mid-February.

"It's not enough, and it's not right," Broad said of the voluntary plan by racing secretaries. "We wanted to solve this problem within the industry, where it's a serious public health issue, an issue that's as serious as drugging horses, but now we're going to the legislature and tell our story there."

Broad said the board has a "paternalistic" view toward jockeys. The Guild, he said, no longer is willing to wait on the industry to implement reforms. He listed improved safety regulations and jockey pay for exercise work among other issues he wants to pursue legislatively.

"It has been my experience that you succeed not by begging but by pushing," Broad said.