Delaware Seeks Answers From Guild About King

The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission has asked the Jockeys' Guild to explain why Eddie King, the former Guild treasurer who met the criteria to be enrolled in a health insurance plan for Delaware jockeys, is having trouble getting back into the plan for 2005.

King, who sued the Guild and was ousted from the organization during its annual assembly in early December, was enrolled in the plan in 2004. Last year, he had more than the minimum number of mounts--50--at Delaware Park necessary to qualify for the health insurance plan under the Delaware Jockeys' Health and Welfare Benefit Fund.

The Delaware plan has been administered by the Jockeys' Guild, though in 2004 Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed a bill into law that created the Delaware Jockeys' Health and Welfare Benefit Board, which now oversees the about $350,000--adjusted each year for inflation--that goes toward health insurance for jockeys.

John Wayne, administrator of racing for the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, said Penny King, wife of Eddie King, attended the commission's Jan. 11 meeting and said her husband was having difficulty getting back into the plan. Wayne said he called the Guild office and was told King's file is under review.

"He's covered," Wayne said of King. "He met the minimum requirement of 50 mounts in 2004 to be eligible. The commission asked very pointedly what's going on. It will probably follow up with a letter from the deputy attorney general."

"We are in constant contact with the Guild," racing commission chairman Bernard Daney said. "We want to get this Eddie King situation straightened out. They said they have to review his case, but there's nothing to review. He had his minimum number of rides. If we don't get an answer, it will be up to our insurance commissioner to find out why. We are not going to sit tight and let the Guild tell us what to do. We have the money, and money talks."

Guild spokesman Eric Banks said the organization currently has no comment on the King insurance situation.

The Delaware Jockeys' Health and Welfare Benefit Board was created to keep the money in an interest-bearing account in the state of Delaware and to allow for local oversight. The California Horse Racing Board has asked the Guild to account for the about $1 million a year the Guild gets from the California pari-mutuel industry to help pay health insurance premiums for California jockeys and their families.

Members of the Delaware board are Ed Stegemeier, chairman; jockeys Jennifer Bramblett and Oliver Castillo; Delaware Park chief operating officer Bill Fasy; Michael McCarthy, a former rider and former Guild board member who represents the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association; and Jockeys' Guild vice president Albert Fiss.

Daney is an ex officio member of the fund board. He said the board just got organized, has scheduled its first meeting for February, and plans to have a local insurance agent analyze health insurance policies.

"I think we're comfortable with the way we have it set up now," said Wayne, who also noted the racing commission has been "actively trying to have better communication with the Jockeys' Guild."