Industry Considering New Assistance Foundation

Thoroughbred industry participants are formulating a plan to create a foundation that would assist not only disabled jockeys, but others who work on the backstretch in the event of on-the-job injuries.

The foundation is in the planning stages, said Kelly Wietsma, president of the marketing agency Equisponse. She indicated Dec. 9 there is strong support for the endeavor.

"I've met with many industry leaders on all sides, and they feel strongly there is a need for a foundation not only to take care of disabled riders, but trainers, exercise riders, and grooms -- all those people," Wietsma said. "It's totally in the seed process, but so far I've gotten 100% support from everyone."

Wietsma, whose company represents jockeys Jerry Bailey, Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Stewart Elliott, Jose Santos, and John Velazquez, as well as trainer Todd Pletcher, said details would be released in the near future. The board would consist of jockeys, racetrack officials, and other members of the industry.

The push for the foundation came in the wake of ongoing concerns over medical insurance for jockeys in the event of on-track accidents, as well as controversy over the Jockeys' Guild. The Guild plans to terminate the Disabled Jockeys' Fund at the end of this year, though it is attempting to raise funds for its Disabled Jockeys' Endowment.

Gary Donahue, who co-chairs the Disabled Jockeys' Fund, said Dec. 6 that money for permanently or temporarily disabled riders would come from the primary Guild operating account when the Disabled Jockeys' Fund is no longer in use. The endowment contains more than $1 million, but the Guild hopes to build it to $10 million and use the interest for assistance funds.

Wietsma said industry leaders, who currently are looking at options for insurance, have recognized a need to include other backstretch personnel when it comes to awarding funds in the event of injuries and special needs.