A top official with the Jockeys' Guild has questioned the purpose of a new task force on insurance and indicated a resolution wouldn't be reached until the industry recognizes it must deal with Dr. Wayne Gertmenian, president and chief executive officer of the Guild.
Dave Shepherd, vice chairman of the Guild, claimed racetracks and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association won't talk to Gertmenian, who took over as head of the Guild in 2001. That could change Nov. 22, because Gertmenian is expected to attend the first meeting of the NTRA Jockeys' Medical Insurance Panel.
When the panel was announced Nov. 15, the Guild representative was listed as Darrell Haire, a retired jockey who serves as a national member representative. Haire also will attend the meeting, to be held at Turfway Park.
"The biggest problem is the racetracks are trying to put the problem with insurance on owners and trainers," Shepherd said Nov. 19. "The Jockeys' Guild stand is that owners and trainers have too much on their backs already. The main purpose of the task force isn't to find a solution. The main purpose of it is to discredit the Guild and tear the Guild down."
Shepherd said the NTRA assigned Haire to the panel. "It's not Guild approved," Shepherd said. "Dr. G. is the only person we have chosen to speak for us. Anything else is without our approval."
NTRA executive Keith Chamblin, who will chair the insurance panel, said Haire was the initial contact because of his previous involvement with the NTRA and Breeders' Cup. The invitation was open to any Guild representative, but Haire agreed to serve.
Chamblin also disagreed with Shepherd's assessment of the panel's purpose. "The purpose of the task force is to identify relevant facts and issues as they pertain to jockeys' medical insurance coverage."
Other members of the insurance panel are jockeys Jerry Bailey and Pat Day, who no longer are members of the Guild, and retired jockey Donna Barton Brothers. Those riders expressed an interest in serving on the panel. There are no active riders who are Guild members on the panel.
In comments made the week of Nov. 15, Guild vice president Albert Fiss said workers' compensation insurance, currently available in five racing jurisdictions, is a "bad deal." So it remains to be seen exactly what course of action Haire, Gertmenian, or other Guild representatives who may show up at the meeting will advocate.
The Guild has come under fire in recent months from former members who have raised questions about its finances. In its Nov. 21 edition, Daily Racing Form
published an article that raised questions about the background and resume of Gertmenian.
When asked about the Guild board's resolve going forward in light of all the controversy, and whether it continues to support its management regime, Shepherd said: "The answer is very simple: Absolutely yes. The board is 100% behind Dr. G. Everything that is happening is making our resolve and faith in Dr. G. even stronger."
Gertmenian was brought into the Guild by retired jockey Chris McCarron, who is said to have had a falling out with Gertmenian. McCarron, now an executive at Santa Anita Park, has declined to comment on Guild business.
Guild president Tomey Jean Swan couldn't be reached Nov. 19 to comment on the Guild's insurance strategy and involvement in the NTRA panel. The Guild will hold its annual assembly Dec. 6-7 in Irving, Texas.