Hoosier Ejects Jockeys, Guild Officials Over Walkout

by Tom LaMarra and James Platz
Hoosier Park in Indiana lost its entire 12-race card the evening of Nov. 12 after all but a few members of the jockey colony refused to ride. The jockeys are protesting over what they believe is a lack of adequate medical insurance, and they also called on the track to install a safety rail.

According to a member of the Jockeys' Guild, the action occurred before the first race, which was scheduled for 6:10 p.m. EST. The riders told management to speak to Wayne Gertmenian, the chief executive officer of the Guild. The riders remained in the jockeys' room for more than five hours.

Ten riders refused to leave, and Hoosier Park president Rick Moore issued ejection notices, according to a track release. When they refused to leave, Moore contacted members of the Chesterfield Police Dept., who escorted the jockeys off the premises just after midnight.

Keith Austin, Cesar "Rocky" Camaque, Jose Camejo, Roimes Chirinos, Jose H. Delgado, Jose J. Delgado, Inosencio Diego, Martin Escobar, Godofredo Laurente, and Rodney Prescott were the riders escorted from the track. Jockey John Byrne also received an ejection notice but left the jockeys' quarters without a police escort. An ejection notice also was issued to jockey Sidney LeJeune Jr., who left the grounds earlier in the evening.

Albert Fiss, vice president of the Guild, and Darrell Haire, a nationa Guild representative, were in the jockeys' room before the first scheduled post time, the track said. Fiss was escorted from the track by police, while Haire left on his own.

Fiss and Haire had met earlier in the day with state officials in Kentucky to discuss medical insurance issues.

"We believe the presence of Albert Fiss and Darrell Haire in our jockeys' quarters this evening points to the real reason that jockeys elected not to ride," Moore said in a prepared statement. "The Guild has publicly supported the actions of Kentucky-based jockeys who refused to accept mounts earlier this week at Churchill Downs."

A track official said there would be enough riders on hand for the Nov. 13 program, on which the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile Stakes is scheduled. Hoosier Park cards 10-horse fields.

Hoosier Park is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., parent company of the Louisville, Ky., racetrack where 15 jockeys were ejected Nov. 7 when they refused to commit to accept mounts. Those riders also are protesting over medical insurance.

Churchill has been able to secure enough jockeys to fill every program since the jockeys were ejected. As of Nov. 12, none of the Churchill riders that were ejected had relented. About 10 of the jockeys who elected to ride have signed on to an insurance plan offered by Churchill.

Most racing states offer medical insurance coverage of up to $100,000 for injured riders. Only five states--California, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York--have workers' compensation insurance.

There have been no prior complaints about the rail around the racing surface at Hoosier Park. The Indiana Horse Racing Commission must approve the rail before the start of any meet. Hoosier Park management said racing commission executive director Joe Gorajec assured them the rail meets the required specifications.

"The riders primary concern was with the rail; they felt it was unsafe," Hoosier Park vice president of communications Tom Bannon said after the jockeys took their action. "This is the same rail we've used for the past 10 years, and it has been utilized in the 52 previous nights of the current meet. The rail has been approved by (the racing commission) and the Jockeys' Guild."