Report: Jockeys Protest Meadowlands Track

Jockeys at the Meadowlands say the track is unsafe and the issue could result in delaying or even canceling the scheduled opening of the 2004 Thoroughbred season Friday, according to a report.

New Jersey trainers held a meeting on the Monmouth Park backstretch Sept. 24 to discuss the safety of the Meadowlands track, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported.

Small pebbles were found in track samples taken at the track this week, a problem that has existed there for several years, jockey Eddie King Jr. complained to the newspaper.

"We've all taken a look at (the samples) and they are unacceptable," King said. "When you are behind horses and that stuff comes back at you, it kills you. But at least we can cover up. It's unfair to expect the horses to close into that stuff. They could lose an eye.

"This fight has been going on for four or five years now, but we aren't going to take it any more," he said. "If you ask anyone in the jocks' room, you will get a unanimous decision -- we will not race."

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which runs the Meadowlands, did not comment. The track is converted each fall from a harness surface to one designed for Thoroughbreds.

Owner/breeder Dennis Drazin, who serves as legal counsel to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, suggested formation of a trainers' committee to work with NJSEA and get some expert advice.

"Once they have had a chance to work it, we'll take a look and make sure the surface is safe," Drazin said. "If it's not, we'll support the jockeys -- but only if we are convinced that it is not safe."