Jockeys Walk at Philly Park Over Payroll Dispute

Jockeys at Philadelphia Park voted not to ride the 10-race card Dec. 29 after they were unable to resolve payroll issues with management.

"The issue is jockeys being paid on a regular schedule like every other racetrack in the country," said veteran jockey Tony Black, who said the riders have been trying to negotiate since October. "We don't want the (drug) testing lab to impact our getting paid.

"If you ride at Delaware Park, for example, and there's a problem with a test, the money paid to a jockey for that mount is redistributed. But redistribution because of a bad test happens so infrequently--in 33 years, I've only had to refund money two or three times."

Black said that the "straw that broke the camel's back" was when payroll was sent to the jockeys' room Dec. 29, and even payments for losing mounts--which come directly from owner's accounts and are not affected by testing--weren't included.

"Not paying losing mounts was totally inexcusable," said Black, who said eight pay periods since Nov. 9 have been impacted by what management claims are slower testing periods by regulators. "We're not asking for some innovative new way of paying jockeys. We want to be paid like it's done at every other racetrack."

Said Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Park: "The riders are unhappy with how they perceive they're being paid, but we don't pay anybody until we get a clean test report. They're not our employees. Tests that once took 72 hours are now taking seven and eight days. The (Pennsylvania State) Racing Commission has an obligation to protect the public. This is a classic example of how not to do things.

"(The jockeys) have inconvenienced our customers today, they've inconvenienced the horsemen, and we don't negotiate at gunpoint."

Handel offered no explanation as to why the money for losing mounts wasn't paid. Black said he hoped the issue could be resolved by Dec. 30, and that representatives from management and the jockeys were scheduled to meet.