Del Mar, TOC Help Out With Workers' Comp

California owners will begin receiving a $100 per starter credit on Wednesday, opening day at Del Mar, to help offset the cost of workers' compensation insurance for jockeys.

The unique arrangement is the result of a joint venture between the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the Thoroughbred Owners of California. Owners currently pay their trainers a variable rate that is as much as $175 per jockey ride under current workers' compensation policies.

"It's important because it helps the owners," California Thoroughbred Trainers executive director Ed Halpern said. "And if we don't help the owners then we don't have them for very long.

"This is a biggie. Anytime all the parties can get together for the good of racing, then it's a positive thing."

Joe Harper, Del Mar's president, CEO and general manager, said that the money used for the per starter credit is shared between the track and TOC and comes from different sources. He said the concept is a quick fix to a long-term crisis.

"It's a bit like when you dig down into your sofa cushions," Harper said. "Some of the money comes from things like marketing funds and what little bit we have here and there. It's a band-aid and everyone should realize that's all it is. It doesn't solve the issue; it just eases the pain a little bit.

"(Workers' compensation) isn't just a problem for trainers, it's everywhere in the state. Del Mar has 1,500 employees during the season and our workers' compensation went from $200,000 for the seven-week meeting a few years ago to over $1 million this year. It's out of control and nobody in Sacramento is paying much attention because this state is in a budget crisis and some are working on recalling the governor.

"But hopefully by the end of the summer our workers' compensation issues will have made some progress in the right direction."