By Jack Shinar
California racing officials are examining the latest workers' compensation insurance proposal submitted by a major company, one that would significantly reduce rates paid by trainers.
Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said the review, being conducted separately by the CTT, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and state racing association representatives, should be completed by Sept. 20.
If approved, the new program could be in place by Oct. 1, though Nov. 1 is the more likely target, Halpern said. It would bring at long last some relief to an industry that has been heavily burdened by the workers' compensation problem.
Halpern said one well-known trainer, Jose Silva, recently closed his stable because of workers' comp insurance rates, and that that there are less horses in training at Fairplex Park for the current Los Angeles County Fair meet, which depends on small-time operations and out-of-state trainers.
"Nobody wants to leave California, so they are hanging around to see what happens," Halpern said. "But there are a lot of people leaving. It's a gradual process rather than any panic. But there are less and less horses."
Halpern said he could not identify the negotiating insurer until an agreement has been reached. He said the parties had been talking for some time, and the plan under consideration is the company's response to industry concerns stemming from an earlier proposal.
Halpern said premium rates for most trainers would not be reduced to the levels of last February, when the last available private insurer, Legion Insurance, withdrew. That left the 800 or so Thoroughbred trainers only one option for workers' compensation coverage, the high-priced California insurance fund.
Officials believed they had an agreement with a second company in August,
but the insurer called off the deal at the last minute.