West Virginia Law To Aid Jockeys

A bill to assist jockeys that passed both houses of the West Virginia legislature is set to become law today.

John Giovanni, national secretary of The Jockeys' Guild, said the bill would become law May 4 with or without new West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise's signature. The same bill was vetoed last year.

The bill provides $350,000 a year from uncashed mutuel tickets for health and welfare benefits for "West Virginia jockeys."

Giovanni said West Virginia jockeys are defined as those who ride a minimum of 100 races and of which 51 are in West Virginia. "If you ride 100 races and 51 are in West Virginia and 49 in Maryland, you qualify," Giovanni said.

Giovanni said the horsemen in the state also tacked onto the bill a provision that establishes a pension plan for backstretch workers.

The Jockeys' Guild has been lobbying for the bill in West Virginia for three years, Giovanni said. He said the organization has a bill included in the budgets in New Jersey and Louisiana, and is working hard in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Ohio.

Earlier this year, The Jockeys' Guild was forced to drop health insurance for members because of skyrocketing premiums.