The Guild has been seeking support from the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in spite of the fact the organization doesn't regulate jockey mount fees, hoping Illinois THA’s endorsement would smooth over negotiations regarding a pay increase for jockeys whose mounts finish off the board as well as an added incentive for fourth- and fifth-place finishers.
According to Jeff Johnston, the Guild’s Midwest representative, a committee comprised of two trainers, two owners, three jockeys, and Johnston has been working on the issue since last August. The committee made a presentation to the organization’s board June 19 but failed to gain the support of the general membership at a June 20 meeting.
“We were under the impression that they were not going to accept any type of increase, so our next decision was to go through the court system, but then we received a call saying, ‘Give us one more time, we’ll sit down and discuss this,’ ” Johnston said. “I haven’t heard back from them yet.”
Winning riders currently receive 10% of the purses in Illinois, while riders whose mounts finish second or third are allotted 5%. The plan proposed by the Guild would give riders of fourth- and fifth-place finishers a 2% share of the purse in addition to their riding fee, and would raise off-the-board riding fees by approximately $30, from the typical $45 to $75.
Johnston said members were not enthusiastic about the 2% provision for riders of fifth-place horses, but could see the benefits of a fourth-place percentage payment to the rider due to superfecta wagering.
“The jock gets paid the same to finish fourth as he does to finish last,” Johnston said. “There’s no incentive for him to ride the horse out to the wire if he’s not going to be third or better.”
According to Johnston, however, increasing the losing mount fee is the bigger issue. “We want to bring up the bottom to adjust the pay scale for the cost of living increases that have occurred in the past 25 years,” he said.
As independent contractors, jockeys have the right to set their own pay scale in Illinois.
Illinois THA president Frank Kirby declined to accept phone calls and refused to comment on the situation, but said through horsemen’s liaison Barbara Harvey: “We don’t know anything yet.”