05/24/2005 11:00PM

Board frees $254,000 for guild


The California Horse Racing Board has released $254,000 in state funds to the Jockeys' Guild following the preliminary conclusions of an audit of the guild that the board has been conducting, officials for both organizations said this week.

The board had been withholding money from the state's uncashed-ticket fund since early this year as it investigated allegations that the guild had misused money provided by the state. California provides approximately $1 million a year to the guild from uncashed parimutuel tickets. By law, the funds are to go to the organization representing the majority of jockeys in the state for the purpose of providing health care.

Richard Shapiro, the racing board commissioner who has led the audits of the guild, said Wednesday that the board's investigation of the guild has produced nothing untoward so far. He said that the money released to the guild represented the amount due from California through the date it was released.

Shapiro said that the board is still considering a forensic audit of the guild's financial statements. But Shapiro also said that the ongoing audit of the guild has evolved into a broader discussion about how the guild can better provide health benefits for California riders.

"We've been very pleased with the communication and the way this has been working," Shapiro said. "We're now exchanging information so that hopefully we will be able to determine exactly where the money ultimately goes, what monies are still to be collected, and whether they have been expended properly."

Barry Broad, a northern California attorney who has been representing the guild through the audit process, echoed Shapiro's characterization of the process on Tuesday night.

"It kind of started as this one-sided all-encompassing investigation, but it's now evolved into this process where we are all examining how to make the system work better for California riders," Broad said.

The Jockeys' Guild has been under intense scrutiny since two rider walkouts at Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park last fall. The California board began an investigation after board members complained that they could not get adequate answers from guild representatives at racing board meetings early this year.