07/01/2003 12:00AM

California trainers meet

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Seeking ways to reduce escalating workers' compensation costs, a group of Southern California trainers on Tuesday announced they will request more money from a marketing fund administered by racetracks and attempt to remove jockeys from their insurance policies.

Both proposals will take considerable time to explore and are unlikely to relieve the financial burden facing trainers. Policies purchased from the American Insurance Group were renewed this week with 12 percent increases. Trainers who are renewing policies with the government-backed State Fund face larger increases.

The most vocal complaint among the approximately 45 trainers gathered at Tuesday's 90-minute meeting on the Hollywood Park backstretch was the cost of insuring jockeys for races. Trainers carry insurance policies that cover backstretch workers as well as one for jockeys.

The current base rate to cover jockeys through AIG is $103.73 per start. Trainers want jockeys removed from their policies, but face a difficult legal challenge. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1941 that jockeys are considered employees of the trainers. A court challenge or legislation would be needed to reverse that ruling, according to Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association.

Trainers also intend to approach track management and the Thoroughbred Owners of California about drawing additional money from the California Marketing Fund, which contributes approximately $1 million toward workers' compensation insurance.