03/21/2007 11:00PM

Churchill, guild settle over walkouts


Churchill Downs Inc. has resumed making payments to the Jockeys' Guild after the two sides settled lawsuits filed against each other related to two walkouts at Churchill's racetracks in 2004, according to the two groups.

The settlement, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville on Wednesday and which must be approved by Judge John G. Heyburn, prohibits the Jockeys' Guild and its members from organizing any walkouts or interfering with the operations at any of Churchill's racetracks, a statement released by the two groups said.

Churchill filed a lawsuit against the guild in March 2005, alleging that the guild violated antitrust laws by organizing two separate walkouts at Churchill Downs in Louisville and Hoosier Park in Indiana in November 2004. The guild later countersued Churchill.

At the time of the walkouts, Churchill and other tracks that belonged to the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group, contributed money to the guild based on the number of mounts at their racetracks. Churchill and most other TRA tracks suspended those payments - which amounted to approximately $2.2 million a year - in 2005.

Churchill's payments typically amounted to approximately $375,000 a year. Julie Koenig Loignon, a spokeswoman for Churchill, said on Thursday that she could not comment on the amount of money that Churchill would pay to the Guild as part of the settlement, but said that the formula to calculate the payments would be "similar" to that used by the company in the past.

In 2004, the last year Churchill made payments, the company owned seven racetracks, but it has since sold three of those tracks - Hollywood Park in California, Ellis Park in Kentucky, and Hoosier Park. Because the payments are based on the number of total mounts at a track, Churchill's payment to the Guild is expected to be significantly less than $375,000 a year.

Jockeys who walked out at the tracks claimed that the action was to protest the size of Churchill's insurance policies covering riders for catastrophic injuries. At the time, Churchill and almost all other U.S. racetracks carried insurance policies covering jockeys for up to $100,000 in medical bills.

Most racetracks in the United States, including those owned by Churchill, now carry insurance policies that cover riders for up to $1 million in medical bills. Most of those policies were purchased in 2005, after racetracks learned that the guild had failed to renew a policy covering its riders for that amount in 2002.

Immediately after the walkouts, Churchill ejected any jockey who participated and banned them from riding at the company's tracks. The bans were lifted in 2005.

The Guild was headed by L. Wayne Gertmenian, an economics professor at the University of Pepperdine, when the walkouts took place. Gertmenian was fired late in 2005, and the guild is now headed by Dwight Manley, a Los Angeles-based sports agents and coin dealer. The two groups said in their statement that they anticipated working together on issues affecting riders in the future.