04/17/2007 11:00PM

Delaware offers $2M insurance option

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Jockeys in Delaware who elect to pay a $4 fee per mount will be eligible for $2 million in insurance coverage at Delaware Park as a result of a new program that took effect on Wednesday.

The program, which was put together by a former jockey, Robert Colton, who is now the director of the Delaware Jockeys Asso-

ciation, will double the coverage for participating jockeys at Delaware who are injured while at the track. Delaware currently covers jockeys for up to $1 million in medical bills for accidents at the track.

Only jockeys who contribute the $4 fee will be eligible for the additional coverage, while jockeys who elect not to participate will still be covered for $1 million, Colton said. The new program will also extend the amount of time that jockeys are covered for medical bills from 24 months to 60 months, increase weekly disability payments from $200 to $500, and double payments for an accidental death or dismemberment from $50,000 to $100,000.

The program is being supported by the state's Health and Welfare Jockeys' Benefits Fund, which is matching the $4 per-mount contribution with another $4 contribution. Colton said that the program would not have been possible without the support of the fund and Delaware Park, which opens its summer meet on April 28.

Colton has been active in getting increased coverage for jockeys for the past three years, principally in Delaware. He was once active with the Jockeys' Guild, but he has distanced himself from that organization as a result of a rift with management.

Colton said he hopes to convince jockeys in other states to support similar programs, but acknowledged that getting riders to contribute to their own insurance policies is a difficult task. Most racetracks carry $1omillion policies that are funded entirely by the track.

"We are not employees of the tracks," Colton said. "We're independent contractors, and we have to share the responsibility for our health and welfare."