12/01/2005 1:00AM

Guild and racetrack officials meet

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Representatives of the Jockeys' Guild met with racing officials Thursday for the first time since the guild replaced its management last month, beginning an effort to open a dialogue between the two sides, officials said.

The meeting, which was held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., included representatives from Churchill, Magna Entertainment Corp., the New York Racing Association, and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations. The guild was represented by Darrell Haire, the group's interim national manager, and four riders: Mark Guidry, Jerry LaSala, Jeff Johnston, and John Velazquez.

The relationship between the two sides began to strain in 2001, when the guild replaced its management with a team headed by L. Wayne Gertmenian, who took a confrontational approach on riders' insurance and welfare issues. Gertmenian was ousted by the guild on Nov. 15.

"There were not negotiations of any kind," Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the TRA, said of Thursday's meeting. "It was really just a laying out of the universe of problems that we need to work out."

The TRA, a racetrack trade group, has in past years arranged for its members to provide the guild with $2.2 million in annual fees. Some tracks began balking at the fees after learning that the guild had allowed a catastrophic-insurance policy covering its members for up to $1 million in medical bills to lapse. Many of those tracks, including Churchill, have since purchased their own coverage for jockeys for up to $1 million in medical bills.

Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said that Churchill does not plan to restore the fees, but added that "we're going to continue to discuss" the issue with the guild.