12/04/2008 1:00AM

Guild financial plan approved


A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Kentucky approved a reorganization plan for the Jockeys' Guild on Wednesday, allowing the organization to move forward under the protection of the court.

The plan was approved by Judge David T. Stosberg of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Stosberg has presided over the case since the guild filed for bankruptcy in October 2007. At the time of the filing, the guild had less than $1 million in assets, with more than $3 million in debt.

Terry Meyocks, the national manager of the guild, said Thursday that the approval will allow the organization to "hopefully move forward and put all of this behind us." The guild's annual board meeting is scheduled for this weekend in Las Vegas.

The guild, which provides health benefits to its members and lobbies on behalf of jockeys in the United States, has struggled with financial problems since 2005, when the organization ousted Wayne Gertmenian, its national manager since 2001. The vote to fire Gertmenian was accompanied by criticism from jockeys that he had mismanaged the guild's funds.

The guild receives funding from two principal sources: mount fees from its members, and payments from racetracks that purport to compensate riders for their "image rights" in simulcasts. The funds have each typically provided half of the organization's budget.

Meyocks said that the guild has already received commitments from 29 racetracks for fees related to the image rights, including all the tracks owned by Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment. He said that other tracks had told him that they would revisit paying the simulcast fees if the reorganization plan was approved.

Most tracks suspended the payments to the guild during the last year of Gertmenian's tenure at the organization. The relationship between the guild and racetracks was highly contentious at the time.