01/29/2007 1:00AM

Guild makes plea to aid banned jocks


The Jockeys' Guild, the national organization that represents riders, has sent a letter to a racetrack trade group and three racetracks in order to protest the expulsion of 10 riders from the tracks in December.

The letter, which was written by the guild's national manager, Dwight Manley, and sent to the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Philadelphia Park in Pennsylvania, and Calder Race Course and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, called the expulsions "unlawful and harmful" and asked that the jockeys be allowed to return to the racetracks to ride.

"While your racetracks are private property, they are not exempt from the obligation to provide jockeys with due process before they are prevented from earning a living," Manley wrote. "You are acting in concert to deprive these individuals of gainful employment that would otherwise be available to them."

The three racetracks banned a total of 10 riders in December, citing their rights as private-property owners and an ongoing investigation by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, an investigative unit owned by the TRA. No racing officials or TRPB officials have commented about the nature of the investigation.

Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the TRA, and Hal Handel, the chief executive officer of Philadelphia Park, both declined to comment on the letter but acknowledged that they had received it. Officials at Calder and Tampa could not be reached Monday.

The letter cited the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and "various federal court rulings" to argue that the tracks had violated the riders constitutional rights. Courts have consistently ruled, however, that racetracks have the right to bar individuals from the grounds.

Many of the jockeys have been barred from other tracks and have not returned to race-riding. Last weekend, one of the riders who was banned at Calder, Rene Douglas, was allowed to ride at Gulfstream Park in Florida.