02/02/2005 12:00AM

Gulfstream ups insurance for jockeys to $500,000


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Magna Entertainment Corporation will increase its insurance coverage for jockeys at Gulfstream Park from $100,000 to $500,000, effective with the Wednesday (Feb. 2) program, said Gulfstream Park president and general manager Scott Savin. The decision was precipitated by Sunday's mishap in the Mac Diarmida Handicap, which left jockey Gary Boulanger in critical condition as a result of injuries suffered when his mount, In Hand, broke down.

Savin said the new policy could not be made retroactive to help cover Boulanger's expenses, but that Magna and the Jockeys' Guild were discussing various fund-raising measures to help defray Boulanger's medical bills. Boulanger underwent surgery Sunday night and on Wednesday had been upgraded to serious condition.

"The Jockeys' Guild and NTRA are currently negotiating a deal for increased jockeys' insurance," Savin said shortly after leaving a meeting with representatives from Magna, the local jockey colony, and the Jockeys' Guild. "In the interim, Magna will increase insurance coverage so all the riders will be bound for $500,000 for the balance of the meet or until such time as a more lucrative deal goes into effect nationwide. We want to show the riders that Magna wants to take the lead on this issue."

Guild representative Larry Saumell was pleased by Magna's decision to increase insurance coverage for riders.

"We're in a nationwide negotiation because with the rising cost of medical expenses we need at least $1 million [in insurance coverage]," said Saumell. "I think this is a big step forward on Magna's part, because they weren't waiting for the industry to increase insurance coverage."

Said jockey Edgar Prado: "It's super, and I just hope other tracks around the country will follow their example. Unfortunately, it seems something like what happened to Gary always has to happen before any positive steps are taken."

Prado said the public seems to take for granted the dangers jockeys face each time they ride.

"People think we simply jump on a horse, go around, make a lot of money and go home," said Prado. "Unfortunately only about 10 percent of all riders make any money. I feel sorry for the riders that are down here year-round struggling to make a living and riding with only $100,000 in insurance coverage."