06/20/2002 11:00PM

Higher insurance rates inevitable for trainers

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - As many as 450 Thoroughbred trainers in California face higher workmen's compensation rates from a government-backed insurer on July 1 unless a private insurance company steps forward to offer lower rates, a top racing official said.

As of Friday, with a little more than week before new policies must be written, racing officials doubted that a new source of insurance could be found as an alternative to the State Fund.

Since March 1, State Fund has offered trainers workmen's compensation policies at considerably higher rates than a private company that stopped offering policies in late February.

According to Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, approximately 335 trainers purchased policies with State Fund in March. A larger group of trainers have private policies that expire on July 1.

Halpern said there was "a spark of hope" that something could be resolved with a private company on July 1, but that Aug. 1 was more realistic. He declined to name the company.

"The brokers are saying they're trying to get this thing in place by July 1, but it's my guess it probably will not happen," he said. "I hope it does. The brokers are telling me we'll get it done by Aug. 1. Let me see it done first. The talk among trainers is that people are very upset and concerned."

There is widespread fear among CTT officials and racetrack executives that higher insurance rates will drive some horsemen from the sport as trainers are forced to pass the increase to owners through daily training rates.

"I've had several trainers tell me they don't know what they'll do," said Charlie Dougherty, the northern California director of the CTT. "They're trying to get rid of horses. They're going to look to decrease the size of their barns because of horses that can't pay for themselves."

As of March 1, State Fund was charging trainers a maximum of $93.96 per starter and $43.46 per $100 of payroll. Many trainers paid considerably less due to discounts for a lack of claims. One prominent Southern California trainer was issued a policy in March that charged $24.98 per $100 in payroll and $54.25 per starter for a jockey's premium. Still, the rates were approximately twice what that trainer was being charged previously by a private insurance company.

Because of those increases, California racing officials are proposing legislation that would divert monies from the existing stabling and vanning committee and California Marketing Committee, which was designed to promote the sport, to help offset the workmen's compensation costs.

The legislation has yet to reach a vote.

TOC makes donation

The Thoroughbred Owners of California have donated $169,500 to racing-related charities for the 2001-02 fiscal year. The distributions include $80,000 for charities that work with retired Thoroughbreds and $50,000 for people that work in the sport.

Tranquility Farm, a horse retirement facility in central California, received $30,000, the largest donation. A similar facility, the California Equine Retirement Foundation in southern California, received $25,000. The TOC donated $25,000 to the UC-Davis Equine Athletic Performance Lab for research.

The Winners Foundation, which works with racing personnel who have substance abuse problems, received $25,500.

Eddie D. returns to roots

Eddie Delahoussaye will miss four days of riding from Sunday through Friday to travel to Louisiana, where he will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Shreveport on Tuesday.

Delahoussaye, who was born in south Louisiana and began his career there, is also taking a brief vacation to visit family. He will return to Hollywood for Saturday's program.

Stevens fighting infection

Gary Stevens took off his mounts on Thursday and Friday due to illness. Stevens said he was diagnosed with a low-grade infection and is taking antibiotics. He said he intended to return Saturday.

Even though Stevens won the $500,00 Massachusetts Handicap on Macho Uno on June 1, he is having a disappointing meeting at Hollywood Park. Through Thursday, he had one winner from 34 mounts.