05/09/2006 12:00AM

House members back riders


Two U.S. legislators said on Tuesday during a hearing in Washington D.C. that they are considering introducing legislation that would amend the Interstate Horse Racing Act to give jockeys veto power over simulcast signals.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, and Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, individually voiced support for the proposed legislation during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday afternoon. The legislation, the two said, would expand veto rights over simulcast signals so that riders could negotiate with racetracks to receive a share of simulcast revenue.

Whitfield, who has been exploring the possibility of providing insurance coverage to jockeys through federal legislation, said the expansion of the Interstate Horse Racing Act would allow riders to raise money to purchase accident coverage, though Whitfield did not say whether the proposed legislation would earmark the riders' share for insurance needs.

"I personally believe we need a federal solution," Whitfield said.

The Tuesday hearing was the third called by the subcommittee to hear testimony on riders' issues in the last 12 months.

Three officials of the Jockeys' Guild were called as witnesses during the Tuesday hearing. Barry Broad, the Guild's legal counsel, outlined the results of the guild's internal investigation into its former chief executive, Dr. Wayne Gertmenian, who was fired by the guild's board late last year. John Velazquez, a leading rider who is the guild's chairman, called on legislators to give riders bargaining power with racetracks, and Darrell Haire, the guild's interim president, outlined how the guild has changed its practices since it ousted Gertmenian.