09/21/2006 11:00PM

Insurance bill under fire

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Racing industry groups said Friday that they would strongly oppose a bill introduced to the House of Representatives earlier in the week to provide insurance for jockeys and track workers from simulcasting proceeds.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, and Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, was introduced with only one week left in the legislative session.

The bill would divert "at least" 50 percent of horsemen's proceeds from simulcasting contracts to state racing commissions, which would be required to provide insurance for jockeys and other track workers.

The legislation is being supported by the Jockeys' Guild, which four years ago failed to renew a policy covering its members for catastrophic accidents at racetracks.

Remi Bellocq, the executive director of the National Thoroughbred Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Thursday night that his group would strongly oppose the bill, and that the introduction of the legislation would have an impact on the group's negotiations with the Jockeys' Guild over funds for the care of disabled riders. Since that time, the Guild has been aggressively pushing the racing industry to provide insurance coverage for riders.

"We've been on the phone for weeks with the Jockeys' Guild, trying to work something out, and then we get blindsided by something like this," Bellocq said. "It's frustrating."

Greg Avioli, the chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association - which spearheads lobbying efforts by the racing industry in Washington, D.C. - said in a statement, "The NTRA strongly opposes this effort."