11/15/2004 12:00AM

Jockeys' Guild expels King after call for audit


Eddie King, a rider based in New Jersey, said on Monday that he was removed as treasurer of the Jockeys' Guild and expelled from the organization on Nov. 7 after he persisted in asking questions about the Guild's finances.

King said he was dismissed by a 13-9 vote after a telephone conference call of board members in which Guild management outlined six charges against him. King said the charges included "talking to the press" about the Guild's finances.

"They were more allegations than anything, and the only one I could understand was that I talked to the press," King said.

King said that he was pressing the Guild for an independent audit of its finances and was concerned that the Guild's current auditors were too closely aligned with the organization's management company, Matrix Capital Associates. In a petition circulated by Marguerite Davis, the wife of jockey Robbie Davis, a number of other riders have also asked for an independent audit of the Guild.

The turmoil surrounding the Guild comes when 28 jockeys at two Midwest racetracks, Churchill Downs and Hoosier Park, have been banned after they refused to ride, citing safety concerns and insufficient accident insurance coverage.

Last week, the National Thorough-bred Racing Association announced that it would form a task force under Terry Meyocks, a special assistant to the president of the NTRA, to study jockey insurance issues. But on Monday, Meyocks said he declined to head the task force after concerns were raised about conflicts of interest. Meyocks, a former racing secretary at tracks in Florida and New York and the former president of the New York Racing Association, has a daughter, Abby, who is married to Javier Castellano, a New York-based rider. Meyocks's father, Paul Blair, was a jockey agent for 50 years. Meyocks said he still plans to serve on the task force.

Hoosier canceled its Friday night card after 15 jockeys refused to ride 10 minutes before the first race, but racing resumed on Saturday and Sunday after dozens of jockey changes.

Vincente Flores, one of the 15 jockeys to be banned at Hoosier, was reinstated in time for the Saturday card, according to Julie Koenig-Loignon, a spokeswoman for Churchill Downs Inc., majority owner of Hoosier Park. Flores asked to be allowed to ride after presenting evidence from trainers that he has a severe hearing problem and did not completely understand what was happening on Friday night, Koenig-Loignon said.

Entries for Hoosier's Wednesday and Thursday programs were taken on Sunday. The Wednesday card consists of 12 races with 113 entries, and riders were named on all the horses.

Fourteen riders were also banned at Churchill Downs. Koenig-Loignon said that the bans remained in effect on Monday but that the track had not determined how long the bans would last. She said that both tracks have tightened security to assure the safety of jockeys who have decided to ride.

The disruptions at Churchill and Hoosier are bringing renewed attention to the Guild, which was taken over by Matrix Capital Associates in 2001 after the Guild's board removed the national manager, John Giovanni. Dr. L. Wayne Gertmenian, the owner of Matrix and a professor at Pepperdine University in Southern California, is now the Guild's president and chief executive officer.

Many riders began asking questions about the Guild's management after Gary Birzer, a jockey at Mountaineer Race Track, was paralyzed in a riding accident earlier this year. A $1 million catastrophic insurance policy that the Guild had purchased on behalf of riders was allowed to expire in 20002, and Amy Birzer, Gary Birzer's wife, complained recently that the Guild had not done a good job informing the riders about the change.